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How To Stop Topping the Ball in Golf

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How To Stop Topping the Ball in Golf

The great game of golf has several frustrating aspects. However, few things can be more frustrating than taking a full swing expecting a great result, only to catch the top half of the golf ball, sending it no more than a few feet forward. in this article, we’ll give advice on how to stop topping the ball in golf so you can get out on the course and start improving today. Let’s get stuck in.

Many Explanations

The biggest problem involving topped shots is that there isn’t a clear idea of why they happen or how to fix them. Anyone who has spent time on the range has heard all the basic diagnoses:

“Keep your head down; you’re lifting up.”

“Keep your arm straight; it’s lifting up too soon.”

“Hit down on the ball.”

“You’re trying to kill it.”

While these statements are well intentioned, do they actually address the causes of topped golf shots? Not really. In fact, you will only make it more likely to hit another bad shot by following any of the above analysis.

There Might Be Tension in the Air

For almost all instances, topped shots are a result of one main culprit: tension. Specifically, tension from the shoulder blades, neck, arms, and hands will cause more trouble that any swing flaw ever could.

Head Down

Let’s start with the most common diagnosis, which is keeping your head down. If you consciously try to keep your head staring straight down at the ball, it will create tension in your neck.

When you’re tense, you will feel a sensation of being stuck. When you get stuck, your instinct will be to pull up and give yourself room to swing. And when you do pull up, chances are, the club is coming up with you, bringing the leading edge into the top of the ball, if you make contact at all.

Arm Straight

You will notice similar issues with keeping your arm straight (your left arm, for you righties). When you make a conscious effort to maintain a straight left arm, you’re adding unnecessary tension, and rarely will that tension be released downward.

Most likely, you’ll either break the tension by bending your arm (known as a chicken-wing), which will pull the clubhead up with it, or you’ll pull your shoulder up, which will also pull the clubhead up. There’s an important pattern to take note of: often, when you try to fix something in golf, it often compounds the problem even more.

Hitting Down on the Ball

Hitting down on the ball is something many of us are taught at the beginning of playing the game. While it does help to a certain degree, it can be detrimental if it’s taken too far.

For example, say you’ve had an issue with hitting topped shots and you figure if you’re not taking any divots, you must not be coming down onto the ball steeply enough. You make a conscious effort to do everything you can to get the club go down and get after the ball. 

The problem is, when you get too focused on your angle of attack, it becomes less of a swing and more of a chopping action. If your timing isn’t sharp, it’s easy to have the leading edge come straight down into the top of the ball.

Hitting As Hard As You Can

Of the four listed diagnosis of topped shots, the last one has the most merit. Trying to hit everything as hard as you can creates more tension throughout the swing than anything else you can do. 

What is the Solution?

Now that the biggest culprits of topping the golf ball have been identified, how do we fix them?

The simplest answer is to relax, and do everything you can to remove unnecessary tension. If you feel tension in your neck or shoulders at address, step away, take a few deep breaths, and a couple slow, deliberate swings, letting your head move a little from side to side in the process. 

If you consistently feel tension in your shoulders and neck, performing some basic stretches a few minutes a day will help alleviate your physical hindrances. For a simple stretch you can do anywhere for the neck and shoulders, check out the video below from SimpleTherapy, a stretch aptly named the “Golfer Stretch”.

For a more elaborate stretch, watch Jen Hilman from PsycheTruth in the video below take you through an in-depth stretch of the neck and shoulders. When it comes to fundamentals, the value of being physically fit to make a fluid swing is extremely underrated. Make these stretches a habit.


What about drills? Do a YouTube search on “Topped shots golf”, and you’ll find thousands of results, most of them with different thoughts and philosophies on what causes a topped shot. And many of these certainly have some merit. 

Here’s the problem: for the average weekend golfer, do you really want to spend hours figuring out if your swing plane is too far to the inside, if you’re coming out of posture on the upswing or downswing, or if you keep falling back on your right foot? Golf is supposed to be fun, and the easiest way to make it less fun is by working on minutiae to get better.

Besides, most of what causes issues in posture or swing flaws stem from tightness in the body. If you do have the time to work hard on your game, focus on staying relaxed throughout your swing on every shot you hit.

The Final Word

Tension kills any chance of making a free-flowing swing, and topped shots are the most frustrating misses a golfer can have in their game. Make a concerted effort by stretching your neck, shoulders, or anywhere else in your body for 10-20 minutes a day, and you’ll see your percentage of topped shots drop dramatically!

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Ryan S

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