One of the most frustrating misses in golf (we are well aware that chunk, shank, and slice are all up there near the top of the list) is the topped golf shot.
Topping the ball eliminates nearly all potential for the ball to end up where you wanted it.
If you are wondering how to stop topping the ball so that you can stand over it confidently and hit your target, we will show you how. I can guarantee you that the thought you have of “keeping your head down” so you don’t top it is NOT what is causing your topped golf shot.
How to Stop Topping the Golf Ball – Key Takeaways
Topping the golf ball is caused by several things, including too much movement in the body, incorrect wrist position, and improper setup. If you don’t have time to read our guide right now, here are the main reasons you are topping the ball and how to fix it.
- Check your ball position; if it is too far forward on the irons and wedges, you may be making contact with the ball when the club is ascending instead of descending.
- Make sure your head stays a bit more centered, and there is not much vertical or horizontal movement in your head; think of the swing as more of a pivot, and don’t move off the ball so far.
- Don’t reach for the golf ball; keep weight balanced in the center of the feet and ensure the club has room to swing. If you are reaching and the weight is on your heels, you could top it.
- Really lean into that lead leg as you transition through the ball; this helps promote a more downward strike and a clean golf shot that travels up in the air.
- What Does Topping the Golf Ball Mean?
- What are the Reasons why I Keep Topping the Golf Ball
- How to Stop Topping the Golf Ball?
- Drills to Stop Topping the Golf Ball
What Does Topping the Golf Ball Mean?
Topping the golf ball means the low point of your swing occurs before reaching the ball. Your clubhead bounces off the turf, and the sole catches the top of your ball with the sole of the club.
A topped shot gets a few yards of distance, rolls in front of you and barely gets off the ground. When you hit a topped golf shot you won’t compress the golf ball and sometimes the clubface is not even square when contact is made.
The result is a wasted shot that then requires you to recover. Read more about hitting the ground before the ball to find a final solution to this annoyance.
Take control of your golf game by learning wrist mechanics with our wrist motion online resource.
What are the Reasons why I Keep Topping the Golf Ball
1. Ball Position Too Forward
A simple mistake that amateurs make is positioning the golf ball too far forward in the stance.
When the ball is placed excessively ahead, the club head reaches the low point of the swing before impact, bounces up, and catches the top of your golf ball.
2. Bad Posture
Your posture impacts your ability to keep your club on path and activate hip and shoulder rotation for a powerful shot.
When you hunch over and activate extreme knee flex, you restrict your ability to take the club inside on the backswing and out on the downswing.
This causes you to swing over the top. Combining an over-the-top swing with a lack of hip and shoulder rotation leads to a steep attack angle.
Players often catch the ground before the ball and strike the top part of the urethane.
3. Head Moving Away From the Ball
I often notice amateur golfers moving their heads on the backswing as they attempt to synchronize arms, wrists, hips, and shoulders.
However, moving your head backward restricts your rotation and shifts excess mass to your backside.
If you are unsure what moving your head away from the ball means, have a quick glance at this video from golf coach Chris Ryan.
Reaching this position at the top of your backswing causes imbalance and prompts you to lean back on your downswing.
The result is a clubhead that pops up off the turf before reaching the ball and consequently topping it.
Learn more about the causes of an inconsistent golf swing to avoid these bad habits in your game.
4. Insufficient Rotation
Optimal shoulder and hip rotation is crucial during your swing to get into a position for a clean strike.
Chris Ryan (in the video above) suggests we shift 75% of our weight to the front foot at impact.
Reaching this position helps compress your shots better and improve your ability to strike the ball first before the turf.
Initiating limited rotation during your swing tends to cause golfers to lean back on the downswing and thrust the clubhead up.
Your club hits the turf before impact and knicks the top of the golf ball, sending it nowhere.
5. Incorrect Wrist Position
The wrist position throughout your golf swing helps determine the clubface angle at impact. Golfers who can perfect their wrist position will have a much easier time striking the ball confidently and powerfully. (ie. not topping it!)
Wrist positions in the swing are not always easy to measure or figure out.
You can use the HackMotion swing analyzer to get a measurement of your wrist position at impact. Golfers who tend to collapse their left wrist at impact (right-handed players) tend to top the ball.
To hit a great shot that compresses a golf ball, we need a flexed lead wrist position at impact. Without this flexed lead wrist, the golf club will start to travel up too soon (the dreaded flip), and therefore, it could make contact with the top of the golf ball.
6. Unstructured Arms
Another core reason golfers are topping the golf ball with irons, drivers, and fairway woods stems from an ineffective arm structure.
Players tend to flex their arms on the downswing and separate their elbows, which reduces their radius, and ability to get down to the ball.
Instead, this arm setup prompts your clubhead to flick-up off the turf before reaching the impact zone. As a result, it causes the club head to top the golf ball.
7. Aiming Too Far Right
Alignment is a tricky business for beginners trying to grasp the aiming concept.
These amateurs aim far to the right of their intended target because it feels more comfortable than keeping your feet parallel to the mark.
Aiming this far right and keeping your clubface square to the target prohibits rotation and forces you to swing over the top.
This motion causes you to attack the ball from a steep angle with limited turn and weight shift, generating a topped shot.
Danny Maude explains that golfers also lean back on the downswing as they attempt to correct their club path and body position.
However, this only worsens the situation and causes the leading edge of your golf club to catch the top of the golf ball.
8. Standing Too Far Away From the Ball
Standing too far away from your golf ball sets you up for failure from address.
You position the golf ball out of reach to catch it cleanly and launch it high and long.
Instead, you try to reach for the ball with restricted rotation and produce a weak strike that only snags the top part of the golf ball.
9. Trying to Lift the Golf Ball
A habitual error I see from amateurs is them trying to lift the golf ball into the air.
This approach often causes golfers to lean back before impact.
This leads to the clubhead reaching the swings low point earlier than intended, prompting it to bounce up and collide with the top part of the golf ball.
How to Stop Topping the Golf Ball?
1. Optimal Ball Position
The optimal ball position for each shot is determined by your chosen club and the different types of golf shots you intend to play.
To stop topping the golf ball with the driver in hand, you must position the ball in line with the heel of your lead foot.
For right-handers, that means your left foot, and the opposite applies to lefties.
Positioning forward for these shots helps you strike the ball on your upswing since it is teed up.
The same method applies to tee shots with fairway wood clubs, but you need to place the ball slightly back from the lead heel, as the shaft is shorter than a driver.
However, to stop topping the golf ball with fairway woods off the deck, you should move it two balls forward from the middle of your stance.
Top 50 golf instructor Maria Palozola exhibits how to find the ideal position in the video below.
Long And Mid-Irons
Next, the position varies when training to stop topping the golf ball with irons.
Your longer shafted long irons are best equipped for a forward-center placement in the stance.
Conversely, mid-irons are best struck from the middle of your golf stance.
Short Irons and Wedges
Lastly, I find the best results when striking a short iron from a back-of-center position, which sets me up to compress the golf ball.
In addition, wedges should sit towards the back of your stance, but not too much.
You still need to leave sufficient room to catch the ball at the bottom of your swing and compress it for optimal launch, distance, spin, and a soft landing.
2. Keep Your Head Aligned with the Ball
When you are on the driving range, lay down a golf club, pointing from the ball, away from you.
Watch the previously mentioned club as you start your takeaway, and work to keep your head in line with that golf club.
If your head moves off that point, you set yourself up to lean back on the downswing and top your golf ball.
Keeping your head aligned with the impact zone makes it easier to induce optimal rotation and follow a controlled angle of attack to strike the ball cleanly and launch it high.
3. Optimize Rotation
Once your ball position is correct and your head stable, you can focus on rotation.
Coach Chris explains that you must transfer at least 75% of your weight onto the front foot at impact to help you rotate through the shot and square your clubface at contact.
Once you reach the top of your swing, you want to feel the force of your back leg driving the weight forward to your lead foot.
This weight shift enables you to maximize your hip and shoulder rotation to keep your club on path to impact for a clean strike and increased compression.
4. Keep Your Arms in Sequence
Your wrists, elbows, and arms must remain in sequence through the swing to keep your club on plane and promote increased release on the downswing.
The first prize is to have your arms straight at impact, with inward pressure applied to your elbows.
The solution for right-handers is to bow your wrists at impact to keep your hands ahead of the ball at contact.
This position helps the clubface strike the ball cleanly and generate exceptional compression for a high, long golf shot.
Golfers struggling to keep control of their wrists should consider testing the HackMotion wrist sensor. It guides you to better wrist positioning for a balanced path and clean contact during your swing.
5. Accurate Alignment
Before your practice swing, ensure your clubface is aligned with your target while your stance aims parallel to the mark.
This optimal body position optimizes your shoulder and hip turn to guide the clubface back down to the ball for an accurate shot.
6. Stand Closer To The Ball
If you struggle to reach the ball at impact, it’s time to stand marginally closer to the ball.
Ensure you are a comfortable distance from the ball, and then take a few practice swings to see where the clubface is when it reaches the impact zone.
When you are happy with your positioning, commence your pre-shot routine and prepare to strike the golf ball.
7. Use HackMotion to Stop Topping the Golf Ball
If your wrist position is causing issues with topping the ball, HackMotion will fix it.
The first step here is to establish a baseline. Record some swings and get an idea of your wrist position at setup, the top of your backswing, and at impact.
Most golfers who top the ball will notice that the wrist has a lot of extension at impact. You may notice the wrist actually goes from a flexed position to a bowed position just before impact.
The key here is going to be to maintain that lead wrist flexion throughout the downswing. If you are able to do that, you will hit down and through the ball and decrease the chance of topping your golf shot.
Make sure that from setup to the top of the swing, you do not add any extension in your lead wrist. Once you are at the top of your golf swing, you will want to decrease any extension you had from set up so that your left wrist gets into a flexed position.
This is exactly what the majority of professional golfers do to achieve consistent impact positions and NEVER top the ball.
Drills to Stop Topping the Golf Ball
1. Little Swing, Big Rotation
Shorten your swing to a quarter or half-length, and work on boosting rotation and striking the ball cleanly.
By reducing your swing and enhancing turn, you feel how all the components of your swing gel together to help you impact the ball effectively.
Set up 10 golf balls, grab your pitching wedge, and complete one set of half-swung shots.
Don’t worry about distance or accuracy at this point. Just get your clubface on the ball cleanly. Once you have succeeded with a pitching wedge, move on to your 7-iron, and repeat the process.
You can see the simplicity of this drill by viewing the exercise below from Chris Ryan.
2. Hit in Front of the Line
The hitting in front of the line drill is designed to help you strike the ground later in the downswing than earlier.
Following this methodology enables Pros to take juicy divots after hitting the ball.
Place a line of masking tape on your hitting mat, or draw a line with shaving foam on the turf.
Pretend your golf ball is placed on this line, and focus on hitting 1 to 3 inches ahead of the ball. This drill encourages you to optimize hip and shoulder turn to keep your club on path through impact.
Start with no ball and a quarter swing, and watch where the clubface strikes the mat.
Once confident with short swings, employ a golf ball, and see the results. Next, I suggest upping it to a half swing, followed by a full golf swing, to put your practice into action.
Golf coach Eric Cogorno showcases how this simple drill plays out on the driving range.
3. The Tee Drill
Like the previous drill, the tee exercise promotes golfers hitting the ground after impact.
Stick a tee into the turf approximately 1 to 2 inches ahead of the ball and focus on striking the tee after contact to clear the clubface.
If you hit behind the ball and top it, you will not catch the tee.
4. Contact Point
The final drill to help you stop topping the golf ball requires some foot powder spray, a ball, and your golf ball.
Spray the powder onto your clubface, and after every shot, identify where you struck it.
When you top the ball, you’ll notice no marks on the clubface because the leading edge likely caught the ball.
Read over our guide above and check that your ball position, posture, arms, and wrists are in-synch to identify the root cause of your issue.
Ultimately, you want to see the imprint of a golf ball in the middle of the clubface most of the time.
If this isn’t the case, return to our guide and ensure your ball position, posture, wrists, and arms are optimally positioned to prevent topping the golf ball.
Our guide on how to stop topping the golf ball reveals that your posture, ball setup, wrist and arm position, and optimal rotation are the root causes of the issue.
Therefore, the best way to hit cleaner shots is to optimize your ball position, keep your head aligned with the ball and boost the rotation.
In addition, it’s imperative to keep your arms, shoulders, and wrists synchronized to keep your club on path leading to impact.
If wrist position is hampering your ball-striking abilities, consider the assistance of the HackMotion Wrist Sensor to improve your positioning through the golf swing.
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