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4 Ways to Stop Coming Over the Top

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“Tom, I’m coming over the top and hitting big slices! Help!”

Nothing can ruin your score quicker than hitting three off the tee after you pump one out of play. And nothing is more frustrating than catching one solid, only to see it put on the blinker and slice hard to the right while losing big distance.

The over-the-top move that causes this ball flight most often stems from poor sequencing of the body. When your body gets out of sync, it often forces the rear shoulder to ride outward on the downswing, shifting your swing direction in toward your body. Slice city. 

There are a few very common reasons that lead to poor sequencing. I’ll highlight them below, and provide the best drills that will help you eliminate your over-the-top issues with some time and effort.

Problem #1: Arm Lift to the Top

ArmLiftDrill

Cause and Effect: The arm lift is caused when the shoulders aren’t the lead source of power in the backswing, leaving the arms to lift to the top independently of the torso’s actions. This places the arms in an overly upright position and one that makes it hard to return the club down to the inside during the transition.

The Fix: Practice from an uphill, sidehill lie.

UphillSidehill

How to Do It: Find as drastic of a slope as you can. If you lift your arms to the top from an uphill, sidehill lie, you will stick the club into the ground on the way down. The only way to hit the ball with any success from this kind of lie is to allow the club to follow the slope and work around your body to the top, which will help you discover the feeling of how the arms follow the shoulders to the top, not the other way around.

Problem #2: Getting Way Inside on the Takeaway

TooInsideBackswing

Cause and Effect: When you get the club way inside on the takeaway, it forces your body to make drastic recoveries to be able to return the club properly at impact. This move is often caused by an over-rolling of the lead forearm, or the over-turning of the torso during the start of the swing. This places the arms, hands and club into a position where they have no choice but to transition over the top in the downswing.

The Fix: Use the Stick drill.

StickDrill

How to Do It: Place a small stick (as shown in the photo above) a few feet behind the golf ball and a little outside of the target line. Practice taking the club head OVER the stick on the backswing, and then deliver the club on the inside of the stick on the way down.

StickDrillInside

This “looping” feeling will help you to understand the role of the arms back and through the swing, and will ultimately encourage a draw.

Problem #3: Reverse Weight Shift

ReverseWeightShift

Cause and Effect: When someone has a reverse weight shift, their spine tends to be too centered and not tilted enough behind the ball at address. This causes their weight to move toward their forward foot on the backswing and then rapidly reverse directions to their rear foot on the way down, violently thrusting their right shoulder out and over the swing plane.

The Fix: Use the Tilt drill.

TiltAtAddress

How to Do It: To start, feel like you set up behind the ball with your rear shoulder lower than your front shoulder and your weight favoring your rear foot. Exaggerate this tilted position throughout the swing, and you will feel how the weight should move into the backswing.

TiltAndTurn

When you’re doing this drill your swing will feel drastically different, and you’ll see some weird shots at first. You’ll likely hit the ball fat to start, which is due to your swing becoming more shallow. Then you’ll start to hook the ball. Those are good signs, and your ball flight will straighten out with practice.

Problem #4: Quick Hips from the Top

QuickHipsFromTop

Cause and Effect: Anytime the hips race out from under the torso or “spin-out” from the top, the club is usually thrown over-the-top. The longer the club, the more detrimental this move becomes.

The Fix: The Rear Foot Back drill.

RightFootBackDrill

How to Do It: Whenever you pull your rear foot behind your front foot at address, you will encourage a deeper hip turn to the top and a more delayed spinning of the hips on the way down. The Rear Foot Back drill gives the arms freedom to “drop” under the plane during the transition, putting you into a better position to deliver the club head into the ball.

Remember, there are many things that can cause an over-the-top motion, but these are far and away the most common ones I see from most golfers. Take your time to understand each of these issues, and make sure you are not making one of these crucial mistakes. If you are, it’s OK. You can practice and engrain these new feelings, and eventually your banana ball may just turn into a tight draw.

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Tom F. Stickney II, is a specialist in Biomechanics for Golf, Physiology, and 3d Motion Analysis. He has a degree in Exercise and Fitness and has been a Director of Instruction for almost 30 years at resorts and clubs such as- The Four Seasons Punta Mita, BIGHORN Golf Club, The Club at Cordillera, The Promontory Club, and the Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort. His past and present instructional awards include the following: Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher, Golf Digest Top 50 International Instructor, Golf Tips Top 25 Instructor, Best in State (Florida, Colorado, and California,) Top 20 Teachers Under 40, Best Young Teachers and many more. Tom is a Trackman University Master/Partner, a distinction held by less than 25 people in the world. Tom is TPI Certified- Level 1, Golf Level 2, Level 2- Power, and Level 2- Fitness and believes that you cannot reach your maximum potential as a player with out some focus on your physiology. You can reach him at [email protected] and he welcomes any questions you may have.

32 Comments

32 Comments

  1. Coach4Him

    Dec 21, 2016 at 11:18 pm

    oh, and by the way before I get called an “arm chair expert”— I was a high school basketball and golf coach for 38 years. I have attended a lot of clinics, worked camps, etc. and picked up a lot of great “band aids” along the way.

  2. Coach4Him

    Dec 21, 2016 at 11:15 pm

    I, too, have issues with the pull with my over the top move. Frustrating to be hole high so much on second shots or on a par 3 but 10-15 yards left of the green. I started using a closed stance on all shots to alleviate the problem, more exaggerated on the driver, fairway wood and long irons / hybrids —- less so on the mid and short irons. Seems to work quite well. Hope this helps someone.

    • PinHigh

      Dec 22, 2016 at 2:36 pm

      Careful with the closed stance on an over the top pull. You’re jamming your left hip over and over. Hope you have your lead foot open a few degree and not closed. Just a thought.

  3. Niramas

    Dec 21, 2016 at 12:24 pm

    I find all of you armchair “experts” with your 18 handicaps quite amusing.

  4. Varmint

    Dec 18, 2016 at 5:28 pm

    Alistair’s videos and Dennis Clark’s articles are more substantial.

  5. WiseGuy

    Dec 18, 2016 at 5:12 pm

    Tom’s articles are a sniglets of most golf mags. One and a half stars at best!!!

  6. Hank

    Dec 18, 2016 at 11:53 am

    #1 & #2 Bobby Jones and Jack Nicklaus did and came ‘over the top’ (but on plane). #3 #4 are results of not doing #1 & #2 well enough. Simples.

  7. TexasSnowman

    Dec 18, 2016 at 10:45 am

    Tom: I have issues with being over-the-top, but my usual miss is a Pull rather than a slice. One any one of these causes be more likely to cause a pull?
    Fwiw: Totally disagree with other comment that most golfers are under plane… OTT is epidemic with about 90% of golfing population.

    • Philip

      Dec 19, 2016 at 12:46 am

      FWIW – if you are OTT and are hitting a pull I would say you are hitting the ball with a closed face that is square to your path. I have deliberately doing this last season to tone down my slice to just a pull fade or straight pull. Definitely better than walking to the next fairway on the right.

  8. Mr Clean

    Dec 18, 2016 at 2:32 am

    …. but when you do, make sure you don’t hit her in the eye and wipe it all off nice and clean

  9. Lionelle Woods

    Dec 17, 2016 at 1:25 pm

    I suggest a different photo for the article. Makes the game of golf look like an Alt Right movement.

  10. Caveman

    Dec 16, 2016 at 9:46 pm

    In other words, don’t swing like a caveman smashing skulls. Got it.

  11. MrTrainingAid

    Dec 16, 2016 at 7:59 pm

    Excellent one.

    • Homey

      Dec 16, 2016 at 8:02 pm

      Careful Aid, roast might me just a golfer and not a teacher and Tom will not be happy!!!

  12. Par4

    Dec 16, 2016 at 5:39 pm

    Tom you forgot keeping your back to the target on your downswing… Along with don’t go swimming on a full stomach, an apple a day keeps the doctor away, etc.etc… Francis Bacon said it best,”The remedy is worse than the disease”.

  13. HoleIn2

    Dec 16, 2016 at 5:24 pm

    You put more band aids than band aids does… This is like self diagnosing a flaw, and you don’t like a golfer telling another golfer how to fix. You should read your own articles…

    • Brian

      Dec 16, 2016 at 6:01 pm

      Lol. I wish I could give you some kudos for that. Just what I was thinking.

    • Doug

      Dec 16, 2016 at 10:11 pm

      All theae teaching and drills just going to make your game suffer more. Do what works for you and practice to be consistent with that.

  14. Steve M

    Dec 16, 2016 at 5:19 pm

    This really doesn’t help me at all. Aside from the frightening taking my club back over a stick and bring it back down inside drill, the huge issue i have with this article is i don’t know why i’m coming over the top. So do i just guess which of the 4 issues i think it is so give myself a 3 in 4 chance of making things far worse?

    • SundayRed

      Dec 16, 2016 at 5:25 pm

      Can’t agree more…

    • Tom

      Dec 17, 2016 at 1:29 pm

      if ya play this game long enough, self diagnosis is a trait you will inherit

    • Tom Duke

      Dec 23, 2016 at 12:02 am

      Hi Steve…the over the top moved is caused by the spine being too vertical when the right shoulder makes its way around to the ball/target line. The spine angles of all great ball strikers are leaning some 30 degrees away from target coming through the impact zone. Feel free to check out windandsling.com, where I have a video explaining this, as well as the Strike Right golf swing trainer which was designed, in part, to eliminate the over the top move. Feel free to reach out to me at [email protected]. Good Luck!

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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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