Topping the ball is one of the most frustrating mistakes in golf. As soon as you make contact, you can feel that you’ve mishit and sent the ball skidding along the ground a few yards in front of you. Not only is it annoying, but it can also lead to poor scores. So what causes topping the golf ball and how can you fix it? This article will examine the common causes and solutions.
Understanding What Happens When You Top the Ball
When you top the shot, you make contact with the ball before the clubhead reaches the bottom of its arc. This means you strike the ball with an ascending blow, hitting the top half of the ball with the bottom edge of your clubface. This imparts backspin on the ball and sends it low to the ground.
The most common misconception is that topping comes from swaying back or lifting up during the swing. While those faults may play a role, the main culprit is having too much weight on your front foot during the downswing. This shifts your low point beyond the ball, making you hit up on it.
Check Your Weight Shift and Balance
In causing topping the golf ball the proper weight shift is key to compressing the ball at impact. On the backswing, your weight should shift onto your back foot, around 80/20 distribution. As you transition into the downswing, you must push off that back foot to transfer weight forward.
At impact, your weight should be 50/50 or slightly favoring the front foot. If your weight is still hanging back, you’ll end up “chopping” down at the ball, topping it every time.
One drill is to feel like your belt buckle is pointing back toward the target just after impact. This helps you gain the proper weight shift and prevent hanging back. Exaggerate the shift in slow motion swings to get the feel.
Don’t Sway Laterally or Slide Forward
While you do want a forward weight shift, you must avoid swaying off the ball or sliding your hips toward the target. Too much lateral motion makes it very difficult to bottom out the club at the proper spot.
Try keeping your back foot planted during the backswing and downswing. This prevents swaying and keeps you centred over the ball. You can also do some practice swings where you feel like your head stays in the same spot over the ball position.
Setting up to the ball with your weight slightly favoring the front foot can also help. This makes it easier to push back on that foot, rather than sway laterally on the downswing.
Increase Spine Tilt and Flex at Setup
The angle of your spine and the flex in your knees at address have a big effect on strike. If your spine angle is too vertical and your knees are locked straight, it’s much easier to top shots.
Try increasing your spine tilt at setup so your tailbone points out a few inches behind your heels. Also allow for a soft bend in your knees so you can maintain the angle down into the ball.
You can practice hitting shots where you feel like your spine angle decreases slightly on the downswing. This helps you compress the ball properly while making solid contact.
Check Your Ball Position
Ball position plays a significant role in topping issues. If the ball is too far forward in your stance, your low point will be beyond it and you’ll tend to hit up on the ball.
As a general rule, tee shots should be aligned with your front heel or slightly ahead of it. For irons, play the ball off your left heel for middle irons and move it toward the centre as you use shorter clubs.
You can experiment to find the exact ball position that allows you to make crisp, downward contact. If you’re consistently topping shots, start by moving it back in your stance a bit.
Don’t go slow Into the Ball
Once you start a downswing, it’s essential to accelerate the club through impact rather than slowing. Slowing the club as you hit the ball is a guaranteed way to top it.
Work on speeding the club up as you go down, with maximum speed at impact. Hit some balls and pay close attention to your tempo. If the downswing seems hurried or out of sync, you may be subconsciously slowing your body to match the arms.
Practice a smooth tempo and let the club release fully through impact. The ball should launch on a slightly ascending angle, not go skidding along the turf.
Get Custom Fit For Optimal Club Length
Using clubs with the wrong length is a common reason many golfers struggle with topping issues. Clubs that are too long make it very difficult to bottom out the club at the right spot.
Getting custom fit by a professional club fitter can ensure you have the optimal length and lie angle for efficient impact. Standard off-the-shelf clubs are designed for average male height, which won’t work for everyone.
If custom fitting isn’t an option, try choking down slightly on the grip to play clubs that may be too long for you.
Topping the golf ball can be frustrating, but paying attention to your weight shift, spine angle, tempo, and ball position can help you make crisp contact. It’s also worth looking at custom club fitting if you consistently struggle with fat and thin shots. With some slight adjustments and practice, you can eliminate topping issues for good.
Evaluate Your Swing Plane
The swing path your club travels on down into the ball also has an effect on topping issues. Coming too steep and outside-in can easily cause you to hit the top half of the ball.
Try recording your swing on video from a face-on and down the line view. Look at the shaft plane as you come into impact. If the club is coming down very steep, you may need to work on some swing adjustments.
One drill is to place an alignment stick on the ground, angled back toward the ball from the target. Swing under the stick to help flatten out your downswing a bit. Just be careful not to overdo it as too shallow a plane can lead to other issues.
Arms do not extend downward
In stop topping the golf ball when your backswing, your trail elbow folds to generate power. On the downswing, the trail arm must extend and straighten down to bring the clubhead down to the ground. This motion can give the impression that you’re actually throwing the club to the ground. It can be beneficial to practice this by holding a ball in your right hand while maintaining your golf posture. Allow the elbow to fold as it would in your backswing before throwing the ball to the ground. This motion can be extremely beneficial in determining how much straightening occurs to allow your arms to extend down.
Check if Your Chest is Too Close to the Ball
If your upper body is too bent over at the address, the club will bottom out well before the ball. This is a very common reason taller players with more flex in their spines tend to top shots.
Work on keeping your spine in good posture at setup with just a slight forward bend. Your chest should feel like it stays back during the swing, with space between it and your hands at impact. If your chest bumps into your hands, you’re likely going to top the ball.
Hand and arm in tension
Relaxed hands and arms can hang and extend. It only takes a small amount of tension or an overly tight grip in your hands to cause your arms to contract and produce a topped shot. It is critical that you hold the club without squeezing it. A proper grip — holding the club in your fingers rather than your palm — can make this much easier. Having a large portion of your hand on the club provides security without causing tension. This not only makes solid contact easier, but it also allows you to generate speed and increase distance.
Keeping “flat-footed” on the downswing
It’s critical to remember that getting the club to the ground should be a part of the entire swing, which means you should be athletic. Maintaining athleticism entails making certain that your trail heel comes up naturally as you swing forward. It can be difficult to maintain the width of your forward swing if you keep your trail foot down for an extended period of time. Maintaining momentum during the swing can be extremely beneficial to this athletic movement.
Increase Your Attack Angle
The angle of the clubface through impact also influences solid contact. Too shallow an attack angle and you’ll tend to sweep across the ball. The optimal attack angle is between -3 and -5 degrees.
You can shallow out the club on the backswing and feel like you swing out to the right a bit on the downswing. This helps approach the ball on a steeper plane for proper compression. Don’t overdo it though, as too much downward attack angle can lead to digging.
Check if the Shaft is Too Stiff
If you have trouble compressing the ball and consistently top shots or chunk turf, your clubs may have shafts that are too stiff. This can inhibit the smooth release of the clubhead through impact.
Try making some smoother, slower-paced swings and see if you achieve better contact. If so, getting fitted for more flexible shafts could help get rid of topping problems.
The type of strike you make on most shots is a good indicator of whether your shafts are a proper fit. Pay attention and adjust accordingly for optimal impact.
Make a decision and stick to it.
To make a change, you must sometimes commit to making an uncomfortable motion. It is acceptable to make the opposite error and cover too much ground on the way to improvement. Be willing to exaggerate your changes, because the “feel” and the “real” are frequently very different. Make a decision and follow through. Don’t be afraid to make a mess on the ground.
Topping issues ultimately come down to the dynamic relationship between your body motion and the swing path of the club. Paying attention to weight shift, angle of attack, swing plane, and equipment can help you pinpoint the cause.
With some adjustments and practicing good strike patterns, you can gain consistent compression and stop topping shots for good. Proper contact leads to better distance and accuracy, taking strokes off your scores.