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Why am I topping the ball?

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The first rule of golf is that golf is a game of opposites -– remember this for later.

One of the most frustrating shots in golf is a topped shot — normally the ball doesn’t travel very far and it is a wasted shot making the hole even harder to complete in par.

The flip side of a topped shot is the effect it has on your psyche, the more you top the ball, the more inclined you are to try and get underneath the ball. This is a natural reaction that exaggerates the fault and makes the results worse.

So how do you stop topping? The first step is to understand the dynamics of a well-struck shot opposed to a topped one, what I will explain concerns an iron shot in particular.

The swing arc

If you can imagine on the downswing, or use a club while reading this, the club comes down toward the ground then goes up again toward the finish making an arc. What most people do not understand, and the information that will help you cure a top, is that the bottom of the swing or arc should be ahead of the ball with very few exceptions. In other words, to hit the ball correctly, your swing must have a descending blow.

Impact sequence

The correct sequence for impact is ball then turf contact, which is why all good iron shots produce a divot after the ball. If you watch top golfers, they always either take a divot or brush the grass after impact. The club hits the ball, enters the turf, bottoms out then soon afterwards starts to ascend through to the finish.

The first rule

At the top of this article, I asked you to remember the first rule of golf. So let’s explain it; in golf, to get the ball in the air, you must swing down into the ground. This opposes every natural instinct we have in sports, in most sports you have to get underneath and behind the ball to get it in the air. The posture this produces is a tilting back position which is great for a lob shot in tennis but not for a golf shot. If you want to kick a football in the air you lean back and hit underneath — think about other sports you play.

How does this affect me?

If you understand the dynamics of impact and how it relates to your swing you can change and improve your technique. This knowledge will not eradicate all top shots but at least you know why it happens and what you need to do to make sure you hit the next one in the air.

What can I do in practice?
Hitting into tee drill

There are a few ways you can get the feeling for a correct impact position. First, start with a wedge or a club you are comfortable with, swing back normally, then on your downswing concentrate on taking a divot after the ball; you can put a club down at 90 degrees to your target line but pointing at your ball -– this gives you a reference after your shot for where the ball was and where your club bottomed out in relation to the ball. Second, without a ball, a great drill is to put a tee into the ground at 45 degrees pointing away from the target, practice your downswing slowly and stop at impact. The idea is for the center of the club face to make contact with the top of the tee, this gives you a real exaggerated feeling for where your body and hands should be to get a descending blow.

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Alastair is an Advanced PGA professional and Club Professional at Easingwold Golf Club near York, England. Alastair coaches a varied client base including new golfers, juniors, golf professionals and low-handicap amateurs.

8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. David Gouldstone

    Mar 7, 2013 at 9:41 am

    This is a great article and very clear, I will put it into practice

  2. Steve Hedderick

    Feb 24, 2013 at 10:20 am

    Clear and concise – just the way Alastair teaches.

  3. Brian Eccles

    Feb 24, 2013 at 10:07 am

    Great instruction clearly explained as usual

  4. SamBagley

    Feb 21, 2013 at 4:06 pm

    Couldn’t have been put more clearer. I try to imagine squeezing the ball into the turf with that decending blow.
    Great tuition from Alistair

  5. Carole

    Feb 21, 2013 at 1:48 pm

    Great article Alistair, will put into practice

  6. sylvia

    Feb 21, 2013 at 12:14 pm

    Very informative article, great tutor.

  7. Suds

    Feb 21, 2013 at 11:14 am

    Brilliant Alistair is an ace guy, Excellent review will put into practice .

  8. paul croake

    Feb 21, 2013 at 6:13 am

    excellent article

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Instruction

6 ways to improve your self image as a golfer

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According to a ranking done by FanSided, The Ohio State Buckeyes are the current kings of Fandom! This ranking is not limited to sports; it also includes entertainment, celebrities and even different brands.

Growing up in Michigan, I certainly take exception to seeing The Buckeyes at No. 1, but that is certainly not the point here. I went to college with a few folks from Ohio, one who was an absolute diehard Ohio State fan. He grew up rooting for the collegiate program through both the ups and the downs. We often joked about how Ohio State could not beat Michigan when we were younger, and now the Wolverines can’t seem beat the Buckeyes. But outside of our differences, when he described every trip he made to “The Horseshoe,” you could feel his fandom. As he described the people, the food, the neighborhood and the history, you could feel the aura of “The Horseshoe.” This was a special place to him, as it is to many. Every time he left, win or lose, he could not wait to return. He was and still is a raving fan.

Unfortunately, on the lesson tee, I usually hear a different story. I rarely hear golfers describe their own game in good favor. Instead, I hear them talk poorly of every aspect of their game. I rarely hear anyone who is truly a raving fan of his or her own game. I am by no means giving anyone the green light to be arrogant, but to display confidence and develop a positive self-image. I hear plenty about how good other golfers are: Adam Scott, Rory McIlroy, even some of their buddies or co-workers who shoot no better scores than they do! The best players at any level are raving fans of their own games. So how do we change our own self-image and fall in love with our own game?

The key is understanding our mental self-image. Many people want to change their strategy. “I need new clubs. I need a better swing. I need everything!” What I want you to do is change your story. I want you to realize that inside, if you can change your mental approach from “I’m a 100’s shooter” to “I’m a bogey golfer,” you can start achieving that goal. If someone asks me what I shoot, I’ll tell them between 69 and 76. Someone who shoots 110 will tell you he shoots between 105 and 110. How can someone be that consistent with that high of a score? It’s simple; that is the game that golfer plays. It’s his self-image.

So again, how do we change it? Here are six ways to get started. 

1. Visualize Your Game

Every day, I want you to write out a scorecard. I don’t care what you use: a piece of paper, on a scorecard, on an iPhone note. What I want you to do is visualize your round. Simply think of where you normally hit your drive and where you normally hit it on the green. Play each hole normally as you would on the course. What you’ll find is that you’re not going to make any double or triple bogeys, because you’re simply playing the holes the way you have before. That will add up to a score that is 5, 10, or maybe even 15 shots lower. It will also start to give you the understanding that to shoot those scores it isn’t about perfect shots, but solid rounds of golf. If you haven’t visualized it, how can you possibly achieve it?

2. Keep Your Commitments to Yourself

Make a game plan and stick to it, case closed. Be it instruction, fitness, diet, playing more… don’t cheat yourself, just do it. Keep a journal, as journaling helps you see growth and makes it easier to stay committed.

3. Educate Yourself

We live in an information age, so choose wisely. The internet can be hard to navigate, but follow trusted sources, read books, or pick up the phone and call someone who can answer your questions. As you learn more about your game, the information will become easier to apply and you’ll see growth.

4. Be Consistent

Commit to good habits and then consistently follow through. You will start to impress yourself when it becomes routine, and when it is routine is when you see results.

5. Acknowledge and Fix Problems

I’m not saying that you should be trying to fix every problem with your golf swing. If you are giving your golf game a true assessment, however, and you’re doing what you can to address issues, you will know that you are truly doing your best.

6. Deliver on Your Game Plan +1 Percent

Ask yourself what you could do to give it the +1 percent. You don’t need to be 50 percent better. Just 1 percent can take you from satisfied to a raving fan. Commit to what you want, follow through with the commitment, add the extra 1 percent and you will be well on your way to becoming a raving fan of your own game.

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Instruction

Shallowing the Club: Two Moves to Avoid (Part 1)

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It’s the move we all want in the downswing… and rightfully so. Shallowing the club is a great way to put your swing on plane and really start to narrow you misses. All shallowing moves are not equal, however; in fact, there are a couple that you’ll definitely want to try to avoid because they can actually have the opposite effect!

We’ve broken this series into two parts to make it more digestible. This is Part 1. Thank you for watching!

Shallowing the Club: Two Moves to Avoid (Part 2) is coming soon!

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WATCH: How to hit better pitch shots by improving weight transfer

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In this video, I use technology to help you better understand how you can pitch the ball like the pros.

When pitching, you may have learned to keep your weight on your lead foot throughout the shot. That’s not always the best approach. With BodiTrak, I show you how to move your weight correctly to achieve more consistent strikes.

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