Getting out onto the golf course is exhilarating. The smell of the green, the sound of clubs whizzing through the air, the clear blue sky above. There is not much that can ruin such a perfect day.
Except, of course, if you keep topping the golf ball and you don’t know how to stop. It can be frustrating and maybe a little embarrassing to keep topping the ball when everyone else makes it look so easy to tee off with a big swing and a powerful thwack of that little white ball.
Lucky for you, topping the golf ball is not an inescapable fate. There are simple steps and techniques you can take to stop topping the ball on the golf course or driving range. All it takes is a little practice.
What Causes me to Top a Golf Ball?
Topping a golf ball keeps the ball low to the ground and can either send the ball too far with a topspin or not far enough. Proper posture, positioning, and swing technique work together to deliver perfect hits again and again, just like the pros. It’s easier than you might think, and it’s all about making consistent contact with your golf ball.
First, it’s important to understand why you keep topping. That way, you can identify the problem and focus on adjusting your swing to remedy it. Common causes of topping include using a club that’s too short for your height, poor posture throughout your swing, a fear of hitting the ground with the club, leaning your weight in the wrong direction, an incorrect swing arc, reverse pivot, a poor follow-through, and an awkward stance.
If you have any or all of these, it could be the root of your problem with topping your shots.
Using a Club That’s Too Short
This is a pretty self-explanatory issue, as a club that’s too short for your height won’t reach the golf ball the way it should. This causes similar problems as standing too far away from the ball; if your club can’t reach where it needs to, it will skid off the top of the ball instead, resulting in a bad shot.
Related read: How long should my golf clubs be?
If your posture changes from the time your swing starts to when it ends, it can significantly impact your shot. It’s crucial to maintain proper posture throughout the swing. Correct posture includes flexed (but not bent) knees, a straight back, loose arms, and a bend at the waist. If you’re not sure how your posture is changing when you swing, have a buddy record you so you can see exactly when and how your posture is thrown off.
Fear of Hitting the Ground
This is another one where it’s easy to see the connection to topping the ball. If you’re afraid you’ll hit the ground when you swing, you’ll naturally keep your swing higher than it should be to overcompensate. This will lead to topping your shots.
Reverse Pivot and Improper Weight Distribution
A proper shift in weight to your back foot on the downswing is essential. In a reverse pivot, the weight stays in the lead foot, which can shift where you hit on the golf ball, leading to a topping shot or even a miss altogether. Ensure your posture is correct and your feet are solidly planted, with the weight distributed evenly between your feet. This is especially true when setting up with fairway woods and irons.
If you are standing on uneven ground, especially if you’re hitting the ball uphill, you’re more likely to have improper weight distribution that causes your swing arc to be too high, resulting in a topped shot. Mindfully shifting your weight when standing awkwardly is the best way to combat this difficult position to avoid topping.
If your follow-through forms a “chicken wing” shape, with your lead arm bending at the elbow and twisting at the wrist after you hit the ball, it can impact your swing and cause you to top the ball. Working on your follow-through can make a world of difference in how your swing lands.
How to Stop Topping the Golf Ball
Whether you’re driving or putting, let’s talk about how to stop topping the golf ball in 5 easy steps.
1. Know How Far to Stand from the Ball
It seems intuitive that standing too far or too close to the golf ball will throw off your swing, and yet many amateur golfers find themselves standing the wrong distance from their balls.
The distance you need to stand from your golf ball depends on the club you’re using. A longer club requires you to stand further back, a shorter club requires you to stand closer. Understanding which clubs require which distance will make everything so much easier, and you’ll learn to stop topping the ball, too.
Check out this video for more on how to know the right distance you should stand from the golf ball:
2. Eyes on the Prize
While it can seem insignificant, losing your focus on the ball as you swing for even an instant can result in a topped or missed shot. It’s important to keep your eyes trained on the ball at all times, so you know exactly where it is and where your swing should land. Practice looking at the ball intentionally without losing focus on it for a millisecond. This can help guide your club to where it needs to be so you can stop topping the ball.
3. Mind Your Head
This step is both a physical and a mental tip. Holding your head steady is crucial to maintaining a proper swing. If you sway, lift, or dip your head, you will throw yourself off and end up with a topped shot. Once you have your head in a steady position and your eyes trained on the golf ball, be mindful about not moving your head more than is necessary until your swing is complete.
Inside your head, try to stay present and steady. Letting adrenaline, anxiety, or excitement fill your head can cause you to lose focus and botch your swing. Take a deep breath, center yourself, and keep your mind from wandering.
If you’re interested in learning more about staying in the present, check out this Mental Golf Mastery Progam that will help you ground yourself before you hit the golf course or driving range.
4. Swing Like a Pendulum
A pendulum swings from side to side on a fixed point, never altering its course. If your swing comes from the fixed point of your head, you will follow the same path with every swing. Once you have mastered keeping your head still, it will also help your swing arc follow the proper path each time.
5. Hit the Ball, Then the Ground
Newer golfers tend to think hitting the ball from below will launch it higher into the air. This assumption is wrong, though, and hitting the ball on the downswing before reaching the ground will launch it up into the air.
When your swing reaches its lowest point, it should move slightly forward and down before making contact with the ball. To do this, shift your weight forward to your front foot on the downswing. Hit the ground after you hit the ball to know you’ve made a powerful impact.
Topping the Ball with Irons and Fairway Woods
Each tip mentioned above works for all golf clubs, but some clubs require a little extra technique to avoid topping the golf ball. When using a driver, the large club head makes it a little easier to hit the ball correctly. Irons and fairway woods are a little trickier.
With a smaller club head comes the need for a more deliberate sweep at the bottom of your swing. If you can adjust your swing to be less steep, you’ll have a longer window in which to hit the ball.
Fairway woods need a special shout-out. Because they require a shallower approach angle, it’s harder to hit a golf ball with the exact same swing as you would use with any other club. Proper ball position, lie, and speed are crucial elements to a perfect fairway wood swing. You can find more about using this particular club correctly here.
It’s time to stop embarrassing yourself at the driving range or golf course by topping golf balls. This frustrating problem is easily fixed with patience and practice, focusing on posture, position, and swing technique. If you can identify the problem that’s causing you to top your shots, you can focus on correcting it until you’re making consistent contact with every swing.