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Understanding “over the top” and “casting”

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

6 Comments

6 Comments

  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

    Dennis,

    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

    • Jim Dennis

      Jan 25, 2013 at 11:35 pm

      Jim,
      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.

    Thoughts?

    • 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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Instruction

Clement: Load up the full power package in the backswing!

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This video is FUNDAMENTAL FOR POWER GAINS in the golf swing; the arm anatomy BEGS TO BE USED in this manner from casting a fishing pole, to serving a tennis ball to batting a baseball to driving a golf ball. YOU WILL LOVE how much SNAP you will get through the ball and the sound the ball will make coming off the club from the compression off the face. BLISS ON A STICK!

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Clement: This wrist position can add 30 yards to your drive

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Drop the mic on how the wrists should load and be positioned for compressive power, accuracy, and longevity! There is a better way, and this is it!

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Short Game University: How to hit wedges 301

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In golf, there is nothing harder than judging a flop shot over a bunker to a tight pin out of long grass. Why? Because there are so many variables to account for — in addition to what you can and cannot do with a wedge. In fact, up until very recently in the world of wedge design, we were limited to only increasing the landing angle to stop the ball, because relying on spin from this lie and this close to the green was next to impossible.

Now with the advent of things like raw faces, different CG locations, new groove design, and micro-ribs between the grooves, we can now spin the ball out of lies that we never could have done so before. This is not to say that you can now zip the ball back from these types of lies, but we are seeing spin rates that have skyrocketed, and this allows us to not open the face as much as we needed to do before in order to stop the ball.

Before we get into the shot around the green itself, let’s talk a bit about wedge design. For that, I called a great friend of mine, Greg Cesario, TaylorMade’s Staff Manager to help us understand a bit more about wedges. Greg was a former PGA Tour Player and had a big hand in designing the new Milled Grind 3 Wedges.

Cesario said: “Wedge technology centers on two key areas- the first is optimizing its overall launch/spin (just like drivers) on all shots and the second is optimum ground interaction through the geometry of the sole (bounce, sole width, and sole shape).”

“Two key things impact spin: Groove design and face texture. Spin is the secondary effect of friction. This friction essentially helps the ball stick to the face a little longer and reduces slippage. We define slippage as how much the ball slides up the face at impact. That happens more when it’s wet outside during those early morning tee times, out of thicker lies, or after a bit of weather hits. Our Raised Micro-Ribs increase friction and reduce slippage on short partial shots around the round – that’s particularly true in wet conditions.”

“We’ve been experimenting with ways to find optimal CG (center of gravity) placement and how new geometries can influence that. We know that CG locations can influence launch, trajectory and spin. Everyone is chasing the ability to produce lower launching and higher spinning wedge shots to help players increase precision distance control. In that space, moving CG just a few millimeters can have big results. Beyond that, we’re continuing to advance our spin and friction capabilities – aiming to reduce the decay of spin from dry to fluffy, or wet conditions.”

Basically, what Greg is saying is that without improvements in design, we would never be able to spin the ball like we would normally when it’s dry and the lie is perfect. So, with this new design in a wedge like the Milled Grind 3 (and others!), how can we make sure we have the optimal opportunity to hit these faster-stopping pitch shots?

  1. Make sure the face is clean and dry
  2. Open the blade slightly, but not too much
  3. Set the wrists quicker on the backswing to increase the AoA
  4. Keep the rear shoulder moving through impact to keep the arms going

Make sure the face is clean and dry

If your thought is to use spin to stop the ball quicker under any situation, then you must give the club a chance to do its job. When the grooves are full of dirt and grass and the remaining exposed face is wet, then you are basically eliminating any opportunity to create spin. In fact, if you decide to hit the shot under these conditions, you might as well hit a flop shot as this would be the only opportunity to create a successful outcome. Don’t put yourself behind the eight-ball automatically, keep your club in a clean and dry condition so you have the best chance to do what you are capable of doing.

Open the blade slightly, but not too much

Without going into too much extra detail, spinloft is the difference between your angle of attack and your dynamic loft. And this difference is one of the main areas where you can maximize your spin output.

Too little or too much spinloft and you will not be able to get the maximum spin out of the shot at hand. With wedges, people equate an open clubface to spinning the ball, and this can be a problem due to excessive spinloft. Whenever you have too much dynamic loft, the ball will slide up the face (reduced friction equals reduced spin) and the ball will float out higher than expected and roll out upon landing.

My thought around the green is to open the face slightly, but not all the way, in efforts to reduce the probability of having too much spinloft during impact. Don’t forget under this scenario we are relying on additional spin to stop the ball. If you are using increased landing angle to stop the ball, then you would obviously not worry about increasing spinloft! Make sure you have these clear in your mind before you decide how much to open the blade.

Opened slightly

Opened too much

One final note: Please make sure you understand what bounce option you need for the type of conditions you normally play. Your professional can help you but I would say that more bounce is better than less bounce for the average player. You can find the bounce listed on the wedge itself. It will range between 4-14, with the mid-range bounce being around 10 degrees.

Set the wrists quicker on the backswing to increase the angle of attack

As we know, when debris gets in between the clubface and the ball (such as dirt/grass), you will have two problems. One, you will not be able to control the ball as much. Secondly, you will not be able to spin the ball as much due to the loss of friction.

So, what is the key to counteract this problem? Increasing the angle of attack by setting the wrists quicker on the backswing. Making your downswing look more like a V rather than a U allows less junk to get between the club and the ball. We are not using the bounce on this type of shot, we are using the leading edge to slice through the rough en route to the ball. Coming in too shallow is a huge problem with this shot, because you will tend to hit it high on the face reducing control.

Use your increased AoA on all of your crappy lies, and you will have a much better chance to get up and down more often!

Keep the rear shoulder moving through impact to keep the arms going

The final piece of the puzzle through the ball is speed through the pivot. You cannot hit shots around the green out of tall grass without keeping the club moving and having speed. A reduction of speed is obvious as the club enters into the tall grass, but you don’t want to exacerbate this problem by cutting off your pivot and letting the arms do all the work.

Sure, there are times when you want to cut off the body rotation through the ball, but not on the shot I am discussing here. When we are using spin, you must have speed to generate the spin itself. So, what is the key to maintaining your speed? Keeping the rear shoulder rotating long into the forward swing. If you do this, you will find that your arms, hands, and club will be pulled through the impact zone. If your pivot stalls, then your speed will decrease and your shots will suffer.

Hopefully, by now you understand how to create better shots around the green using the new wedge technology to create more spin with lies that we had no chance to do so before. Remembering these simple tips — coupled with your clean and dry wedge — will give you the best opportunity to be Tiger-like around the greens!

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