“Over the top” is one of the most common phrases in golf instruction. From TV analysts to instructors on the range, it’s used to describe a problem that’s common to a huge number of amateur golfers. Today, I’ll explain what you may be swinging over the top of, why it’s a problem, and how to fix it.
The term “over the top” is most commonly used to describe a downswing that starts out over the plane that the shaft creates at address.
The picture above shows the “plane line” that every golfer has seen an instructor or TV analyst draw. When your down swing starts out going over that plane, as you see below, your swing is deemed “Over the Top.”
Since this fault derives its name from its appearance, the best way to diagnose it is to get some “down the line” video of your swing.
If you’re more interested in the practical diagnosis, problematic “over the top” swings tend to produce deep divots and big slices.
Before I continue, I want to note that being “over the top” is not inherently a bad thing. There are guys who’ve played on Tour, and thousands, maybe millions, of very good amateur golfers, who are over the top. I would not suggest making a change unless you’re having a problem with contact or ball flight.
There are two primary things that cause swings to be over the top.
One cause is bad sequencing. In an ideal world, the golfer would start their down swing from the ground up – digging in their feet, turning their hips, then their core, shoulders, and arms. If you start your downswing with your arms or shoulders, you’re likely to end up over the top.
Another cause of being over the top is trying to steer the ball to the left. The root cause of this is a fundamental misunderstanding of the ball flight laws (get the facts HERE). These golfers see the ball slicing to the right so they think they will fix it by swinging to the left. The easiest way to swing to the left is to go way over the top.
I’ve already given you a fix for the second cause – know the ball flight laws! When you understand that swinging left will likely produce more slice, you may stop doing it automatically. If you need a little more help, lay down some alignment sticks and trace them with your swing to feel a better club path.
For those need help with sequencing, there are a number of good drills to work on. One of my favorites is a step drill. Take your normal address, and, as you take your back swing, step your lead foot back toward your rear foot. Start your downswing by stepping that lead foot toward the target. Be sure to start out slow – it’s easy to do this too aggressively and hurt yourself.
Another drill is to come to a complete stop at the top of your back swing. If you do this, you’ll realize that the only way to create any power is to swing from the ground up. Again, start slow by hitting pitch shots and half shots.