Hitting a drive that sears through the air landing on the fairway is one of the proudest moments in every golfer’s round. Following it up with a topped shot is nearly as embarrassing as it is missing the ball completely.
At least you can claim that the missed shot was a practice swing.
To avoid this from happening, this article will look at how to stop topping a golf ball.
However, a thin shot is closely associated with top shots as the impact on the golf ball generally occurs in the upper half of the golf ball. The difference is that a topped golf ball will have an extreme amount of topspin and generally leaves an indentation in the turf within a couple of inches of its previous location.
Thin shots travel quite a long distance while topped shots generate minimum distance.
The driver swing aims at making contact on the upward trajectory while fairway woods aim to sweep the ball off the turf, or at most, a minimum downward trajectory and small divot.
As irons get shorter and increase in the number on the sole, the swing gets steeper creating a downward trajectory and bigger divots.
In this article, the main reasons for topping a golf ball will be discussed as well as ways to prevent or minimize topped shots as well as drills that will benefits golfers to rectify the major faults causing topped shots.
How to Stop Topping a Golf Ball – Complete Guide
Swing Set Up
For a solid swing, it is required that all body parts work in a synchronized manner from a solid foot position to the head being quiet throughout the swing.
Having a good posture at address and retaining the posture throughout the swing plays a significant role in producing solid contact and thus minimizing the chances of topped shots.
Posture starts with the positioning on the feet slightly apart, increasing with the length of the club.
The knees are flexed slightly without bending. This is the first requirement to produce power and is necessary to retain balance throughout the swing. Straight legs tend to impact the ability to pivot around the spine leading to the body swaying away and towards the target.
Keeping the knees flexed throughout the swing is the first step to fight topping the ball.
The solid base is followed by a bend in the waist, a straight back, and loose hanging arms releasing all tension in the posture.
A straight spine is a key for the rotation of the body around an axis. Bending the spine makes it extremely difficult to build power and consistency.
Rotating around the spine will move the trailing shoulder to below the chin on the downswing and keep it below the lead shoulder height until the release is completed.
Although keeping the head down is disputed by some coaches it does play a significant role in a consistent swing path.
Lifting the head too early could affect the golfer’s ability to maintain a straight back and the flex in the knees.
However, keeping the head down for too long tends to impair the body’s ability to rotate and keep all the swing components in synchronization.
Staying down during the swing will enable you to keep your head still.
Balance is crucial for a good swing thus the posture should release all tension in the body. Tension will reduce flexibility and lead to poor shots.
Shoulders should be tilted with the leading shoulder slightly higher at address since the leading hand is the highest on the grip.
If they are at the same level it could lead to topping the golf ball.
Keep the leading shoulder down for a longer period. Lifting the lead shoulder too soon in the downswing results in the arc creating the upward path too early thus failing to compress the ball and leading to topped shots.
Keeping the arms straight creates a consistent swing path and maximum width. However, this leads to the arm moving away from the body on the backswing thus resulting in a loss of control.
The trailing elbow is kept close to your body during the backswing and pulled slightly ahead of the body during the downswing. To accommodate this the trailing elbow tends to bend on the backswing and remains bent until the club is released on the downswing.
Staying down during the swing
A common problem is that golfers cannot retain good posture throughout the swing and tend to stand up during the downswing. This could be the result of a lack of flexibility, especially prevalent in senior golfers. Check out our blog on the best exercises for golf including some flexibility stretches too.
Standing uplifts the shoulders and arms creating a higher swing arc thus leading to topped shots.
Tension in the hands will move the clubhead if the grip is slightly strong or weak.
Although too much tension will affect the swing negatively, there needs to be some resistance to build torque for increased swing speed.
Maintaining a balance throughout the swing is a significant part of solid contact. Falling around creates inconsistency in the swing path bot vertically and horizontally.
A lack of a solid base at address, loss of posture, or swinging too hard is all major causes of the loss of balance.
A good indication that there is no loss in balance is the golfers’ ability to hold the finish position until the ball sits on the fairway or green.
Clubs that are too short or choked down on can caused the swing to be too high.
Having clubs fitted will ensure that the length of the shafts allow for a good posture and minimize the need for choking down.
Shortening the shaft and length of the club could cause a swing that modifies the arc creating an impact on the upswing.
The backswing is the first step once the posture provides a solid base that you can swing around.
Reduction in muscle stress makes it more likely that the swing can be an athletic activity.
Initiate the backswing from the ground up in the solid posture and use the shoulders, not the arms while keeping the hands away from the sternum.
During the backswing, the weight has to move to the trailing foot while keeping both feet flat on the ground. There are exceptions when golfers that lack flexibility could lift the heel of the leading foot slightly to create a wider arc and longer swing.
Swing the club back as far as comfortable without losing balance.
Initiate the downswing by moving the weight to the leading foot. This is one of the major defects in the swing of most golfers that lack distance and top their shots.
Weight shift leads to a slight movement of the hips towards the target and moves the bottom of the arc to the front of the ball enabling a downward trajectory and lessen the chances of topped shots.
Incorrect weight shift is likely to produce a reverse pivot leaving the weight on the back foot thus creating an early upswing and topping the golf ball.
Reasons for Topping the Golf Ball
Trying to lift the ball
Some golfers do not understand the concept of a downward impact lifting the ball into the air and try to flip the club through impact to add height to the shot.
For a golf ball to gain height, it requires spin that creates the airflow over the dimples required to keep it in the air. The more spin, the higher the ball trajectory.
Flipping the hands through the impact area reduces the amount of spin generated resulting in a loss of distance and height. Creating lag and impact with the ball before contact with the turf generates more spin for distance and height.
Trying hit the ball too hard
Powerful golfers tend to use more force to create swing speed rather than a good tempo. The use of force is likely to affect balance and the swing arc.
A smooth tempo does not necessarily lead to a low swing speed. It does however allow for more control and better impact.
Fear of hitting the ground
Many new and inexperienced golfers have a tremendous fear of hitting the ground thus avoid taking divots. This leads to the golfer keeping the clubhead above the ground level and then making an impact on the upswing.
The further forward the ball is in the stance the more likely it is that impact will occur on the upward trajectory of the arc.
Ball position for a driver is most frequently on the inside of the leading heel and moves towards the trailing foot as the clubs get shorter.
Ball position is not only related to the position between the feet but also the distance away from the golfers’ body. If too far away, the golfer will tend to fall forward thus losing balance and decrease the ability to make good contact
A ball that is too close to the body will cramp the golfer into improvising during the downswing resulting in unpredictable outcomes.
Ways to counteract topped shots
Straighten the trailing arm
A frequent comment is that the trailing arm bends too much allowing a loss of control in the swing arc.
A bend in the arm is often caused by overswing and trying to get the club too far back thus causing a collapse at the elbow.
To overcome a bent arm the hands, have to move faster than the arms on the backswing to catch up and straighten the arms. This leads to a loss of control and makes it possible to pull the arc closer to the trailing side.
An arc that is too close to the trailing side will possibly result in the club bottoming out too early and create an impact on the upswing of the arc.
Controlling the backswing and swing tempo should enable the golfer to keep the trailing arm straight throughout the swing.
The legs are key to generating power and speed during the downswing. Too much movement and drive in the legs will impact the golfers’ ability to synchronize all the components leading to unpredictable outcomes.
An early drive of the legs causes the arms to lag behind causing the golfer to cast and create an early bottoming out of the swing. This leads to thinning or topping the golf ball.
This is one of the major causes of topped shots and other swing faults.
The lack of proper weight shift from the back foot to the leading foot during the downswing changes the arc of the swing and the impact area.
It could lead to a golfer keeping the weight on the trailing foot and a reverse pivot. All of this leads to the swing reaching its lowest point before getting to the ball.
Drills to Practice
There are many drills available to address that will be discussed in detail below. The best way to assess the swing is by recording it and playback at a slower speed to pinpoint areas that require the most work.
The use of launch monitors has become popular to identify several data points enabling golfers to determine whether the equipment is suitable for their swing and swing changes that will reduce their scores.
Weight shift drill
As mentioned earlier, weight shift or weight transfer is key to making a good swing and solid impact.
The purpose of the drill is to create the feeling of pushing down on the leading foot at the start of the downswing. This will ensure that the weight is moved onto the leading foot.
At the top of the backswing when the weight is placed on the trailing foot, lift the leading foot off the ground.
If it is difficult to lift the lead foot, then too much weight is placed on it and more weight must be transferred to the trailing foot.
When successful, the golfer must push forward onto the lead foot until they can lift the trailing foot slightly off the ground. This will indicate a successful transfer of weight.
Complete the downswing while checking that weight is not being transferred back onto the trailing foot.
Weight should remain, and increase, on the leading foot until the swing has been completed.
Then, complete your swing and hold your follow-through position.
Object below the trailing foot
Another drill to address weight transfer is placing an object below and towards the outside of the trail foot. This can be either a golf ball, golf shaft, or any other object that will not impede the backswing.
During the backswing, it should create a feeling of stepping onto something with the outer edge of the trail foot and a feeling of lifting or release on the downswing.
The tee drill
This drill aims to ensure the ball is to improve the angle of attack and create turf impact after connection with the ball.
Place a tee approximately 1 inch of the outside of the swing path in line with the front curve of the ball and a second tee approximately ½ inch in front of the ball closer to the target.
The aim is to hit the front tee on the downswing. This will improve ball contact first and turf second while allowing for divots to be taken.
Turf impact should be at or slightly ahead of the tee placed on the side of the ball.
Maintaining a straight leading arm
This drill aims to recognize the maximum flexibility of the body and how far the body can rotate.
Start with a short swing and keep rotating around the spine without overextending the body.
Once the leading arm bends at the elbow, the body has reached maximum rotation. For increased rotation, the golfer can do stretches for increased flexibility.
Topping a golf ball can be highly embarrassing and handicap limiting shot.
This is typically the result of the swing bottoming out too early and impact on the upswing.
There are many reasons that cause this to happen but fortunately, there are solutions available for every cause.
A solid base from where the swing can be initiated and maintained during the backswing, downswing, and finish is essential. Transferring weight to the trailing foot during the backswing and then transferring it to the leading foot is essential in creating the correct swing path for downward impact and less topping of the ball.