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We all do it, even the pros - it's just one of those shots everyone is familiar with, regardless of what skill level we're talking about. For some, especially beginners, it happens time and again, and it becomes extremely frustrating when you can't seem to get your ball airborne.
You can spend time working on the perfect ball position and finding the correct golf grip, but a simple mistake during the swing is all it takes. Understanding where it comes from is key so here, Top 50 Coach John Jacobs, explains how to stop topping the golf ball.
Posture Is Key
Poor posture at address is a primary cause of the top as you won’t be able to maintain your angles as you swing and are likely to lift away from the ball through impact (see below). Golfers with poor posture tend to bend through the back so the pelvis is too far forward. It's important to know how to set your spine angle. I like to push the pelvis back to maintain a good spine angle and focus on keeping it back through impact so you can stay over the ball and get to the bottom of it (as above).
'Chasing' The Clubhead
Look at the difference in the two post-impact positions here, below - the first one being a good example of what we're trying to achieve, while the bottom image is more of a typical fault that I see amongst amateur golfers.
I want you to really extend your right arm as you strike it as though you’re trying to 'chase' the clubhead down the line nice and low through impact. This will really help you to stay down over the shot and can also help you stop cutting across the golf ball.
Meanwhile, golfers who top it tend to 'chicken wing' it through impact with the clubhead moving up off the ball. Notice how my left elbow is bent in the image below. This stops them achieving that nice low arc - something that's crucial when it comes to how to swing a golf club.
We all want to know how to compress the golf ball. Well, think of it like this: the lowest point of your swing should be after impact. Those who top it very often have the low point too early because they've lifted up away from the ball - this is one of the main cause of fat and thin iron shots. Focus on taking your divot just after the ball as trying to get the clubhead down below the golf ball just after impact will improve your strike. In practice, pop a tee peg down just in front of the ball and focus on hitting that as well as the ball.
Hopefully this will help you to understand why you top the golf ball, and also how you get then get rid of this shot from your game. For more tips and advice, I'd also recommend reading how to hit fairway woods and hybrids, as higher handicap golfers do tend to hit the odd top with these clubs, too.
Location: Cumberwell Park
John has been Head Professional at Cumberwell Park in Wiltshire since it opened in 1994. He gets as much pleasure teaching beginners as he does county players, although being Wiltshire's Head Coach, Boys Coach and Girls Coach means he's always in demand. He also works with England Golf, and was England Coach Of The Year in 2020.
He's had the pleasure of working with many top players over the years, and has fond memories coaching the likes of Tommy Fleetwood, Matthew Fitzpatrick and Tom Lewis before they made the leap into professional golf. John specialises in swing analysis and short game development.
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