Golf is a beautiful game. But, let’s face it, it’s not an easy game. That is if you want to play well. These days, there’s a lot of talk about power and distance, but what is more important is having the right swing. Otherwise, your shot will end up in the woods or in the water, not on the fairway or the green. As Duke Ellington famously put it, “It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing.”
A good swing is comprised of:
- The setup or address. The golfer steps up to the ball and gets into a balanced and comfortable position with feet spread shoulder-width apart and weight spread evenly across both legs.
- The backswing. The club is smoothly pulled back from the ball while the non-lead shoulder rises and the lead, or front, shoulder drops and hips rotate away from the target.
- The downswing. The shaft swings on a smooth downward plane while hips and spine are twisting and the bottom half of the body rotates to the target.
- The clubhead is squarely powered through the ball.
- Follow through. The momentum of the swing carries through impact on an invisible circle around the body of the golfer.
Why am I Coming Over the Top in My Swing?
Coming over the top, as it is called, is one of the most common faults seen in average or high-handicap golfers. It means that when someone swings a club well, they pull it back along a path, keep the club square at the top and then swing it in a somewhat v-shaped pattern on the downward path. Coming over the top causes an out-to-in swing path. Common causes of this problem include:
- The transition between the backswing and the downswing is rushed. This happens when shoulder and arm muscles are tensed to make an aggressive swing at the ball and that tensing throws the club off plane.
- Right elbow flaring. For a right-handed golfer, having the right elbow flare away from the body at the top of the swing will also pull the club off plane.
- Head position. Generally, the club will go where the golfer’s eyes go. So, if the head gets ahead of the golf ball, so the club will also.
- If there is inflexibility in the golfer’s hips, back, neck or torso, then the swing may get rushed, either to release tenseness or to minimize having the tension increase.
How Does This Affect My Game?
Reaching improved golf performance requires addressing the most common and frequently most difficult problem for amateur golfers, an over the top swing. Results of an over the top golf swing include a hook or a slice, a drop in power and in distance and possibly topping the ball.
There are two primary swing issues commonly resulting in an over the top swing.
First, a narrow backswing. The best backswing is one that has plenty of width, where the hands on the club reach back well away from the body and not close to the golfer’s head as the body swivels to the right for a right-handed golfer.
Second, too quick a swing tempo. A rushed swing may be due to nervousness, or an attempt to “hit it hard.” But, that rush results in not allowing the club to fall naturally to the inside so that the swing doesn’t develop properly.
How Can I Fix This?
Part of the solution for a good golf swing that is not over the top is found in the word “tempo.” A swing with good tempo looks smooth, not jerky, and appears almost effortless. It looks fluid and may even appear slower than it really is. Use these techniques to improve swing tempo.
- Achieve a smooth takeaway by pulling the clubhead back from the ball as though the club was on rollers, keeping the “rollers” on the ground for about 12 inches.
- The upper and lower body must work together, so keep the arms and hands in rhythm with the lower body. That requires a smooth, not jerky, shoulder turn on the backswing and then a smooth hip rotation on the downswing.
- Don’t make the downswing a hard “lurching” move. It should be a fluid swing including twisting the hips to the left as the clubhead contacts the ball.
- Keep the upswing and downswing at the same even tempo.
- Achieve a balanced finish. Envision where the hands will be at the finish of the swing and hold position there for a few seconds after swinging through the ball.
Here’s how to cure these specific swing problems:
- Simply pause and relax very briefly at the top of the swing to the count of one before beginning the downswing.
- Right elbow flaring. Keep the right elbow tucked in. Something to try in practice is to tuck a towel under the right armpit, keeping it there through the downswing, then dropping it at the follow-through.
- Head position. Pretend there is a wall preventing the head from getting ahead of the ball.
- It is very important to warm-up before playing. Before every round hit 50 or more balls, stretching frequently with rotational stretches.
Additional things you can do:
- On the downswing, make sure that the weight transfers to the left hip.
- On the upswing, the body weight is transferred to the right leg. On the downswing, weight is transferred to the left leg.
Other concepts that help visualize a good golf swing are these: first, patience. There is no need to rush a swing. Before you pull your clubhead back, simply say the word “patience.” Then lift the heel of the left foot off the ground, replanting in on the downswing. Second, think smooth. Don’t jerk the club back during the backswing and glide it smoothly on the downswing.
Succeeding at golf is a lot like succeeding at dancing. There are fundamentals, mechanics, rhythm and plenty of necessary practice time.
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