The most common swing characteristic of high handicap golfers is Over the Top.
Even golfers with mid to low handicaps can have an issue with this swing characteristic.
According to TPI just under 44% of all amateur players (n=90,000) don’t put the club in the slot during the downswing.
To compare, less that 1% of professional golfers (LPGA, European Tour, & PGA Tour) have this swing fault.
Professional golfers eliminate the swing fault quickly because it steals power and distance.
In this post, I will discuss the Over the Top swing fault and as a bonus, I have created a FREE guide listing exercises that will help you to eliminate Over the Top.
Download it below!
Over the Top, What Is It?
Over the Top, or it is sometimes referred to as looping the club, occurs during the downswing when the club returns to the ball outside (farther away from the body) the club plane created during the backswing.
This is easier to understand by taking a look at the photographs below that show the club path (plane) during the backswing and downswing.
Swing Issues Caused by Over the Top
The Over the Top swing fault reduces clubhead speed and thus distance is lost especially with the longer clubs.
When the club is delivered to the ball on the correct plane, your hips pull the arms through the ball generating club head speed.
With an Over theTop swing, the upper body takes over and doesn’t allow the legs to pull the upper body and arms into the ball.
This loss of power can significantly reduce your distance and ball carry.
Besides the loss of distance, an Over the Top swing will cause inconsistent ball striking and accuracy issues.
Over the Top Swing Results
An Over the Top swing leads to an outside-in swing path.
Automatically the hands try to compensate and square the face of the club up at impact.
If the hands do compensate, and get the clubface to square at impact, the club head path is still across the ball leading to a pull. If the hands don’t square up the club face, or the swing path is aggressively outside-in, slice spin is added to the golf ball.
Yes, the good ole’ banana ball.
How To Tell If You Swing Over the Top
The photos are of my swing from down the line view.
In the first photograph, you will notice there is a red line drawn up the club shaft at the address position.
There is free software available that will allow you to draw these lines on video. However, soon I will have a service where you can send me video of your swing and I will analyze it for you.
Not only for an Over the Top swing, but all of the 11 other swing characteristics.
I will send you back a marked up video of your swing with some discussion of the findings.
For more on this service, see the Swing Assessment Program Heading near the bottom of the page.
Click on the photos and they will open up in a lightbox at a larger size – especially on mobile devices.
Ok, back to the photos. In the second photo, you will see that I have advanced the video until the upper portion of my left arm is parallel to the ground.
I have drawn a second red line along the club shaft. The gap between these lines is called the slot.
The slot can be narrow (mine is extremely narrow) to quite wide. It depends on your set-up and swing style.
In an ideal swing, the club shaft should return to the ball within that slot.
But as is often the case (as you see in the 3rd photo) the club shaft path (blue line) is returned Over the Top of the slot outlined by the red lines.
The green line shows where the club shaft should be.
Since the golf shaft is above the red lines on the downswing this is an example of an Over the Top swing characteristic.
Physical Causes of an Over the Top Swing
There are several possible physical limitations that may cause an Over the Top swing.
These limitations can be uncovered by having a TPI screening performed on you.
For more information on why a TPI screen is important, I discuss it in Why You Should See a TPI Professional.
Although it is not ideal to do these tests by yourself, you may be able to get an idea which tests you can pass and those that you will fail.
Below are the physical screens that can be used to determine if you may have an Over the Top swing characteristic.
Having a positive screen for a limitation does not necessarily mean that you have a particular swing characteristic, only that you have a limitation.
People who fail any of the tests below have a good general correlation for having an Over the Top swing.
These are the limitations that those people should correct if they want to eliminate the characteristic.
Lower Quarter Rotation Test
The ability to separate movement between the lower and upper body is very important in allowing the hip start the downswing.
If the hip leads it should drop your upper body and allow the club to drop into the slot.
Any joint or muscle imbalance that will not allow the hips to rotate properly will cause the upper body to take over and start the downswing.
This is opposite to what should occur.
Hip rotation is best evaluated using the lower quarter rotation test.
Pelvic – Torso – Seated Truck Rotation Tests
Being able to separate rotation of the upper & lower body is essential to maintaining swing posture.
Think about your golf posture. Picture yourself from the down-the-line view.
Imagine drawing a line from the middle of your head to the middle of your waist. Then another from the middle of your waist to the center of your knee.
The junction of these lines form an angle; it doesn’t matter what this angle is for this visualization, only that it exists, and you want to keep the angle the same when you swing.
If you can’t turn the upper body on that axis, the only way to gain rotation, is to force the torso upright while rotating the lower back and hips.
This pushes the hips closer to the ball.
The pelvic and torso seated rotation tests above will check for this limitation.
Pelvic Tilt & Bridge Extension Tests
Core stability is important to help maintain posture.
Loss of stability will cause a more upright posture or the body to sway during the backswing. The arms will have to come over the top because the upright stance or body leaning away from the ball takes up the space where the arms should swing.
The pelvic tilt and single leg bridge with leg extension tests can be used to evaluate the stability of the lower body.
Single Leg Balance Test
Having good balance, especially on the lead side is necessary for proper weight shift during the golf swing.
If weight is not transferred to the lead leg during the downswing, the upper body will take over causing an Over the Top swing.
The single leg balance test is used to evaluate balance.
Other Possible Causes Leading to an Over the Top Swing
There are some non-physical causes that may create an Over the Top swing.
- Weak grip;
- Reverse pivot or reverse spine angle swing characteristic;
- Over rotation on the backswing (club face point skyward at top of backswing);
- Poor address position, shoulders are level instead of lead shoulder higher than back shoulder;
- Incorrect swing sequence, not allowing the lower body pull the upper body, which pulls the arms, and having arms pull the club through the ball;
- Clubs might be too heavy, or the club shaft is too stiff.
I have created a FREE guide listing exercises that will help you eliminate Over the Top.
Download it below!
Swing Assessment Program
Are you slicing or hooking the golf ball? Do you think your swing is costing you distance? Are the common swing faults, like early extension, over the top, and loss of posture costing you frustration and strokes?
Did you know that your golf swing can provide clues to swing faults?
Using two videos of your golf swing recorded with your smartphone, I can identify which of the swing characteristics you may possess.
I have developed a Swing Assessment Program to assist in determining swing faults. Correct swing faults with simple corrective exercises.
Use the buttons below to learn more.
The "Learn More" button will take you to a page on this website that describes the program in detail.
The "Visit Course Website" button will take you to the area of my website where I host my golf conditioning programs.