Instruction: How to stop coming over the top

    Avoid one of the biggest power leaks in driving

  • Our instructors this week help you avoid one of the biggest power leaks in driving, coming “over the top," which leads to a slice and a drop in distance. (Photos courtesy of PGA TOUR Experiences)Our instructors this week help you avoid one of the biggest power leaks in driving, coming “over the top," which leads to a slice and a drop in distance. (Photos courtesy of PGA TOUR Experiences)

“I must be coming ‘over the top.’ " It’s a phrase you've probably uttered to yourself a hundred times on the tee box, right along there with “I’m lifting my head” or “I’m hanging back.” So just what does it mean? When a player comes over the top, their hands and arms are moving out away from their body, toward the target line, during the initial stages of the downswing (see photo, above). The clubhead naturally follows, swinging out and then down and across the target line -- toward the left hip pocket -- through impact. This produces a weak, glancing blow and, in most instances, leads to a slice and a big drop in distance.

For the hands and club to be moving on-plane, you must initiate the downswing from the ground up, first moving the ankles, then the knees, hips, shoulders, arms and hands. In this proper kinematic sequence, your weight naturally shifts left and the hands drop to the inside, closer to your body (see photo, above). There’s plenty of depth (i.e., space) for the hands to move down and out toward the ball, creating additional leverage and lag to the clubhead so that it can reach its maximum speed through impact.  Also note how much my shoulders are closed to the target line in the photo above: This creates a greater disassociation between the hips and shoulders, allowing you to really sling the clubhead through impact for more power.

The following “ball toss drill” teaches you the correct fundamental movement skills for the downswing, and prevents you from starting down with your arms and shoulders and coming over the top.  Tee a ball as normal and then stick a shaft in the ground at a 45-degree angle to the ground, approximately 1-1/2 to 2 feet behind the ball and 6 inches outside of the target line (i.e., farther away from your body). Without a club, take a Nerf ball or small ball in your right hand and make an imaginary backswing (see photo, above).

Toss the ball at a spot on the ground approximately 2 yards forward and to the right of the target line (see photo, above). For this to occur, you must initiate the downswing with your lower body, transferring your weight forward while your hands and arms move down toward the ball and out toward the target line. If your first move from the top was to rotate your shoulders open, and come over the top, your hands would hit the shaft and the ball would bounce to the left. You can do this drill with just a ball at home to get a feel for how the hands and arms follow the lower body on the downswing, and approach the ball from the inside.

The “Pelvic Punch Drill” is one we frequently prescribe to our students at the TOURAcademy, and is a great way to train the correct kinematic sequence on the downswing—i.e., from the ground up. Swing the club shaft back until it’s roughly parallel to the ground, and pause for a second (see photo, above). This is your starting position. From here, try to hit the ball as far as you can, using your lower body as your primary power generator. Initiate the downswing with a subtle movement of your lower body (ankles, knees, hips) toward the target, maintaining your spine tilt to the right.

The advantage to this drill is that by starting with your hands very close to your body - not out away from you - you can use the ground to really drive off your right side, creating additional leverage between your left arm and club shaft, thus maximizing your clubhead speed through impact. Furthermore, the hands have an incentive to move down and out toward the ball, on the correct inside path. If you start down by pulling your hands out away from your body (i.e., over the top), they have nowhere to go but left, across your body, finishing near your left hip pocket. There’s no power in that. In the photo above, you can see how my hands and arms are fully extended out away from my chest halfway into the follow-through, and my hips have cleared to the left. Now that’s power!

Matt Henderson is a Senior Certified Instructor and Head Instructor at TOURAcademy TPC Las Vegas. To learn more about TOURAcademy TPC Las Vegas, click here.