Everyone who’s played the game has experienced it… You’re out for a nice Sunday round with some friends, step up to a first tee with a few patrons in the clubhouse looking on, square up to the ball, nice backswing, nice downswing, then plop – your ball bobbles a few yards and rolls off the edge of the tee box, much to the amusement of your playing partners.
Topping the ball in golf can be one of the most frustrating feelings because it feels like you’re not even playing golf.
Fortunately, the cure for the ‘chronic tops’ is easy and most golfers get over it very quickly and never think about it again.
To understand how to fix a top, you first need to understand the cause of the top.
How To Stop Topping The Golf Ball
Causes and Fixes
While it is true that topping results from hitting the top half of the ball and forcing it downwards into the ground, the actual cause can differ among golfers with the fixes for each cause being vastly different.
For those who are entirely new to the game (as in never hit a golf club more than a handful of times), a common cause of the top is the belief that your clubface needs to be swinging upwards when you hit the ball to make the ball fly upwards in the air.
You might have seen this in action at your local range as it usually results in a 1-to-1 ratio of tops and dropkicks to the frustration of the newbie.
Hitting the ball with the club moving away from the ground, or clipping the ball up off the grass is almost entirely impossible and is entirely incorrect.
Always, always, always hit down and into the ball and let physics do the rest.
The ball will compress and will fly up nice and high in the air and your striking will be so much more consistent. An easy fix is to picture hitting the ground one inch in front of your ball – try it out and you will see immediate results.
For beginners who know that you must hit the ball before the ground but are still topping it, the causes are different.
By far the most common is the ‘almost-fresh air’ – you haven’t missed the ball entirely, but you were pretty close. This movement is caused by lifting your body, or standing up, at impact resulting in your clubface being an inch above the ground and a topped ball.
For some people this happens when they try to hit the ball too hard and for others it is caused by straightening the knees just before impact.
Mentally, try not to worry about where the ball will end up as this can cause people to raise their torso right at impact and ruin the levelness of their body to the ground.
Feel like you are staying down through the shot right through impact and that your knees retain their slight flex. Avoid scooping or cupping the ball – remember that your clubface will do all the work and get the ball into the air for you – all you need to worry about is making good contact.
A more common cause in both beginner and intermediate golfers is swaying on the backswing. What this does is it moves the arc of your swing backwards on the backswing, and without the subsequent move forwards on the downswing, it causes the low point of your arc to be behind the ball. This means that by the time your clubface reaches the ball it is moving upwards and makes contact with the upper half of the ball.
To fix this, focus on rotating your body away from the target on the backswing and not on moving it away from the target. The power is generated by the rotation and coiling around your legs. Don’t think of smashing the ball as this can often cause sway and inconsistent strikes.
This cause is simple enough to understand but is always overlooked, or rather ‘forgotten’. If you tend to strike the ball inconsistently or are topping a lot of irons and wedges, your ball position may be incorrect.
A top that results from incorrect ball position is simply fixed by moving the ball further back in the stance. The hard thing is remembering the fix and making sure you don’t let it slip your mind. A good way to achieve this is by incorporating it into your pre-shot routine or your mental routine before every shot. Think about what club you need, what type of shot you want to hit, where you are going to aim and where your ball should be placed.
If you’re struggling on the day, make a mental note and move the ball a fraction backwards to build a solid strike.
Frequently Asked Questions
I’ve just topped the ball – what should I be thinking of to stop it from happening again?
More likely than not, your topped shot is caused by a lapse in concentration causing one of the errors above or an overly aggressive swing. If you’ve just topped it, take a step back, breath and calm your mind. Then address the ball with it slightly further back in your stance and take a nice easy swing. I guarantee you won’t top it again!
Is there any technology to help me see what I’m doing?
Yes. Swing analysers today provide a great 3D view of your swing and where you are going wrong. Check out our guide to the best swing analysers.
If you have any more questions, please feel free to leave them below!