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Coming over the top doesn’t have to spell doom for your swing

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One of the most common phrases in golf instruction is “coming over the the top.” It’s a phrase even the most novice golfers use, but it is also very little understood.

First, let’s describe what is meant by “coming over the top” or “coming over it.” It’s a motion that sends the arms and club outside the target line and over the inclined plane that was set at address. It’s not in any way optimal, and can cause any number of issues. But in and of itself, it does not have to spell doom for golfers.

The real problem golfers run into is when they start their swings “out and over” the plane and then try to get the club back “in and under” the plane. I call this two moves from the top, and it’s generally far more destructive than a simple over-the-top move. In fact, given my druthers, I would much prefer that golfers simply keep their over-the-top motion; it is far better than trying to get the club back in and underneath the plane.

Look at it this way: if a player swings from outside the ball, the path is out-to-in, the attack angle a little steep and the face is open to the path. This is one way to play golf. Craig Stadler, Craig Parry and many other champion golfers swing this way. Bruce Lietzke made a wonderful career on the PGA Tour with an “in-and-over” move.

Their secret was simple: They made one move from the top of the swing. They didn’t attempt to re-route the club by backing up or reversing directions; just one move into the ball a little from the outside. Their rear sides fired down and through, which is the right side for right-handed players, and voila… a solid fade time after time.

By contrast, golfers who try to reverse direction in the downswing, actually pausing (imperceptibly) at some point and trying to get the club back to the inside, usually have very inconsistent results. They hit fat shots, thin shots, pushes and hooks, with solid shots being the exception, not the rule.

In fact, one of the most common causes of a reverse weight shift, or what I call “hanging back” through the ball, is starting down over the top and then trying to re-route the club. The “spin out” and “fall back” is the classic fault of mid- and high-handicap players.

I’m often asked by golfers how they can get “through the ball” better, or “get to their lead foot.” I explain to them that hanging back is often the result starting outside from the top and then trying to get back inside. No player has to “back up” simply because they started outside. The great players we watch exploding through the ball are hitting from the inside.

Having explained this from my years of watching it on the lesson tee, I will qualify it a bit; I am in NO WAY advocating coming over the top. I’m simply saying that if you do come over the top, you’ll have to accept a few things about your outcome:

  1. You’ll fade the ball.
  2. You can be prone to a pull.
  3. Your attack angle may be steep.
  4. You may not hit is as far as one who draws the ball.

Most golfers will hit better shots if they accept the move and don’t try to interrupt their natural motion by trying to get the club back insider.

For a deeper dive, see my video below.

If I can be of help to your game visit my Facebook page.

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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

22 Comments

22 Comments

  1. Bill T

    Feb 23, 2017 at 3:37 pm

    Great article, I have an out to in. It pulls left and draws left but the distance is great. When I try to correct it I lose between 15-30 yards. I wish I could straighten that 30 yard pull and I would be happy. Any Ideas

  2. Mad-Mex

    Feb 25, 2016 at 8:58 pm

    THANK YOU!!!!!!!!! GRACIAS!!!!!!!!!!

    My brother in law knows my swing better than anybody and has been trying to get me to come down inside-out for months since I have a “baby” out to in. I have no issues with distance loss now I can go back to enjoying the game and stop worrying so much about mechanics.

  3. Jim

    Feb 24, 2016 at 5:09 pm

    This is one of the best golf articles I’ve ever read explaining how many golfers get the club behind them coming down. The one thing is does not say is how damaging this two-move downswing motion is on the lower back. I 100% agree it is better to come over the top consistently than to try and re-route the club inside after you have moved it out above the plane.

    • Dennis clark

      Feb 24, 2016 at 6:08 pm

      Glad you enjoyed it. Outside in and shallow is a bad combo period. ????

  4. Someone

    Feb 24, 2016 at 1:33 pm

    Isn’t this the concept of ledbetters A swing? Outside going up inside coming down?

    • Dennis clark

      Feb 24, 2016 at 5:01 pm

      I’m not familiar with the A swing enough to comment

    • stephenf

      Mar 10, 2016 at 1:13 pm

      It is. But Lead’s point is not a particularly controversial one. He thinks it’s mechanically more sound to be a little steeper from about waist-high to the top, then at the right plane angle on the downswing. The only thing that’s changed much in the A-swing is that he’s more or less saying it hardly matters what the backswing plane is, as long as it’s not inside-then-over. (He advocates what seems like an overly steep plane on the backswing, seemingly as an exercise to show how little it actually matters, as long as the downswing plane is good, similar to how baseball players drop the bat into plane with a similarly extreme move.) When you go back too far inside, you run out of room and the almost universally natural thing to do at that point is to get the club moving out and over to get to what feels like a complete backswing.

      Leadbetter has always advocated “steepen, then flatten,” though.

      If you’re interested, there’s an obscure book out there by a guy named Xichao Mo called _Decoding the Golf Swing Plane_. The book is, for my money anyway, the best and most up-to-date examination of the realities of the swing plane (and the best busting of swing-plane myths with empirical evidence) that you’re going to find. It confirms the notion that beyond the point where the right wrist and elbow joint make it necessary for the club to rise above its plane through impact (from about waist-high to waist-high), it doesn’t matter that much what “plane” the club is on, because there is no one single plane throughout the swing, nor really even — as Mo demonstrates — two planes (one above the waist and one below), both on the same swing angle, as Haney and Leadbetter et al. describe. At least the two-planes-one-angle thing is more accurate than the Hogan “sheet of glass,” or even “one-plane” theory, and thinking about plane at all, even on a technically erroneous model, will help people who are way off to start with. But as a matter of precise observation, Mo’s work is unsurpassed and unequalled, as far as I’m concerned (although I suppose its instructional value might be limited, or at least unexplored as yet).

      Anyway, Mo’s work actually supports most of what Leadbetter is after with the “A-swing,” regardless of how much anybody might be inclined to think the “A-swing” is mostly just another iteration of the same stuff, in an effort to sell some more books and DVDs. Hey, can’t blame a guy for making a living.

      An alternative view advanced by Luther Blacklock is the idea that the plane isn’t defined by the angle of the shaft at address (or relative to it), but rather by a line that goes from the sweet spot of the club through approximately the top of the sternum. His explanation of it and demonstrations of it are at least internally consistent and pretty convincing in some ways. I’d like to see an effort to resolve Mo’s work and Blacklock’s theory.

  5. John kuczeski

    Feb 24, 2016 at 1:14 pm

    The first move you demonstrated looked like Corey Pavin’s practice swing….thanks for the input!

    • Dennis Clark

      Feb 24, 2016 at 1:31 pm

      Tiger too for a while under Haney. It’s a great feel drill for under…

  6. snowman

    Feb 23, 2016 at 10:53 pm

    Nice article.; Your 4 point summary describes my tendencies exactly and I am a single digit handicap. I would love to draw the ball and hit it further and Im still trying to improve my path, but I’m self taught and apparently my Swing DNA is an OTT move…

  7. Easy tiger

    Feb 23, 2016 at 10:00 pm

    Take some Ritalin buddy

  8. Andrew

    Feb 23, 2016 at 6:12 pm

    Dennis, Great video – thx for sharing. Can one also be successful with an arms swing (swing your own swing) or do you still advocate swing from the ground up (lower body starts first)? Thanks, Andrew

    • Dennis Clark

      Feb 23, 2016 at 6:31 pm

      Biomechanists tells us that all good golf swings use the ground as a source of power and force. I wrote a piece on this site about it a while ago.

    • stephenf

      Mar 10, 2016 at 1:30 pm

      True, of course. But even the “arm-swing” advocates like Toski, Flick, et al. don’t say the arms ought to be all there is. Go back to their older stuff and you’ll see them making it absolutely clear that the body must support the arms-and-club swinging elements, and to do that the legs and hips move, you have to use the ground, etc.

      The question has always been how much rotational force can be applied, and when, and precisely how, in a way that doesn’t destroy the swinging elements. I think it’s evident that over the years, various changes in swing technique and equipment have increased the level of ground-up force that can be applied without destroying the swing.

      But then, it’s not so new. This all started not long after the steel-shaft era began. Snead always said “turn and burn,” for one thing. Even Toski and Jacobs advocated not getting loose with the lower body on the windup. Toski always said the farther from the ball any specific body part was, the more it should be responding rather than creating on the backswing — and then, whatever moved last on the backswing (feet and legs) was in position to move first on the downswing, as it should.

      I just think a lot of the “body-versus-arms” argument comes down to a difference in emphasis and a difference in what any specific player or class of players tends to need. If you’re a very good player, a tour-level player for instance, you already know how to create a lot of speed at the clubhead with a strong, free release. So maybe you need to look at how your body is supporting that motion, and what you focus on will sound a lot like “body swing.” For an amateur who has never felt what it’s like to produce that kind of speed, though, and who is already throwing his body (particularly his upper body) at the ball, he’s going to destroy his swing if “body release” is his dominant thought. Even going with something as undeniably solid as “ground-up” isn’t going to improve a release he never learned to make in the first place.

      It all reminds me of what Nicklaus said one time about the swing being a massing of many coordinated elements, and that you couldn’t say it was “all this” or “all that.” That kind of balanced approach was absolutely critical in making him so consistently excellent over such a long period of time. You could say exactly the same of Snead, who could talk about “turn and burn” and “hands snap” in the same two minutes.

  9. Jimmy

    Feb 23, 2016 at 4:48 pm

    Plenty of great players have come over the top, George Knudson (the most accurate fairway wood player ever, could hit his carry distance within a yard and could stop his 3 wood with 1 hop) Craig Perry, Brendan De Jonge and many others play great, its about hitting it solid and being able to repeat it.

    • dennis clark

      Feb 23, 2016 at 6:54 pm

    • Steve

      Feb 24, 2016 at 12:26 am

      But both these guys Perry and De Jonge are not any where as consistent with their swings and have to many rounds near par to be regular winners…for sure De Jonge trys to move the ball with that swing…only Bruce Lietzke just let the ball fade 99% of the time which I think was do to the fact he had a finish that was almost the same every time.

      • Dennis Clark

        Feb 24, 2016 at 8:28 am

        Right. The move is not what I teach or would call OPTIMAL, point is it can be FUNCTIONAL. 99.99% of the golfers in the world would give their first born to play like Craig PArry or any of those guys.

  10. LC4

    Feb 23, 2016 at 1:10 pm

    Thank you for the video and thank you for making me feel better about accepting something I’ve tried in vain to change!

    • Dennis Clark

      Feb 23, 2016 at 3:20 pm

      I prefer inside but outside doesn’t have to spell doom, does it?

  11. Tom

    Feb 23, 2016 at 11:32 am

    video helped.

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Instruction

Trackman Tuesday (Episode 2): Driver Loft

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Welcome to Episode 2 of Trackman Tuesday. In this weekly series, I will be using Trackman data to help you understand the game of golf in a little more detail and help you hit better shots and play better golf.

In this week’s episode, I look at driver loft. What effect does driver loft have on your shots and how important is it, really?

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How Far Away from the Ball Should You Be at Address?

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How far away from the ball should you be at address? This video is in response to a question from Tom McCord on Facebook.

In this video, I look at the setup position. I offer a simple way to check your distance from the ball at address with your driver, irons and wedges.

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Tour Pros Revealed: 3 Tests to See How You Stack Up

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You want to be better at golf, more consistent and longer off the tee. I am sure a lot of you would love to stop hurting. You would like these things with minimal work, if possible. You also want them yesterday. That about sum it up?

In the next 5 minutes, you’ll learn about the one thing that solves these problems for good. Before we dive in, though, I want to tee up three stats for you from my research.

  1. PGA Tour players can jump between 18-22 inches off the ground while LPGA Tour players can jump between 16-20 inches off the ground. Long drive competitors can often leap 30+ inches off the ground!
  2. Elite-level golfers who drive the ball 300+ yards can shot put a 6-pound ball more than 30 feet with less than a 5-percent difference in right-handed to left-handed throws.
  3. Elite golfers in the world can hurl a medicine ball with a seated chest pass just as far in feet as they can jump in inches (ie. a 20-inch vertical leap and a 20-foot seated chest pass).

What do these numbers have to do with you and your game? More importantly, what do these stats have to do with solving your problems? Let’s start by telling you what the solution is.   

Objective Assessment and Intelligent Exercise Prescription

Say that three times fast. It’s a mouth full… But seriously, read it two more times and think about what that means.

It means that before you act on anything to improve your health or your game, you need to objectively assess what the problem is and get to the root cause. You should use quality objective data to arrive at intelligent health and golf improvement decisions based on the long-term likelihood that they will be successful. We can’t just select exercises, swing changes or training aids based on what is hot in the market today or what the latest celebrity was paid big bucks to sell to us.

There is a reason why the infomercials you see today on Golf Channel will be different in 2 months. The same gimmicks run out of steam when enough people realize that is what they are… gimmicks. When looking to achieve your goals of playing better golf and/or having less pain, don’t just grab for the quick fix as so many golfers today do. 

We are in the information age. Information from quality data is power. Using this data intelligently, you can fix problems in a fraction of the time and at a fraction of the cost. Hopefully, I am giving you the power to make a meaningful and lasting change in your game. I’m sorry to say that most amateurs will not be hitting 300+ yard drives despite what the latest marketing ploy will have you believe. But, if you know what tests you can do to measure the areas that affect your distance off the tee, you can at least gain insight into where your biggest return on your time investment will be. 

This is where working with a golf fitness expert can be so valuable to you. Not only can they help you interpret your results from the tests, but they will also be able to prescribe you the most effective means to move closer to 300 yards from where you are right now.  

If you have a problem with your car not accelerating as fast as you would like or not being able to reach top end speed on the highway, I hope you take it to the mechanic and don’t just look up quick fixes on YouTube to see what you can do on your own. The reason you pay the mechanic to fix your car is because that is what they do all day. They will get it done as quickly as possible. More importantly, they’ll get correctly so that the problem doesn’t pop up again in 2 weeks.

A golf fitness expert is no different. Use them for their expertise and knowledge. Once you have a diagnosis of what is holding you back and a plan to correct it, you are on your way and won’t have to waste any more time or money trying silly quick fixes that never stick.

The three statistics mentioned earlier represent numbers measured across the globe by industry leaders and at our facility 3-4 times per year on hundreds of golfers each time. Our facility has thousands of data points. With this much data comes the ability to draw conclusions from objective assessments. These conclusions drive the intelligent implementation of successful solutions directed at the root causes of problems for thousands of golfers around the globe.

The first three statistics have an R-value of over 0.85 in correlation to clubhead speed. Translation: if you perform well in the first three tests with high numbers, you are very likely to have a high club speed. Further, if you improve in any of those three tests relative to where you started, you are almost assured to have a higher club speed than when you began (assuming swing technique and equipment is relatively unchanged).  

Keep in mind that in statistics, correlation is not the same as cause and effect. But when the R-value is that close to 1 and anecdotally you have seen the results and changes we have, you put some weight behind these three tests. So:

  • See how high you can jump
  • See how far you can shot put a 6-pound medicine ball
  • See how far you can chest pass a 6-pound medicine ball from a seated position

Doing so will give you an idea of how much power you have in your lower body, total rotary system and upper body respectively. Train whichever one is the worst, or train them all if you want. Rest assured that if you improve one of them, you will more than likely increase your swing speed.  

By doing these assessments and addressing the one or two weak areas, you will improve with the least work possible. Sounds about what you were looking for, right? If you are able to identify where you need to improve BEFORE you buy whatever is claiming to fix your problems, you will save lots of money and time. You will actually start to improve with the least amount of work possible and in the least amount of time possible.  

What’s next? After completing the assessment tests, start working to improve them.

  • Coming Soon: Lower Body Power for Golf
  • Coming Soon: Upper Body Power for Golf
  • Coming Soon: Rotary Power for Golf
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