3 Ways to Stop Coming Over The Top

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How to fix your slice and end your pulls. Now you can hit it straight and solid

When something is described as “over THE TOP,” the phrase generally refers to an action or comment that’s so excessive that it appears ridiculous. The over-the-top move in the golf swing can be thought of in the same way. It’s an exaggerated motion that leads to ridiculous results. Specifically, a player comes over the top when the arms are swung in a circular motion away from the body as the transition is made from the top of the backswing to the start of the downswing, as in the photo below. The club takes an out-to-in swing path approaching the ball, resulting in a pull or slice, depending on whether the clubface is closed, square or open to that path at impact.

On these pages, I’ll explain how to eliminate three causes of over-the-top, so you can hit it straight and solid. Afterward, your only over-the-top problem will be getting your friends to believe the stories about your great golf feats.

Fix No. 1: ‘Tap’ Drill helps keep right arm next to body

Let’s work on the right-arm problem that causes “over the top.” The Tap Drill keeps the right arm below the left and the club on plane. Using a 5-iron, stand at address, with a second club on the ground parallel to the target line (above). Swing the club to the top, then slowly lower it until it is parallel with the club on the grass. Slightly “tap” the clubhead toward the club on the ground once or twice. Then continue your swing, hitting the ball gently, with your body and club rotating from inside the ball-target line to a balanced finish. Now try it with a real swing. Some benefits of the drill are that my right elbow stays close to my body, and I bring my hands down toward the inside of the ball instead of letting my right arm move the hands away from my body.

Double faults:

Right arm up, right shoulder out

The position I’m in here demonstrates two classic over-the-top downswing moves: The right arm is starting to swing over the left, and the right shoulder is rotating out toward the ball. From here, I’ll pull the clubhead across the ball-target line from out to in, hitting the ball on the outside back quadrant. Note how far my hands are from my body. Now look at the good position on the opposite page, with my right elbow almost on my hip and the shaft within the open “window” between my arms.

No: Outside path leads to problems

When you swing over the top (right), your club approaches the ball from outside the ball-target line (above). You can see that the direction the clubhead is traveling doesn’t match the target line. There’s no hope for a straight shot from here; you’ll either pull the ball or, if your clubface is open to the target line, slice it. Also, compare the poor downswing position at right with the better one below. At right, the butt of my club is already pointing left of the ball-target line, which leads to the path you see above. Key mistake: My shoulders are already aimed left of the target.

Yes: Swing down the inside track

In the correct downswing positions, the approach of clubhead to ball is matched up much better with the target line. What I try to do is strike the ball on the inside back quadrant (below) and continue moving my hands along the target line until they naturally swing around to the left into my follow-through. To help you keep your upper body working correctly, have the butt end of the club pointing just inside the ball-target line at this point in the downswing (right). My shoulders still are aligned a bit right of the target, and my right elbow is practically touching my hip.

Fix No. 2: Hula-Hoop Drill reinforces proper plane

Yes, I do know how to use a Hula-Hoop the right way–though I’m not too good at it! I’m better at showing how the hoop can be used to train the right shoulder not to go over the top.

The Hula-Hoop Drill creates the feeling of the club swinging back and down along the proper plane. Begin by holding the hoop with your regular grip and the arms parallel with the ground in a backswing position. (Make sure you use a large-size hoop.) Now swing your hands to the top, making sure the hoop stays on that same plane. Then bring your hands down as you would on the downswing, still keeping the hoop on the same plane (right). Stop when your hands are even with your right thigh. If your right shoulder has rotated out toward the ball (below), and the hoop hits your left side or comes close to hitting it, you’re over the top. Focus on moving the hoop around your shoulders so it stays on plane, as I’m doing in the photo to the right, and you’ll feel how to keep the club on a good inside track.

Wrist fault: Right wrist straightening causes power loss

When the right wrist straightens before impact (left), it indicates the player has tried to create power by “throwing” the clubhead at the ball. In fact, the opposite effect occurs: When the right wrist releases early, you lose the critical power you’ve built up on the backswing. The right forearm and hand should form an angle at impact similar to that shown in the photo below right.

Fix No. 3 Right-hand Drill mimics impact

This drill helps you feel the proper impact position. While holding the club with your left hand and with the club halfway back, place your right hand on the grip, your hand open and fingers extending down the shaft (below left). Swing the club to the top and down to impact, keeping the right wrist bent on the back of the grip. If you’ve been straightening the right wrist, you’ll feel a definite difference–here and in your real swing.

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