Having a problem coming over the top in your golf swing?
I’d say this is the most common problem that beginners and high handicappers struggle with. Hell, even some low handicappers that struggle with ball striking find themselves coming over the top at times.
For a short description, just to make sure everyone is on the same page, coming over the top simply means that one’s downswing is too steep or vertical.
This will lead to large divots being taken. You’ll also end up hitting mostly pulls (ball starts and stays to the left of the target) or slices (ball starts left and curves far right). If your club face is square, the result will be pulls. If the club face is open, you’ll hit slices all day.
The most common mistake that causes someone to come over the top is just an incorrect chain of movements. The arms, hands, and clubs move towards the ball too soon, when they should fall down more to start the down swing.
There are lots of different ways to stop coming over the top. But guess what, I have the BEST way!
Just kidding, there is not one best way. There are lots of ways that work for some golfers, but that make no sense to others. So diagnose your problem and then find a solution that works, makes sense to you, and sticks in your head.
If you can’t diagnose your problem, then just skip to Problem #3, as it is a catch all.
How am I supposed to know which way is the best and fastest way for you personally to fix your steep downswing? I don’t. So get ready to experiment and grind through this problem. If you have any questions at all, please leave me a comment below and I will get back to you ASAP.
Step 1: Diagnose the Problem Causing an Over the Top Swing
There are multiple reasons that you are coming in too steep and over the top of the swing plane on your downswing. The ideal solution depends on which problem we are trying to fix.
Let’s run through the three problems that golfers do to cause an over the top golf swing.
- You whip the club too far inside with your hands in the takeaway. When the club gets stuck behind you like this, it takes a lot of work to not come over the top due to momentum.
- You don’t give yourself enough room to come from the inside on the downswing. You might have a good takeaway, but you aren’t leaving yourself enough room to drop your hands to shallow out the downswing.
- Your alignment is way off. If you keep aiming too far right, your body know that you need to get the ball back on target so it makes a last ditch effort to hit the ball left by coming over the top. If you keep aiming too far left because you are used to slicing, it’s only going to make the over the top worse beacuse you know that you’ll have to slice it even more.
- You have a great backswing, but your first move in the downswing is to come over the top. Your backswing could be spot on, but once you start your downswing, your hands and the club come too steep and you swing out-to-in instead of in-to-out.
Although it is not 100% imperative that you figure out exactly which mistake you are doing, it definitely helps. A universal solution to coming over the top would be to learn to drop the club and your hands at the top of the backswing. However, if you can determine which problem you are doing, that solution will be easier to do by fixing the backswing if needed.
Problem 1: Whipping the Club Inside with Takeaway
If you do either of the following in your takeaway, then you are probably committing problem #1:
- whipping the club open too much (toe pointing straight up or even more open)
- whipping the club inside too much with incorrect wrist hinge (wrists should hinge more upward toward the sky, not side to side).
Solutions: There are multiple different feelings and swing thoughts that will solve this problem. Find the one that works best for you.
a) At the start of your golf swing and throughout the takeaway, think about keeping the hands closer to the body while the club head stays outside the hands. You can think of railroad tracks, where your hands are the inside track and the club is the outside track. Keep this feeling longer in your takeaway.
b) If you tend to twist the club face open too much, to where the toe is pointed up or even towards you at the end of the takeaway, think about keeping the golf club face looking at the ball longer. Another thought would be to keep the logo of your golf glove pointing at the ball longer, as opposed to pointing upward. This will keep the wrists and forearms from rotating too much too quickly.
c) If you struggle with your wrists hinging incorrectly, work on hinging the golf club more upwards as opposed to sideways/laterally. It will feel weird at first. However, once you blend the wrists hinging up with the shoulder turn, it will look and feel more natural.
Odds are, a mixture of a couple of these thoughts will be ideal. However, if diagnosed and practiced correctly, then one fix will get the job done and improve your takeaway.
As always, find what fix makes the most sense in your head. If it doesn’t make sense or stick in your head for you to remember, it likely won’t make a change in your golf swing.
Problem 2: Your Backswing is Too Flat – No Room to Drop the Club
When to it comes to some golfer’s swings, they need to make sure their backswing isn’t too flat. If their arms swing too flat, they have no where to drop the hands and club “into the slot”. Therefore, their downswing goes the only place that is has room, away from the body and over the top compared to a good downswing.
This is completely dependent on the golfer’s natural golf swing. For example, a guy like Matt Kuchar has always had an incredible flat backswing, but he can drop the club and shallow the downswing plane consistently.
Fix: Make your arm swing in the backswing more upright. That way, when you are at the top of the backswing, you will have some room to drop the club and shallow the plane of the downswing.
Use of the momentum of the golf club to your advantage. Leaving room for the club to drop slightly at the top (by having a steeper backswing) will be a huge help at making sure the downswing is not coming over the top and too steep.
Problem 3: Your Alignment is Way Off
Let’s think through this.
If you aim too far right, your body knows it and you will (without even thinking about it) try to save the shot and pull the ball left to get back on target. This will led to an over the top swing after a while.
If you aim too far left, it’s probably because you slice the ball and are used to having to adjust for it. However, now your body knows that you’ll have to leave the club face open (or else your shot will go way left), so your body wants to start the ball left. The result? Yep, over the top again. The more left you aim, the more over the top your swing will become.
Fix: So if your alignment is way off, go to a local home improvement store and buy a couple “driveway markers”. You’ll use one for alignment on the driving range and can keep the other to work on drills later on.
The more balls you hit with the alignment stick correctly pointing at a target, the more comfortable you will get with correct alignment.
By aiming square, it will encourage you to learn to come from the inside, rotate through the ball, and hit little baby draws.
I’d even advise you to aim a little to the right, as long as you cain ingrain the fact that you need to come from the inside to make the ball start right and curve left to the target, instead of coming over the top.
Problem 4: Your First Move of the Downswing is Incorrect
Technically, this is the main problem of any swing that comes over the top. You could be committing problems #1 and #2, but if you make your first move of the downswing by dropping your hands, arms, and the club downward, you will be fine.
Just look at some of the swings on the PGA Tour. Some guys dramatically have a takeaway that aggressively pulls the club to the inside and lays the club off or gets across the line, but they always adjust by dropping the club downward at the start of the downswing. Just see Daniel Berger’s swing for evidence.
Fix: Learn the most important move in the golf swing if you are coming over the top.
As soon as you reach the top of your backswing, pause. Exaggerate dropping the the club head directly down a foot or so. It will carry your hands and your arms straight downward as well.
Another way to think about it would be to drop your trail elbow. So if you are a right handed golfer, drop your right elbow directly downward to start the downswing.
This is contrasted with what people that swing over the top do. At the top of the swing, they throw everything (the club, the hands, the arms, the trail elbow) towards the ball.
It makes sense. The goal is to hit the ball. So why not throw everything at it? Because the golf swing is a plane, and you have to come from the inside slightly to hit the ball straight.
So, in summary, at the top of the swing, drop everything about a foot and rotate your body and arms through the ball.
Step 2: Practice Exaggerating a Shallower Downswing
Alright, so now you know exactly what you did wrong and exactly what you should feel or think about to fix it.
Now it’s up to you to practice it. Practice at home with a club. Practice on a driving range. Practice on the course a little (preferably when you are playing alone).
Even imagine yourself swinging in a way that the downswing will be shallower than the backswing. You’ll know you’ve got it right when you start hitting some draws and even some hooks. That’s ok though! That’s what you need to learn to do to finally get rid of the over the top golf swing.
Hell, it’s not a bad idea to literally go to the range and try to hit the biggest draws that you can to really get the feeling for hitting from in-to-out.
When you are working on the range, though, don’t just practice what you think will make your golf swing correct.
You will have to purposely exaggerate the fix to make it stick. Otherwise, you won’t make much progress and you probably still won’t be doing it right.
The golf swing is a mysterious thing. You might think you are doing it right after a few practice shots, but I can almost guarantee that you are not exaggerating the correction enough.
So start exaggerating dropping the club, your hands, and your arms at the top of the swing. Then put it to video or get a PGA pro to check it out. My bet is that you could use a little more exaggeration of dropping the club at the top. Or, you could use more exaggeration when it comes to keeping your takeaway from going too far inside.
Warning: You are not done with this step until you are consistently making divots that point to the right and/or if you are consistently hitting big draws and hooks.
Step 3: Stop Exaggerating and Enjoy Your New & Improved Swing
So you are finally hitting some baby draws, some straight shots, and just a few hooks, huh?
Great, now it’s time to wind down the exaggerations and you should be in a good spot for having a natural in-to-out path and a great swing plane.
Anytime you catch yourself making huge divots or divots that point too far to the left, you now know how to (somewhat) quickly and easily fix it.
Remember: at the top of the backswing feel like you drop everything straight down to start the downswing, before finally rotating through the shot.
If you catch yourself still hitting hooks, you’ve overdone it a little. Try feeling like you are swinging more to the left and leave the face open a little longer through impact.
Can you believe that you just went from going over the top to the complete opposite side of the spectrum? Now you know both sides of golf, too steep and too shallow. More importantly, you know how to fix each problem.
The Best Drill for an Over the Top Swing
The best drill for someone that swings over the top is a very simple one. Simply use golf balls or water bottles or anything that you can think of (besides a $30 training aid that you don’t 100% need) to guide you to the correct swing path.
Set it up like the picture above, hit lots of balls, and enjoy your new golf path!
Other Swing Thoughts to Fix an Over the Top Golf Swing
Here are numerous more ways that might turn on a lightbulb in your brain:
- Keep your shoulders pointing behind you longer in the downswing. Don’t “open everything up” and square up to the ball until later in the downswing.
- Get to the top of the swing. Pause. Drop the club directly down by a foot. Raise it a foot. Drop it a foot again. Repeat multiple times. Then hit the ball. This will get you used to dropping everything into the downswing slot.
- Keep the club what feels like very far behind you in the downswing.
- Swing from the left to right field. With irons and wedges, try to make small divots that point to the right of target
- Try to hit the inside quadrant of the golf ball, as opposed to the center of the golf ball.
- Try to make a steep backswing and aggressively drop the club. The downswing will be much shallower (lower) than the backswing. Think of Kenny Perry’s swing.
- Start and keep your shoulders more closed to the ball throughout the swing.