Why do I top golf shots?

why do i top golf shots

Golf Monthly Top 25 Coach Gary Alliss asks why do I top golf shots and offers some simple explanations and cures

1 Reverse pivot

If you are asking yourself why do I top golf shots, your first port of call is to check that you aren’t reverse pivoting. This is when your weight moves in the wrong direction during the swing (your weight goes towards the target as you take the club back and then away from the target as you move towards impact). This will cause the club to bottom out too early and you’ll catch the top of the ball with the sole of the club. Here’s a great drill to help with this incredibly common mistake.

Place a ball behind the clubhead at address. As you take the club back, try to push the ball away from you. This will encourage a smooth, low takeaway that helps you set your weight over your right side in the backswing. Then carry on to the top and hold this position. Your left shoulder should be above your right thigh and you should be able to turn your head and see directly behind you. Get into this position at the top and you should be able to move your weight towards the target on the way down.

2 Chicken wing

This fault happens to players who’ve been told too many times to keep their heads down during the swing. Consciously doing this can actually cause you to get trapped during the downswing. The only way to avoid hitting the shot horribly fat is to let your left elbow bend through impact. The result, of course is a top. A drill designed to help you avoid this is to place a series of tees (and a pencil) in the ground as I have done here. The lowest tee marks the position of the ball. Aim to brush each tee as you swing through impact. The only way to strike the pencil is by having a good extension of your left elbow through the ball.

3 Leaning back

This is often linked to the reverse pivot but is a good drill for those who make a good backswing and then lean back on the way down. Again, the club will bottom out early and a top is on the cards. A great drill for this is to place a towel behind the ball (about 2 inches) and a pencil directly in front of it. The idea is to miss the towel but strike the ball. To get the correct downward strike aim to hit the pencil through the impact with the ball. This acts as a great visual trigger for the correct move and will prevent you from leaning back through impact.

4 Downswing top

Most tops are caused on the upswing but not always. If you get the sequencing of the golf swing wrong you can actually create such a steep angle of attack that you top the ball on the way down. The move to avoid is, when you reach the top, letting your right shoulder start the downswing by moving towards the ball. This sends the club outside the line and the chain reaction from there can cause a top. The practice drill to use here is to swing to the top and then let the club drop straight down, keeping your right shoulder back. This prevents that shoulder from initiating that ‘over the top’ motion. Then make a normal swing from there. That should help you eliminate the downswing top.

Watch more golf swing tips

Gary’s Checklist

  • Make sure your weight is over your left side at the top of the swing
  • It should then move towards the target on the way down
  • Do not let your left elbow fold through impact
  • Let the club drop down into position from the top of the backswing
Neil Tappin
Digital Editor

In his current role, Neil is responsible for testing drivers and golf balls. Having been a part of the Golf Monthly team for over 15 years and playing off a handicap of 3, he has the experience to compare performance between models, brands and generations. For 2022 he thinks the main trend in drivers is: "In a word, consistency. Whilst all the brands are talking about ball speed (and the new drivers are certainly long), my biggest finding has been how much more consistent the ball flights are. Mishits don't seem to be causing the same level of drop-off or increase in the spin numbers. This means that more shots seem to be flying the way you want them to!" As far as golf balls are concerned the biggest development is in the, "three piece, non-Tour, urethane-covered section. For regular golfers, these models offer superb performance at both ends of the bag without denting your wallet quite as much as the premium Tour-played options."


Originally working with the best coaches in the UK to produce instruction content, he is now the brand's Digital Editor and covers everything from Tour player interviews to gear reviews. In his time at Golf Monthly, he has covered equipment launches that date back well over a decade. He clearly remembers the launch of the Callaway and Nike square drivers as well as the white TaylorMade driver families, such as the RocketBallz! If you take a look at the Golf Monthly YouTube channel, you'll see his equipment videos dating back over a decade! He has also conducted 'What's In The Bag' interviews with many of the game's best players like Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson and Jon Rahm. Over the years, Neil has tested a vast array of products in each category and at drastically different price-points. 

Neil is currently playing: Driver: TaylorMade Stealth Plus Fairway Wood: Titleist TSR2 Hybrid: Titleist TS3 Irons (4-9): Mizuno JPX 919 Forged Wedges: Titleist Vokey SM7 46˚, 50˚, 54˚, 60˚ Putter: Odyssey Triple Track Ten Ball: Titleist Pro V1X