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Do you still have a problem with topping in golf?
Well, it’s something everyone has experienced in the game. You’re out for a sunny weekend round with some pals; you briskly stroll up to the first tee with your folks looking on, you square up nicely, hit an excellent backswing, a fantastic downswing, then suddenly– the ball goes bobbing and rolling off the edge, much to the amusement of your buddies.
In golf, topping the ball is one of the most frustrating experiences because it feels like you’re not even playing the game. When you hook or slice, you may feel bad, but it feels worse when you don’t advance the little white ball beyond a mere ten yards!
Fortunately, the ‘chronic tops’ are very easy to cure, and most golfers recover very quickly and never worry about it again. And in this article, we’ll talk about how you can get rid of your woes too.
Keep reading to find out our simple tips on how to stop topping the golf ball for good.
Why am I Topping the Golf Ball?
Understanding what causes topping the golf ball is the first step to stopping it.
By general rule, the bottom of the golf ball is where you should strike. However, due to poor technique and inconsistent execution, many amateur golfers make errors such as topping their golf balls during a round. As they hit the middle or top of the ball instead of the bottom, their shots will be thin or topped, resulting in less than desired outcomes.
Topped golf shots are likely to occur for the following reasons.
Amateur golfers with incorrect posture will exhibit the signs in a couple of crucial areas. Most commonly, golfers top the ball due to bending the knees too much, indicating a poor posture. Golfers need to flex their knees only minimally when swinging their clubs.
Having a back curved too much for the swing also causes poor posture, which results in the golf ball being topped. Bending the back will cause a golfer to reach for the club from a distance too far out and cause a curved spine.
As for the stance, the mistake that leads to topping golf shots is not bending at the hips and flexing the knee. At address positioning, you are farther from the ball than you would be if you are standing up (which most amateurs do); such a stance is likely to lay your hits on the top half of the ball.
You’re more likely to hit it fat if you place the ball forward too far in your stance. When you do this, the clubhead reaches its swing arc’s bottom before even reaching the ball. If you make swing adjustments to avoid hitting the ground, you’ll find the clubhead swinging in the air by the time it hits the ball. It eliminates any chance of hitting the ball’s bottom, resulting in golf topping the ball or whiffing.
Too short and choked-down clubs can contribute to high swings. Club fitting ensures the shaft length provides good posture and minimizes the need for choking on the club. Also, if you shorten the club’s shaft and height, the swing could be altered, impacting your upswing.
While golf’s physics demands that you hit the ball downward to make it rise, that line of thinking is contrary to most amateurs. So instead, they try to send the ball up by swinging upward.
Unless the ball is lying on thick grass, which would allow you to get under it, either you’ll swing the ball up (as with a poor ball positioning), or you’ll stand up when down-swinging. Still, you’ll most likely top the ball most of the time.
It’s not unusual for golfers to attempt to increase their clubhead speed by flipping their wrists at impact. However, that only leads to straightening your wrists before the clubhead even contacts the ball.
As a result, the bottom of the club’s arc reaches farther back in your stance instead of the ball’s front. Consequently, the clubhead swings upward earlier than you initially planned and hits the top, not the bottom, of the ball. Therefore, not only do you top your shot, but you also hit the ball slower than you would if you were using your regular swing.
You’re likely to tend to lean away from the target on your downswing when leaning toward it at the top of your backswing. By doing so, you change the swing arc’s bottom. As long as you don’t hit the ground before hitting the ball (fat shot), your club head will swing upward when contacting the ball – and that’s how you hit a golf top shot.
So, how do you not top a golf ball? You can fix all your topping problems by changing a few things about how you hit the ball with a few different adjustments. Check out these basic topping the golf ball fixes across all clubs before we go ahead with the advanced techniques.
Golf swings are like circles that travel upward from the bottom and then arc back to the bottom as you follow through. Making the ball swing in the shape of a loop is all there is to it.
Why can’t you stop topping the ball, then?
Chances are, the ball isn’t located along the circle’s arc where you can hit it in the square. You might have placed the ball too far forward. So, when you move the club through the area of impact, the ball never gets the chance to hit the middle of your clubface. Therefore, you need to place the ball within your stance, ensuring the clubhead contacts it on the downswing and not the upswing.
Stance is something that every athlete should learn. And when you’re golfing, it’s even more crucial. It is essential that you:
- Keep your knees flexible (don’t bend them)
- Keep your back straight while bending at the waist
- Keep your arms lose
To begin a golf swing, it’s a simple concept, but it’s crucial. If you’re topping the ball, not having the appropriate posture in the above areas can cause you problems. You can only improve your stance by training up your body and repeating it. Doing it once will make it work for you, and continuous practice will make it second nature. Be sure to maintain the correct posture throughout your swing.
Ideally, during a swing, your weight needs to be balanced at address, move to your rear foot on your backswing, and finally shift to your front foot when making contact. When topping, you’re “reverse pivoting,” the complete opposite of what you should do.
A professional driver hardly ever tops his driver anymore, thanks to their massive clubheads. Yet, it remains an issue with long irons and fairway woods. This is due to the high angle of attack, which shrinks the contact zone dramatically. So, it’s pretty challenging to hit the sweet spot with that emaciated hitting zone.
You should flatten the impact area of your swing arc and ensure that the ball is positioned in the middle. Keep in mind that with the shorter irons, you have to swing down on the ball, while with the long irons or fairway woods, you must sweep it.
The issue is common to all athletes. The adrenaline rush becomes overwhelming, and we end up ruining shots. You cannot control your adrenaline easily, that’s for sure. A rush of adrenaline helps us work this way by giving us a feeling of hope that comes with a chance to succeed. However, it can also trick us into trying to subdue our ability to succeed.
So how do we control our adrenaline rush?
Well, there’s no stringent rule; just remember- ‘don’t overdo your emotions.’ Indeed, it can be challenging because we all want first dibs. A simple thing you can do is reduce your stress while playing and avoid hitting the ball so hard.
No matter what sport you play, keeping an eye on the ball is essential. Train your eyes to stare at the ball intently as a way to keep them fixed on the ball. When you maintain focus during the strike, you can still see the ball and the spot to hit. To help your vision further, you can use golf balls with an easily visible logo.
At address, many golfers tend to keep their hands back instead of slightly pushing forward. You must remember, however, that you have to swing at the ball with the proper arc to hit down on it.
With any club, simply press with your hands slightly forward. When you use your hands and wrists in this position, you are less likely to top the ball. It allows you to hit down on the golf ball effortlessly instead of sending it airborne.
When learning how to avoid topping the golf ball, the information we’ve shared above lays the basic rules for all clubs. Here, we’ll just alert you to three other things you should remember when striking your irons.
- Make contact below the ball’s centerline (or equator) with your iron’s leading edge. This will help get the ball in your swing arc correctly.
- To remain intensely focused on the ball, keep your head down and steady throughout your shot. It will also help you maintain a constant swing path and also keep your posture stable.
- Kick out the fright of hitting the ground with your iron- it’s necessary for taking the divot, hence a successful golf shot.
Unlike your other clubs, your driver swing will be a bit different. Due to the driver’s massive head, you must raise the ball by teeing it to make proper contact. It also means that you’ll have to contact the ball with your upstroke and not your downstroke. Essentially, you need to have your weight just behind the ball (no more than a few inches) to be able to come “up” at it.
Beginner golfers often have trouble with the diver because they come up way too fast. Generally, this is because of the driver being the lightest club among all and the golfers’ tendency to swing too quickly at the ball.
To stop topping driver:
- Take a wider stance than you would with an iron with the ball inside your front heel
- Use your front foot to play the ball
- Maintain a low backswing on the takeaway ground
- Rotate your body about the golf ball by using your hips
- Maintain an extended front arm
- The weight of your body should be slightly behind the ball during the entire swing
- Take it easy on the swing!
- Think of hitting the tee to activate your driver’s loft
- Transfer your weight forwards on follow-through
The basics of avoiding topping apply to fairway woods, just like with irons and drivers. Yet, you may still find it considerably harder when hitting the woods without topping, using the same approach.
It’s only because of their loft, which is much lower than the rest.
Firstly, it makes it more challenging to hit the ball off the ground. And because of their lower loft angle, you’ll always have to go with a shallower approach angle than with any of the irons or drivers.
Here are four tips to solve this issue proactively.
To avoid hitting lofty upswings, you can use a whole-body rotation to get your loft right. But to make it effective, you must ensure that you don’t overturn your hips.
Stand with your hand shoulder-width apart and raise the wood above your head. Turn your shoulders 45 degrees as you bend your back slightly forward.
A slight adjustment to your posture can substantially enhance your ability to hit woods.
Stick your bottom out a little and flex your knees. Your back should tilt forward slightly (enough so you feel comfortable), and you should keep your spine straight and parallel with the shaft. With your arms in the position now, you should not feel like stretching to reach the ball anymore.
When hitting a fairway wood or a hybrid, the ball has to stay closer to your target. Make sure the ball lines up with your left eye so it’s on the inside of the left heel. By doing so, you’re free to stretch your arms out and swing wider than usual. Hence, you are much less likely to top with it.
When you hit your fairway wood, simply extend your arms as you swing. Longer arms create a wider arc as well as less shaft lean at impact.
In this section, you’ll learn some drills to develop the proper habits to avoid the errors that cause topped shots.
When you hit your clubhead early, then it will ascend as you get closer to the ball. And having contact with the club’s bottom will result in tops.
For the resolving drill, you’ll only need your golf towel. You will be able to tell if you’re bottoming out too early with this drill.
Lay your towel out on the ground 5-6 inches behind the ball. You’re bottoming early if you hit the towel first. The purpose of this drill is to force you to shift your weight to your body’s lead side and strike the ball first instead of the ground. Do this drill every time you hit the range or practice at home.
As we’ve discussed earlier, a poor weight shift (like overdoing it on your lead side) can cause your swing to move too far forward, resulting in topped shots.
The golf towel will again come in handy for this drill. However, this time, you’ll need to place one a few inches in front of the ball and another 7-8 inches behind it. Over-shifting your weight results in you striking the ball first and then hitting the front towel. This drill will make you stay more focused on the ball and let you hit the ground only an inch or so after the ball.
The drill may not be the same for everyone, but it will benefit golfers with high handicaps. It’s beneficial for those who stand too far from the ball and bend too much to ruing their stance and posture.
To perform this drill, you should stand straight up with your weight evenly distributed on both feet; bend your knees slightly, and bend over while maintaining equal weight balance. Keeping your balance is crucial here. Your strikes won’t be consistent if you’re on your heels or toes. Ideally, you’d like to bend over where you can straighten your arms as comfortably as possible.
Initially, this change will feel odd, but you will get used to it after doing it over and over. Now hold your club in this position and try to get used to it.
The rotational motion of swinging the club can be problematic for many amateurs. As their posture keeps changing, their hands start to throw at the ball. The wall drill comes as a huge help in solving this problem.
When setting up to the ball, put an alignment stick behind you, so it touches under your lead hip. During your downswing, when you hit the ball, maintain constant pressure on the stick. Once you get out of your posture, you won’t feel the stick anymore. Practicing this drill will help you achieve better rotation while maintaining your posture throughout the entire swing.
Why do I hit the ground with my irons?
A shallow angle of attack usually explains why you hit the ground before the ball. With a shallow Angle of Approach, the club approaches the ball from a close angle to the land. And due to the proximity between the club and the ground, heavy/fat shots are likely to result when the club is this close to the ground.
How do I stop topping the golf ball with my driver?
Our guide above will surely help you fix most of your woes with the driver. You must understand your flaws and keep practicing the fixes regularly. And you can always seek aid from a professional if you’re struggling with particular maneuvers.
Does swaying lead to a topped shot? Why can’t I stop swaying during the backswing?
Yes, it does. The swing arc’s bottom can be positioned behind the ball if you slide your hips back during the backswing and do not bring them back to their proper position for impact. It ultimately leads to a topped shot. The trick is to lean on your right knee to keep your upper body in place after takeaway and backswing.
How do I maintain a steady back and shoulders when hitting the ball?
Your chest should be at an approximate 50-60 degree angle to the ground, and your back should be straight, engaging your glutes. Keep in mind that the body follows the head. During your swing, if you lift your head, your back and shoulders aren’t far behind.
Is there any technology that I can use to keep track of what I’m doing?
Yes. The current generation of swing analyzers provides a 3D view of your swings and your mistakes.
Topping the golf ball is ever so humiliating, and the tips above are sure to help you fend it off. Hopefully, you won’t have to worry about topping the golf ball anymore if you keep up the consistent practice until you master it.
However, if you still feel overwhelmed by all these techniques, you are not alone. For particular troubles that are too challenging to handle alone, get assistance from a swing coach you trust. Remember- from Tiger Woods to Phil Mickelson; everybody gets help; therefore, there’s no need to hesitate. Happy golfing!
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Daisy is the Founder and Editor in Chief of Golfs Hub. She is associated with Golf for more than 20 years. She got the inspiration from her father. She is a very private person & doesn't like to be photographed. She's worked in nearly every job in the golf industry from club fitting to instruction to writing and speaking. Now she is enjoying her retirement from day job... but not from Golf! Daisy lives in southeasternmost part of New York state with her family.