To stop topping the ball, you get longer clubs, place the ball further back, or work on how your clubhead impacts your ball (so it’s not too high).
As a PGA Professional and instructor, I’ve noticed that newer players commonly top the ball, but better players are not immune to occasionally topping a shot.
In this article, I will cover a few tips to help you if you have contact issues and are topping the golf ball.
I will give three drills I use with my students to improve ball contact. These drills include videos demonstrating a couple of them.
I understand that hitting topped shots or fat shots is frustrating. However, if you keep reading, I promise you’ll find helpful tips to improve your ball contact. Here are the ways to stop topping a golf ball.
Place Your Ball Further Back
You might have contact issues if your ball is too far forward in your address position. These issues can include topped and fat shots.
A general rule of thumb for finding a good ball position goes as follows:
With the driver, you want the ball to align with your lead heel. Move the ball slightly back from there as you use clubs with more loft. The furthest back you would want the ball would be just back of center or past your belly button, with your wedges.
You should never have the ball too far forward in your stance.
Hit Down and Through
A good impact position in golf is where the clubhead catches the lower part of the ball first, followed by a divot. You cannot do this if you swing too much on an upward path leading into impact.
There is an exception to this rule, and that is when it comes to the driver. With the driver, you want to feel as though you are slightly swinging up on the ball. This is why we tee up the golf ball with this club, as it requires a much different approach as we move into the ball at impact.
Hands and Club Shaft Leading at Impact
If you ensure that your hands are roughly in line with your lead thigh at impact, you will be in great shape at impact. This will ensure the downward strike you need to hit a compressed golf shot.
Rotate Completely Through to Your Leadside
Golfers who have issues with topping the ball tend to stop the uncoiling of their body on the downswing. You must make sure that you keep rotating your body to your lead side on your way down to impact from the top.
Then keep that moving on through to the finish. Your checkpoint here will be to get your belt buckle, belly button, and chest all facing the target.
Load Up Properly
In the backswing, you need to rotate your lower and upper body so you feel your weight transferring into your trail foot. This idea is often referenced as getting loaded up properly.
Loading will allow you to be powerful on your downswing as you shift that built-up energy back into your lead side.
When golfers top the ball, they often shift their weight forward during the backswing. This leads to the opposite effect in the downswing, with the weight moving backward and is commonly known as the “Reverse Pivot.”
Get Off That Back Foot
As you start the downswing, you must transfer your weight to the lead side. Paying attention to your footwork indicates that you are doing this.
In the downswing, you want to feel like you are pushing off your trail foot and transferring energy into your lead foot.
Do you know that pretty golf-finishing pose that the pros on TV have? In those cases, that trail foot is up off the ground and on the toes.
More from GolfSpan: How to Drive a Golf Ball Further: A Step-By-Step Guide
Pay Attention to Your Arms
As the club travels down from the top of the swing, some golfers pull their arms in toward their bodies. This move will be a cause for topped shots.
Remember, as you swing down, you want your arms to release correctly and straighten.
Stay Centered and Steady
Golfers who often top the ball don’t stay centered with their core. A good golf swing rotates around a fixed point. That fixed point is your spine. Any unnecessary movement of your spine side-to-side or up-and-down can contribute to poor contact at impact. That includes topped and fat shots.
Try Teeing Your Driver Higher
As I mentioned in my first tip, you generally want to hit down and through as you approach the ball at impact. That one exception, however, is with the driver, where you want to swing slightly up on the ball to hit effectively off the tee.
If you have tried all the other tips I listed above but still need help topping the driver, try teeing the ball up more. In general terms, a good rule of thumb is to have the equator of the golf ball level with the top of your driver’s head. You can go higher, though, if necessary.
Check this out from GolfSpan.com: How to Stop Topping A Driver
Your Clubs Might Be Too Short
Too short clubs can lead to a case of the tops, so be aware.
I avoid looking at equipment as a potential cause of my students hitting bad shots. That can sometimes become a crutch that leads to eventually chasing the equipment down the rabbit hole, and you don’t want to go that route.
Another good read: The Benefits Of Standing Closer To The Golf Ball
Drills to Stop Topping the Golf Ball
The following are simple yet powerful drills for helping you make better contact with the ball and eliminate those topped shots for good. I recruited two of my students to help me demonstrate these.
1. Low Point Drill
In the following drill, with the assistance of my student Lincoln, I walk you through how to get set up and execute the “Low Point Drill.” This will help you work on getting into a better impact position, something that those who top the ball struggle with.
- Grab two alignment sticks and set them side by side, horizontally against the direction you will be hitting.
- As shown in the video, leave an opening between the two alignment sticks to place the golf balls you will be hitting.
- When hitting shots, your goals are to hit the ball first and make the divot past the alignment sticks. Also, make sure your hands and shaft are in front of the sticks at impact.
Turn Through Drill
In the next drill, we will focus on improving body rotation and shifting weight to the lead side. This is a common struggle for golfers who tend to top the ball. I have my student Kathryn helping demonstrate this.
- To prepare for the drill, place two alignment sticks next to each other. Make sure they are horizontal and facing opposite directions to where you will hit. This will only be for reference, as you will not be hitting shots.
- Set up startling the alignment sticks on the ground, as shown in the video.
- Grab a club and hold it across your waist, as Kathryn does in the video.
- Make turns through and toward the target. You will want your body facing the target or even a bit left of it. Get your hips, belly button, and chest past the alignment sticks and facing forward.
Arm Extention Drill
The last drill focuses on letting your arms fully release and straighten as they work down toward the ball during the downswing and after impact. Golfers who top the ball tend to pull their arms in toward the body rather than extend them. Once again, I have my student Kathryn helping demonstrate this.
- For this drill, get two alignment sticks and place them horizontally side by side.
- Set up startling the alignment sticks on the ground, as shown in the video.
- Take some practice swings and focus on extending your arms after hitting the ball. Keep the club pointing straight at the target as you rotate.
- You will start hitting balls after making several practice moves without a ball. In doing so, you will combine the previous two drills with this final one. To hit the ball well, make sure you have a good impact. After hitting the ball, take your divot. Rotate your body toward the target and extend your arms.
Why You Top the Golf Ball?
For golfers who are newer to the game or higher handicappers, having contact issues at impact, such as topping the ball, is common.
Not all of my students over the years who have battled topping the ball have struggled with it for the same reasons. Ultimately, it comes down to creating a good impact position. However, the reasons why they were having issues with a solid impact position varied greatly.
One student, Kathryn, who you will see in some later drill videos, battled hitting top shots a few years ago because her clubs got too short for her.
The most basic reason for topping the golf ball is having a clubhead traveling too much on an upward path as it approaches the ball. All good golfers who hit nice, clean, and crisp shots have a clubhead traveling toward the ball at impact.
How Can I Stop Topping The Ball With My Fairway Woods?
To avoid topping your fairway woods, make sure your hands and shaft are slightly ahead when you hit the ball. Work on good rotation through the ball and extending your arms post-impact. Fairway woods are a little more tricky as you will want to hit down less than with an iron.
PGA Professional Brendon Elliott is the founder of Little Linksters, LLC, and its nonprofit arm, the Little Linksters Association for Junior Golf Development. He is the winner of 25+ prestigious industry honors, including the 2017 PGA National Youth Player Development award. Brendon is a respected coach, businessman, writer, and golf industry expert.