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Understanding “over the top” and “casting”



“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.

As always, feel free to send a swing video to my Facebook page and I will do my best to give you my feedback.

Click here for more discussion in the “Instruction & Academy” forum. 

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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 [email protected]



  1. Dennis Clark

    Jan 28, 2013 at 7:49 am

    Yes Dennis Clark Golf Academy, Naples FL At the Marriott Marco Island Resort

  2. Jim Irvin, PGA

    Jan 3, 2013 at 10:31 am


    Thank you! As a PGA full time teaching professional, it is refreshing to hear somebody focus on swinging the club vs. trying to sequence body parts to mid to high handicap problems.

    Keep up the great work!

    • Jim Dennis

      Jan 25, 2013 at 11:35 pm

      Do you teach in the winter? If so,where?

  3. yo!

    Jan 2, 2013 at 5:58 pm

    Good stuff … maybe it’s because I understand everything you’re saying, makes perfect sense to me, and has been my experience as well.

  4. Dave S

    Dec 23, 2012 at 6:22 pm

    So are you saying I should be more concerned with making sure I release the club in the hitting zone than hip turn?

    My plroblem with this is that I end up concentrating too much on my arms and hands and lose a ton of power.


    • Dennis Clark

      Dec 26, 2012 at 7:06 pm

      I’m saying that if were your teacher, I’d have you continue to work on arm and hand speed. The body stabilizes and balances, but the arms create the speed! Thx for comment, DC

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What you can learn from Steve Elkington



When you think of great golf swings from the past and present time, Steve Elkington’s golf swing instantly comes to mind. His playing career has included a PGA championship, two Players Championships and more than 50 weeks inside the top-10 world golf rankings. This article will examine not only key moves you can take from Elk’s swing but learning to take your swing to the golf course.

As opposed to looking at a swing frame by frame at key positions, viewing a swing at normal speed can be just as beneficial. This can give students a look at the sequence of the swing as one dynamic motion. Research also suggests learning a motion as one movement as opposed to part-training (stopping the swing at certain points) will enhancing learning.

When viewed at full speed, the simplicity of Elk’s swing is made clear. There is minimal motion as he gets more out of less. This swing pattern can correlate to a conversation he once had with five-time British Open winner Peter Thomson.

When asking Thomson keys to his golf swing and it’s longevity, Thomson explained to Elk, “You have to have great hands and arms.” Thomson further elaborated on the arms and body relationship. “The older you get, you can’t move your body as well, but you can learn to swing your arms well.”

So what’s the best way to get the feel of this motion? Try practicing hitting drivers off your knees. This drill forces your upper body to coil in the proper direction and maintain your spine angle. If you have excess movement, tilt, or sway while doing this drill you will likely miss the ball. For more detail on this drill, read my Driver off the knees article.

Another key move you can take from Elk is in the set-up position. Note the structure of the trail arm. The arm is bent and tucked below his lead arm as well as his trail shoulder below the lead shoulder – he has angle in his trail wrist, a fixed impact position.

This position makes impact easier to find. From this position, Elk can use his right arm as a pushing motion though the ball.

A golf swing can look pretty, but it is of no use if you can’t perform when it matters, on the golf course. When Elk is playing his best, he never loses feel or awareness to the shaft or the clubface throughout the swing. This is critical to performing on the golf course. Using this awareness and a simple thought on the golf course will promote hitting shots on the course, rather than playing swing.

To enhance shaft and face awareness, next time you are on the range place an alignment stick 10 yards ahead of you down the target line. Practice shaping shots around the stick with different flights. Focus on the feel created by your hands through impact.

Twitter: @kkelley_golf

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Dennis Clark: Hitting from the turf



I have seen as much as 4-5 MPH increase in clubhead speed when my students hit form a tee compared to hitting off the turf. Why?  Fear of FAT shots.

First question: Are you better hitting off a tee than on the turf?

Next question: When you play in a scramble and you have the option of dropping in the fairway or slightly in the first cut, do you choose the rough-especially when hitting over water or sand?

The answer to all these the same: Because the vast majority of golfers do not have a bottom of the swing arc safely in front of the golf ball consistently.

Consider a PGA Tour event, Korn Ferry, Champions Tour, LPGA Tour, whatever…You might see missed fairways, missed greens, hooks, blocks, etc. but we rarely, if ever, see a FAT shot. They simply do not hit the ground before the golf ball. Of course, there are exceptions, into the grain on short pitches, for example, but they are just that-rare exceptions. On the other hand, go to any golf course and watch average golfers for a while. Fat shots are not uncommon. In fact, they, or the fear of them, dominate most golf games.

The number one mistake I have seen on the lesson tee for over 35 years is unquestionably a player’s inability to control the bottom of the golf swing. I have seen everything from hitting 4 inches behind the ball to never reaching the bottom at all It has been my experience that that hitting fat shots is the number one flaw in most golf swings.

Let’s start with this fact: elite level players consistently reach a swing bottom (low point) some 3-4 inches in front of the golf ball-time after time after time. This happens for a variety of reasons, but the one I’d like to look at today is the position of the golf club at impact with the golf ball.

The club is leaning forward, toward the target, the hands are ahead of the club head, never straight up over it, never behind it-always, always leaning forward is the only way to consistently bottom out in front of the golf ball.   

A player cannot hit a ball consistently from the turf until he/she learns this and how to accomplish it. For every golfer I teach who gets into this position, I might teach 50 who do not. In fact, if players did not learn how to “save” a shot by bailing out on the downswing (chicken wing, pull up, raise the handle, or come over the top, (yes over the top is a fat shot avoidance technique) they would hit the ground behind the golf ball almost every time!  Hitting better shots from the fairways, particularly from tight lies, can be learned, but I’m going to be honest: The change required will NOT be easy. And to make matters worse, you can never play significantly better until you overcome the fear of hitting it fat.. Until you learn a pattern where the bottom of the swing is consistently in front of the ball, the turf game will always be an iffy proposition for you.

This starts with a perception. When first confronted with hitting a golf ball, it seems only natural that an “up” swing is the way to get the ball in the air-help it, if you will. The act of a descending blow is not, in any way, natural to the new player. In fact, it is totally counterintuitive. So the first instincts are to throw the club head at the ball and swing up to get the ball in the air; in other words, it makes perfect sense. And once that “method” is ingrained, it is very difficult to change. But change if you must, if your goal is to be a better ball striker.

The position to strive for is one where the left wrist (for a right-hander) is flat, the right is slightly dorsiflexed, and the handle of the golf club is ahead of the grip end. Do your level best to pay attention to the look and feel of what you’re doing as opposed to the flight of the golf ball. FEEL that trail wrist bent slightly back, the lead wrist flat and the hands ahead. It will seem strange at first, but it’s the very small first step in learning to hit down on your tight lies. If some degree of that is not ultimately accomplished, you will likely always be executing “fit in” moves to make up for it. It is worth the time and effort to create this habit.

My suggestion is to get on a Trackman if possible to see where you’re low point actually is, or perhaps you may just want to start paying close attention to your divots-particularly the deepest part of them. I’m sure you will get into a pattern of bottoming out consistently in front of the ball when you begin to learn to get the hands ahead and the club head behind. And best of all, when this becomes your swing, you will lose the fear of hitting the turf first and be free to go down after the ball as aggressively as you like.

Ok, so how is this accomplished? While many players are looking for a magic bullet or a training aid which might help one miraculously get into a good impact position, I dare say there is not one. It is a trial and error proposition, a learn-from-the-mistakes kind of thing achieved only through repetition with a thorough understanding of what needs to be done. The hardest thing to do is IGNORE the outcome when learning a new motor skill, but you must do it. A couple of things you might try:

  • Start with 30-50 yard pitch shots, paying close attention to the hands leading at impact. Again ignore the outcome, look only at the divot.
  • Hit a TON of fairway bunker shots. Draw a line in the sand 3-4″ in front of the ball and try to hit it.
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What you can learn from the rearview camera angle



We often analyze the golf swing from the face-on view or down-the-line camera angle. However, we can also learn how the body moves in the swing from the rearview or backside view.

When seeing the swing from the rearview, we can easily see how the glutes work. The trail glute actually moves back and around in the backswing. This means the glute moves towards the target or towards the lead heel. Note the trail glute start point and endpoint at the top of the backswing.

To some, this may seem like it would cause a reverse weight shift. However, this glute movement can enable the upper body to get loaded behind the ball. This is where understanding the difference between pressure, and weight is critical (see: “Pressure and Weight”).

This also enhances the shape of the body in the backswing. From the rear angle, I prefer to have players with a tuck to their body in their trail side, a sign of no left-side bend.

This puts the body and trail arm into a “throwing position”, a dynamic backswing position. Note how the trailing arm has folded with the elbow pointing down. This is a sign the trailing arm moved in an efficient sequence to the top of the backswing.

Next time you throw your swing on video, take a look at the rearview camera angle. From this new angle, you may find a swing fault or matchup needed in your golf swing to produce your desired ball flight.

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