My Golf Instructor

Topping the Ball
How to Stop Topping the Ball and Hitting it Thin

Learn how to stop topping the ball and hitting thin shotsKnow what Causes Topped & Thin Shots

It can be super frustrating when you've got a great lie, make a powerful swing and hit only the top of the ball. In fact it can hurt. Making a full force swing and hitting nothing or almost nothing can be jarring to your body. Also, when you thin the ball you can catch a stinger that reverberates up through your hands. Ouch!!! It not only hurts your hands, but does a doozy on your score as you lose a lot of distance.

The first step in fixing a topping problem is understanding what causes a top. It's quite simple if you can break it down into 4 errors.

  • 1) Your arms are bent at impact. (Hopefully they started straight at address).
  • 2) You are standing up at impact. (Not maintaining the spine angle that you established at address).
  • 3) You are not shifting your weight properly onto your front foot.
  • 4) You have a mental block when it comes to hitting the ground. (Which in turn leads to problems 1 and 2).

Your Arms are Bent at Impact

Lets talk about problem number 1 first. If you have a proper set up, both of your arms will be hanging straight and your club head will be on the ground resting behind the ball. When you return with bent arms however, your club head will now be above the ground causing a thin shot or a whiff. I won't go into all the causes of bending arms here (check out my section on bent left or leading arm), but you get the idea.

You are Standing Up at Impact

Problem number 2...changing your spine angle. Basically you set up with a certain amount of spine tilt. Let's say it's in the neighborhood of 30-40 degrees. This establishes a specific distance between you and the ball. As your spine straightens up and you get taller, the distance between you and the ball increases and you are unable to hit down on the ball solidly. For more information on this particular swing error see my section on maintaining posture.

Improper Weight Shift

Improper weight shift is a cause of swinging up to soon. Basically if you are hanging back or falling back during the swing, you will be swinging upwards by time you get to the ball. If your chest and shoulders are leaning back, your arms will be swinging up. In order to hit down on the ball you need to be over your front foot.

A Mental Block

Last, but not least is the mental block. This seems to be a much bigger problem with women than men. If I only had a dollar for every female student that told me she didn't want to hit the ground because she was afraid of messing up the grass! If you don't hit down and take a divot, you are actually not hitting an iron correctly even if the result looks good. To get maximum distance you must compress the ball and pinch it between your club face and the ground. This should result in a shallow divot about the size and shape of a dollar bill. The ball will flatten against your club face and rebound or push itself back off at high velocity. Think of the difference in pressure you will apply to the ball if you get a lot of the club face flat on the back of the ball as opposed to just contacting the ball with the thin leading edge. Getting the grooves of the club face on the back of the ball allows you to maximize spin and control as well. If you are just brushing the ball with the leading edge, you won't get much spin and virtually no control.

Like I said, knowing the causes is the main step. Once you figure out which of the 3 is your Achilles heel, you can target which of these fixes to work on and start maximizing distance and control.

Maria Palozola

Maria Palozola is a member of the LPGA and has participated in multiple LPGA Tour events. She has provided instruction to thousands of students in the past 20+ years and has won multiple teaching awards from the LPGA, Golf Digest, and Golf Magazine including being ranked as one of the top 50 female instructors in the world.

Who is Maria Palozola?
- Top 50 LPGA Instructors in the World
- A Golf Digest Top 10 Teacher in Illinois
- A Golf Magazine Top Teacher in the Midwest
- More about Maria
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