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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. Dennis now teaches at Bobby Clampett's Impact Zone Golf Indoor Performance Center in Naples, FL. .

24 Comments

24 Comments

  1. Pingback: What Is Coming Over The Top In Golf & How To Fix It - (MUST READ Before You Buy)

  2. Cliff

    Nov 22, 2019 at 12:33 am

    Thanks for the article. Makes me feel better. Is a draw-biased Driver best for someone who goes back to this type of swing? Or putting settings draw-biased. Any Driver recommended?

  3. 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

  4. 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.

  5. 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. ????

  6. 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.

  7. 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…

  8. 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…

  9. Easy tiger

    Feb 23, 2016 at 10:00 pm

    Take some Ritalin buddy

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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?

  13. Tom

    Feb 23, 2016 at 11:32 am

    video helped.

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Instruction

The Wedge Guy: Short game tempo

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One of my favorite things to do is observe golfers closely, watching how they go about things from well before the shot to the execution of the swing or stroke. Guess the golf course has become kind of like going to the lab, in a way.

One thing I notice much too often is how “quick” most golfers are around the greens. It starts with grabbing a club or two from the cart and quickly getting to their ball. Then a few short jabs at a practice swing and usually a less-than-stellar result at a recovery.

Why?

If you are going to spend a morning or afternoon on the course, why hurry around the greens? I tend to be a fast player and despise five-hour rounds, but don’t fault anyone for taking a few seconds extra to get “right” with their recovery shot. You can still play “ready golf” and not short yourself in the close attention to execution. But let me get back to the specific topic.

Maybe it’s aggravated by this rush, but most golfers I observe have a short game tempo that is too quick. Chips, pitches and recoveries are precision swings at less than full power, so they require a tempo that is slower than you might think to accommodate that precision. They are outside the “norm” of a golf swing, so give yourself several practice swings to get a feel for the tempo and power that needs to be applied to the shot at hand.

I also think this quick tempo is a result of the old adage “accelerate through the ball.” We’ve all had that pounded into our brains since we started playing, but my contention is that it is darn hard not to accelerate . . . it’s a natural order of the swing. But to mentally focus on that idea tends to produce a short, choppy swing, with no rhythm or precision. So, here’s a practice drill for you.

  1. Go to your practice range, the local ball field, schoolyard or anywhere you can safely hit golf balls 20-30 yards or less.
  2. Pick a target only 30-50 feet away and hit your normal pitch, observing the trajectory.
  3. Then try to hit each successive ball no further, but using a longer, more flowing, fluid swing motion than the one before. That means you’ll make the downswing slower and slower each time, as you are moving the club further and further back each time.

My bet is that somewhere in there you will find a swing length and tempo where that short pitch shot becomes much easier to hit, with better loft and spin, than your normal method.

The key to this is to move the club with the back and through rotation of your body core, not just your arms and hands. This allows you to control tempo and applied power with the big muscles, for more consistency.

Try this and share with all of us if it doesn’t open your eyes to a different way of short game success.

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The Wedge Guy: The core cause of bad shots

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You are cruising through a round of golf, hitting it pretty good and then you somehow just hit an absolutely terrible shot? This isn’t a problem unique to recreational golfers trying to break 80, 90, or 100 — even the best tour professionals occasionally hit a shot that is just amazingly horrible, given their advanced skill levels.

It happens to all of us — some more frequently than others — but I’m convinced the cause is the same. I call it “getting sloppy.”

So, what do I mean by that?

Well, there was a USGA advertising campaign a while back feature Arnold Palmer, with the slogan “Swing Your Swing.” There’s a lot of truth to that advice, as we all have a swing that has — either frequently or occasionally – produced outstanding golf shots. While there is no substitute for solid mechanics and technique, I’ve always believed that if you have ever hit a truly nice golf shot, then your swing has the capacity to repeat that result more frequently than you experience.

The big question is: “Why can’t I do that more often?”

And the answer is: Because you don’t approach every shot with the same care and caution that you exhibit when your best shots are executed.

To strike a golf ball perfectly, the moon and stars have to be aligned, regardless of what your swing looks like. Your set-up position must be right. Your posture and alignment have to be spot-on. Ball position has to be precisely perfect. To get those things correct takes focused attention to each detail. But the good news is that doing so only takes a few seconds of your time before each shot.

But I know from my own experience, the big “disrupter” is not having your mind right before you begin your swing. And that affects all of these pre-shot fundamentals as well as the physical execution of your swing.
Did you begin your pre-shot approach with a vivid picture of the shot you are trying to hit? Is your mind cleared from what might have happened on the last shot or the last hole? Are you free from the stress of this crazy game, where previous bad shots cause us to tighten up and not have our mind free and ready for the next shot? All those things affect your ability to get things right before you start your swing . . . and get in the way of “swinging your swing.”

So, now that I’ve outlined the problem, what’s the solution?

Let me offer you some ideas that you might incorporate into your own routine for every shot, so that you can get more positive results from whatever golf swing skills you might have.

Clear your mind. Whatever has happened in the round of golf to this point is history. Forget it. This next shot is all that matters. So, clear that history of prior shots and sharpen your focus to the shot at hand.

Be precise in your fundamentals. Set-up, posture, alignment and ball position are crucial to delivering your best swing. Pay special attention to all of these basics for EVERY shot you hit, from drives to putts.

Take Dead Aim. That was maybe the most repeated and sage advice from Harvey Penick’s “Little Red Book”. And it may be the most valuable advice ever. Poor alignment and aim sets the stage for bad shots, as “your swing” cannot be executed if you are pointed incorrectly.

See it, feel it, trust it. Another piece of great advice from the book and movie, “Golf’s Sacred Journey: Seven Days In Utopia”, by Dr. David Cook. Your body has to have a clear picture of the shot you want to execute in order to produce the sequence of movements to do that.

Check your grip pressure and GO. The stress of golf too often causes us to grip the club too tightly. And that is a swing killer. Right before you begin your swing, focus your mind on your grip pressure to make sure it isn’t tighter than your normal pressure.

It’s highly advisable to make these five steps central to your pre-shot routine, but especially so if you get into a bad stretch of shots. You can change things when that happens, but it just takes a little work to get back to the basics.

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Stickney: To stack or not to stack at impact?

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As you look at the impact positions of the best players in the world, you will find many different “looks” with respect to their body and club positions. Some of these impact positions might even appear unique, but don’t be fooled. They all have one thing in common: preserving the players’ balance throughout the impact interval! In fact, if you are not in-balance, then you will lose power, consistency, and have trouble controlling your launch dynamics from shot to shot.

This balance is a necessary key to playing well and one area that can be easily understood with a few graphics shown on GEARS 3D. As you examine the photo in the featured image, you can see a few things:

  • The player on the left has “fallen” backwards through impact slightly moving his head out of the circle established at address
  • The player on the right is more stacked at impact — meaning that his chest, zipper and hands are all in the same place at the same time (within reason)
  • The player on the left has reached this same position in the swing with different segments of the body reaching the ball at different times
  • There will be a difference of impact shaft lean between the two players due to one player reaching impact “together” and the other shoving his hands more forward as he falls back
  • The player on the right is more “connected” through impact…won’t be the longest hitter but will be able to find the ball in the fairway more often
  • The player on the left is putting more pressure on the rear portion of the lower back which could have a potential for injury if he’s not careful

Now, obviously there are pro and cons to both positions. Overall, if you want to be consistent and in-balance more often that not, I would suggest you try your best to focus on being “stacked” when you hit the ball.

Let’s dive in a touch deeper to show you what happens physiologically on 3D when you fall back through impact and I think it will really drive the point home.

  • At address notice the Vertical Spine Number 96.2, this is showing us where the spine is positioned at address
  • You can see the head is in the center of the bubble

  • On the way to the top of the swing you can see that the spine has moved “away” from the target laterally a slight bit to 98 degrees
  • The head has dropped downward and has also moved laterally as well- more lean over the right leg to the top

Now here is where the problem comes in…as you work your way to the top, it’s ok of your head moves a touch laterally but in transition if it stays “back” while your hips run out from under you then you will begin to fall backwards on the way to your belt-high delivery position.

  • We can see at the delivery position that the spine has continued to fall backwards as the hips rotate out from under the upperbody
  • When this happens the hands will begin to push forward- dragging the handle into the impact zone
  • Whenever you have too much spin out and fall back the hands move forward to accommodate this motion and this reduces your Angle of Attack and decreases your dynamic loft at impact
  • This will cause balls to be hit on the decent of the club’s arc and reduce loft making shots come out lower than normal with a higher spin rate and that means shorter drives

Now let’s examine impact…

  • The player on the left has reached impact in a more disconnected fashion versus the player on the right as you compare the two
  • The player on the right has a shaft lean at impact that is less than a degree (.75) while the player on the left has a much more noticeable forward lean of the shaft thereby reducing dynamic loft at impact

  • The player on the left’s spine has moved from 96.2 to 112.9, a difference of 16.7 degrees while the player on the right has only moved back a few degrees. We know this because his head has stayed in the bubble we charted at address
  • The hips have run out from under the player on the left in the downswing and this causes the head to fall back more, the hands to push forward more, and the impact alignments of the club to be too much down with very little dynamic loft (as also shown in the photo below)

Whenever the hips turn out from under the upper body then you will tend to have a “falling back effect of the spine and a pushing forward of the hands” through impact.  Notice how the hips are radically more open on the player on the right versus the left- 27.91 versus 42.42 degrees.

So, now that we can see what happens when the hips spin out, you fall back, and you fail to be “stacked” at impact let’s show you a simple way you can do this at home to alleviate this issue.

  

  • A great drill to focus on being more stacked at impact is to make slow motion swings with the feeling that the upper portion of your arms stay glued to your chest
  • These shots will be full swings but only 20% of your total power because the goal here is connection which allows everything to reach impact together and in-balance
  • The second thought as you make these swings is to pay attention to your head, if you can focus on allowing it to stay “over the top of the ball” at impact you will find that it will stay put a touch more so than normal. Now this is not exactly how it works but it’s a good feeling nonetheless
  • Once you get the feeling at 20% speed work your way up to 50% speed and repeat the process. If you can do it here then you are ready to move up to full swings at top speed

Finally, don’t forget that every golfer’s hips will be open at impact and everyone’s head will fall back a touch — this is fine. Just don’t over-do it! Fix this and enjoy finding the ball in the fairway more often than not.

Questions or comments? [email protected]

 

 

 

 

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