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Two reasons golfers get “over the top”

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Most golfers know they should avoid coming “over the top” on their downswings. But for golfers who do, the road to fixing it can be a difficult one. That’s because fixing an over-the-top move, which means getting the club more “inside” on the downswing, has two different causes, each with its own fix. 

When the golf club comes from too far outside, it is the result of one of two things:

  1. The upper body “spins out,” opening the shoulders early and forcing the hands out away from the body. This is by far the most common way I see my students getting over the top.
  2. The shoulders stay closed, the hands come down from the inside, but the CLUB HEAD is swung well outside the hands. This is less common, but every bit as destructive in its effect.

1. The Spin Out

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xfipj0lmN24&feature=youtu.be

In the first example, the correction is actually somewhat easier. I see this spin out move in varying degrees, and it is often the result of yanking the club inside too quickly on the backswing. When the club gets too far inside, or “stuck,” golfers cannot swing down. So what they do is spin their upper body out, which gets them over the top. 

I also see a lot of players stand the club up too vertically as they approach impact to avoid shanking the ball. Picture the hands swinging out, away from the golfer, and the shaft on the original angle. Heel hitting and shanking are inevitable.

For this swing flaw — spinning out — I might have my students:

  1. Learn to keep their back to the target a little longer in the downswing.
  2. Feel as though the lower body is leading the downswing, a lateral bump of the lead hip, with the torso and staying behind a little in transition. 
  3. Keep the rear elbow in close to the body. I might even have them hit some balls from a closed position to see and feel the inside path. 

If, from there, they can begin drawing or hooking the ball a bit, the inside path becomes more natural, and the spin out will diminish over time. 

There are a number of good drills for this: Hitting balls with back to target and hitting balls with feet together are two great ones. The one I use more than any is to place an aim stick in the ground behind the golfer (on the same angle as the club they’re hitting). I have golfers swing outside the stick on the backswing, and then inside it on the downswing.

2. Club Head Cast Outside the Hands

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W1SGz3DAo74&feature=youtu.be

The other, less obvious way golfers get over the top happens when the hand path is actually down, but the club head is thrown outside the hands. A video of this mistake might be misleading, because often the body will be square or even slightly closed to the target — but the club is still too far out. This is why shanking cannot always be corrected simply by geting the hand path to swing in. 

This swing is often the result of casting, but not simply casting down — it’s more out. An early release or a cast down will hit fat shots, but it will not necessarily be outside. We see this in players who have wide swings and are often pointed left (short of parallel) at the top, which is called “laid off.” Laid off at the top and wide is a dangerous combination, as the center of the club is really elusive.

The correction is a bit different, too. Here a player might have to feel like the club head is actually stuck, that is, coming from behind the hands in the downswing. 

There is a training device I like called the Benderstik, which is a foam ball on a pole that can placed in a variety of places to redirect certain poor swing habits. In this case, the ball would be placed just inside the line of flight and the feeling would be one whereby missing the ball keeps the club head behind the hands longer. 

You can also try another drill I use to feel a more inside club head path. Draw a line in the dirt and try making divots in front of the line. The divots must be straight or even point a little right of the target. This can reduce some casting, and again, give a feeling of the club head being more behind the hands.

Tricky business, but if you know what type of over-the-top move you have, you’re closer to making the correction. 

If you’d like me to analyze your swing, go to my Facebook page or contact me (dennisclarkgolf@gmail.com) about my online swing analysis program.

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Dennis Clark is a PGA Master Professional. Clark has taught the game of golf for more than 30 years to golfers all across the country, and is recognized as one of the leading teachers in the country by all the major golf publications. He is also is a seven-time PGA award winner who has earned the following distinctions: -- Teacher of the Year, Philadelphia Section PGA -- Teacher of the Year, Golfers Journal -- Top Teacher in Pennsylvania, Golf Magazine -- Top Teacher in Mid Atlantic Region, Golf Digest -- Earned PGA Advanced Specialty certification in Teaching/Coaching Golf -- Achieved Master Professional Status (held by less than 2 percent of PGA members) -- PGA Merchandiser of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Golf Professional of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Presidents Plaque Award for Promotion and Growth of the Game of Golf -- Junior Golf Leader, Tri State section PGA -- Served on Tri State PGA Board of Directors. Clark is also former Director of Golf and Instruction at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort. He now directs his own school, The Dennis Clark Golf Academy at the JW Marriott Marco Island in Naples, Fla.. He can be reached at dennisclarkgolf@gmail.com

26 Comments

26 Comments

  1. Dennis Clark

    Mar 20, 2015 at 3:32 pm

    Rob, thats a tough one, Id like to see it. But if thats the case, try an aim stick or possibly two, in the ground behind you, up against your butt. Try hitting some balls feeling like you stay against the sticks.

    • Rob a

      Mar 20, 2015 at 4:35 pm

      Thanks Dennis, will try that one. I have a couple of other drills too, hopefully between them we can fix it. Thanks again and best wishes, rob

  2. Rob A

    Mar 20, 2015 at 8:00 am

    That should have been the first post!!

  3. Rob A

    Mar 20, 2015 at 7:59 am

    Hi Dennis,

    Not dissimilar to the last post, I am relatively short – 5ft 6, and my problem is a slight early extension which means I cannot easily hit from the inside, leading to occasional very strange block push/slices. Have you any drills that you could suggest for working on eliminating the dreaded early extension?

    Love your articles, always learn something!

    Best wishes,

    Rob, Scotland, UK

  4. Robert

    Mar 19, 2015 at 10:27 pm

    Very interesting. I never realized that the 2nd option was coming over the top. I’ve been making that move for years. Not realizing what that was, what I’ve been working on all winter is actually getting rid of that move. Good article. Thanks!

  5. Dennis Clark

    Mar 19, 2015 at 9:17 pm

    I will post a short video golf doc. Stay tuned.

  6. Golfdoctor111

    Mar 19, 2015 at 4:19 pm

    Dennis, Can you please explain more details re the benderstick drill? I’m not sure what you are describing ie.When you say the ball is inside the target line…. where is the benderstick ball– in front, behind or above golf ball? How far away? When you say miss the benderstick ball, are you saying with the club head(I assume) or did you mean to miss it with the struck golf ball? Thank you for clarity. Video would be great. Thanks

  7. dcorun

    Mar 19, 2015 at 1:34 pm

    Found a book by Manual de la Torre and have been practicing his method. Starting the club with a traditional one piece takeaway straight back about a foot and then continue my turn and feel like my right elbow is relaxed. Then finish the backswing and start the downswing with a little hip shift toward the target and then let the arms swing the club freely towards the target and everything else follows to a full finish. Still hit a fade once in awhile but, mostly straight or a slight draw now. No more slice.

    • Dennis Clark

      Mar 19, 2015 at 9:29 pm

      Good man Manual. Kniw him and like him. gentleman.

  8. Dennis Clark

    Mar 19, 2015 at 7:59 am

    Great comments all…Over many years, I have seen students develop an innate sense of how to deliver the club to the ball. When you see someone with out hand path, the club shaft is almost always too vertical. Very few, if any come in with hands low and shaft under (flatter) address plane. Point is the more vertical the shaft, the more out the hands-by necessity. Thx

  9. Dennis Clark

    Mar 19, 2015 at 7:46 am

    Yea shaft parallel to toe line is a good idea…the lower hand keeps the club outside. Picture your hands on the ground the club head is maximum distance from them. But…you can have high hands and NO forearm rotation, or low hands and a lot of forearm rotation. either way you’re looking to get it in line with hands, as you’re doing on the toe line.

  10. other paul

    Mar 18, 2015 at 11:56 pm

    My friends that slice set up with shoulders misaligned to their feet. When I noticed, I aligned my shoulders to my feet and have hit straight ever since. When I want a fade I just bring my rear shoulder forward a bit, and voila, a fade. Want some more draw, pull my rearward shoulder back a tiny bit. And voila, a draw. Simple. Works with all clubs. Breaking 80 when the snow melts this year if I can sort out my putter.

    • Dennis Clark

      Mar 19, 2015 at 7:51 am

      thats the spirit paul…Ball position directs shoulder alignment Paul. Keep that in mind too.

  11. Rick Altham

    Mar 18, 2015 at 2:12 pm

    Great article. The swing gyde training aid might also help golfers who cast their club heads outside of their hands.

  12. nabil

    Mar 18, 2015 at 1:15 pm

    Just asking. Is that Rickart Strongert in the pic above with the ball trajectory ?

  13. Gorden

    Mar 18, 2015 at 12:32 am

    Worked on a grass range today with your thoughts on squaring up the divots, that helped me keep the left shoulder under better control as I use the single plane swing taught by Todd Graves, which works great if I keep the left shoulder from opening or turning to soon…with focus on the divots instead of what that left shoulder wants to do was a great help.

  14. Dennis Clark

    Mar 17, 2015 at 7:31 pm

    actually lowering the hands at address puts the club head more outside the hands, not inside…but every swing is different; if you find that it works for you, I’d stay with it. Bottom line is the club arriving at impact from inside and not having to raise the handle to get it there.

  15. Speedy

    Mar 17, 2015 at 7:20 pm

    Good stuff, Dennis. The rear elbow reminder is paramount, aiding accuracy and power.

    • Dennis Clark

      Mar 17, 2015 at 7:33 pm

      yes it is…but remember the elbow in will not ensure inside- in and of itself.

  16. Dennis Clark

    Mar 17, 2015 at 6:12 pm

    You have to be very aware of club length, it’s easy to get over the top due to too little room to swing from the inside. I think lie angle and length play a greater role under a certain height. Just a thought…Thx

  17. Dennis Clark

    Mar 17, 2015 at 4:08 pm

    the aim stick is placed on the same angle as the club you’re hitting, and about 3 feet behind you on the same line as your hands. get it?

  18. antonio

    Mar 17, 2015 at 1:05 pm

    Great article, thanks. Can you elaborate a bit more where and how to place the aim stick in the ground for your most used drill to correct the Spin Out?

  19. Bryan P

    Mar 17, 2015 at 11:58 am

    Hey Dennis,

    nice article! I’ve always been a fade player, and have a really hard time hitting a true draw. I think it may be because my clubs are too long and too upright. I think this because it feels like I have to really get on top of the club to make solid contact, which seems to pull my path way left.

    have you seen anything like that? Or is that not something you would expect to see from too upright of lies.

    • Dennis Clark

      Mar 17, 2015 at 4:09 pm

      lie angle too upright ball goes left; too flat ball goes right. how tall are you?

      • Bryan P

        Mar 17, 2015 at 4:54 pm

        5’4. But I make solid contact with clubs that should be 4ish degrees too upright stock taylormade R7s. PING’s online fitter suggests I would fit into something -1/2 and 1.5 flat of their standard which is much flatter than what I have (not that PING is necessarily perfect).

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