Understanding "over the top" and "casting"
By Dennis Clark
"I know I cast the club, I just cannot stop doing it."
That's one of the most common things I hear on the lesson tee. So let's talk about why golfers think this is so prevalent, and see if casting it is what they think it is. Two definitions are in order if we are to understand the dynamic here. "Over the top" and "casting."
Over the top: During the downswing, a movement of the upper body (particularly the shoulders and arms), in which there is a distict movement OUT, not down.
Casting: The premature uncocking of the wrists or straightening of the angle formed by the left arm and the club from the top of the swing. It is an action of the hands and arms, not the body.
These are two VERY dissimilar motions and you will need to understand them to change them -- if that is your goal. I'll explain this in a minute.
A high percentage of golfers slice. They do so because the clubface is open relative to the true path of their swing. And every time they do, they are very likely to try and start the next shot off to the left in order to play the slice. It is as instinctive as a blink -- slice and you will aim or swing left, no questions asked (for a right handed player). When this happens, the player is starting out and above the dynamic plane, or "over the top." Now here's where it gets interesting... This is also quite often the CAUSE of "casting."
Every inch or millisecond spent going OUT is time or space NOT going down. So an over-the-top motion MUST be associated with a casting motion, OR the bottom of the swing arc will be so far in front of the golf ball that the player will not make solid contact. They'll likely hit a half-topped skull at best and shank at worst.
Try to "lag" an over the top motion, and I guarantee that if the golf ball is not 6 inches in front of your left foot you won't even hit it (I've seen this with good and bad players). Ideally, the bottom of the swing arc is under the left arm pit. So if the left arm pit is moving out and forward, the bottom of the swing has been moved too far up, and you BETTER let it go! Every bit a golfer goes out, the club must start getting in line with the left arm that much earlier. This is why I said in another article MOST golfers cannot release it too soon, becasue MOST golfers come over the top. Is this ideal? Maybe not, but it IS compatible.
When a player gets to the top of his or her backswing, there has to be a lowering of the arms and club unit. In The Plane Truth about Swings and Things we discussed that some golfers come down (the two planers) more than others (the one planers). This is because the arms and club are more over them and less behind them. But all golfers have to come down sometime, that's obvious.
I teach a lot of golfers to learn to release and get their arms and club down FIRST. When and if they start sticking it in the gound or hitting big hooks, then I start working on the rotation of the body on the downswing. TURN-SWING-TURN is a great sequence for "over the top."
I said earlier you can correct this if it be your goal. By that, I mean there is nothing wrong with a little ouside swing path if the face is slightly open and the release is timed for that move. Most of my tournament players love a baby fade; they aim or swing a bit left to produce an open face. It is my considered opinion that MOST golfers are too concerned with "getting through it" or "getting to their left side" at the expense of not bringing the club with them. If many newer players could learn to hit the ball with their back still at the target and started drawing/hooking the ball, the fade would go away and so would "over the top".
This is an area many golfers struggle with mightily. If you are an over the topper, and playing even a reasonable level of golf, you are also a slightly early releaser. So your correction is twofold: getting more to the inside AND getting a little later with your release. It's a tall order, but can be done.
I am NOT a method teacher but I have seen FAR more students NOT swing the arms and club than I have seen not "get through it." I'm going to wager that if I could measure a practice swing against a real swing, I would see 10 MPH more speed in the practice swing! Why? Well, if I know I better start the ball to the left, the body opens first, the arms come way too late and voila, a golfer swings slower.
So just as my other articles suggest, learn to release the club and swing the arms freely. We can turn you through later.