I went through a period of time where I would top at least 50% of the golf shots that I was taking. It almost led to me quitting golf on numerous occasions. The initial cause of me topping the ball was I had modified my clubs to have a slightly longer shaft (I’m a tall guy), and I simply couldn’t get used to the change. I knew it was going to be better for me in the long term, but the hand-eye-coordination just wasn’t adjusting for the change.
The key here is that there are MANY causes for topping the golf ball. Some of them are equipment based (like my reason), but for the most part it comes down to technique, and making very minor adjustments to correct that connection with the golf ball.
As this is one of the key frustrating misses in golf, I thought it would be beneficial to break down some of the key causes, and how to fix them. Topping your shots can completely kill your score on the golf course, so it is important to be able to solve this as soon as possible – but often we don’t know what the cause is in order to solve it. Hopefully you will see one of the causes below and realise how you will improve your golf shot significantly!
Below are my top 5 causes for topping. Recognise any habits which you have?
- Trying to “Lift” or “Get Under” the ball
- Loss of Balance
- Gripping too tightly
- Lifting your body in the downswing
- Being too rigid
Trying to Lift or Get Under the Golf Ball
It is a misconception of many beginner golfers that in order to get the ball in the air, you have to ‘scoop’ or lift the ball up. In reality, a golf club is designed so that the loft of the club does all of the work here. Other than a driver, you shouldn’t really be trying to hit ‘up’ on the ball in order to get it in the air. Many beginner golfers suffer here, as they try to get the ball in the air this way, and end up hitting high on the golf ball…which ironically only leads to the ball not going very high in the air.
The solution here is to try and stop trying to hit up on the ball, or getting under it. The best way to practice this is without a ball at all. If you have an area of grass, or a golf matt available to you, then start practising some swings where you’re just brushing the ground (or bruising it). You don’t want to dig up any ground, and you don’t want to miss it completely. It can be helpful as well if you draw a line on the ground as a target – as this can show you whether you’re hitting behind, or in front of the target line.
The key here is building up your coordination between your movement and what your eyes are seeing. Often the tricky part with golf initially is setting up the club behind the ball, and after your back-swing, returning it back to the same spot. There are so many factors when you start moving the club that can cause it to go off-plane, or move higher or lower etc. So, grab a matt (or some grass you don’t mind damaging) and just keep practising that swing. Eventually, it will click, and the percentage of swings you take that just clip the ground will go through the roof.
Loss of Balance
I was also quite guilty for this, and is actually the initial reason that we lengthened my irons to begin with. Due to my height, I was standing too close to the ball, which caused me to have to contort my body to actually hit it effectively. This often led to a loss of balance, which could cause some drastically erratic golf shots.
When standing up to the golf ball, I will generally try and keep my balance equally split 50/50 – Or I may occasionally put slightly more weight on my leading foot, as this helps with my rotation and follow through for the swing.
Tightly Gripping the Golf Club
When I first started playing golf – or for the first year at least – I would grip the golf club as hard as I could and just try and murder the ball. In my head it made sense that the harder you hit it, the further the ball will go. Technically, this is true. However, I’ve since found that generally the harder you try to hit the golf ball, often isn’t the hardest you hit it. Being smooth and relaxed in golf is the key.
Try and grip the club so that you’re not tensing your forearm muscle. You want your swing to be smooth and without restriction.
You may find that once you relax significantly, you actually end up adding distance to your shots. I found that I was going around 5 to 10 yards further once my shots became smoother and less forced.