Stop Topping the Golf Ball Today (Or Tomorrow)

Throughout my years giving lessons to beginning golfers, I have found one common theme. Most golfers when first starting to play golf “top” the golf ball! I know it can be incredibly frustrating when all you want is to get the golf ball up in the air, and it keeps bouncing along on the ground. Why does this happen? 

More often than not, there are two reasons why you hit the top of the golf ball. 1. It’s because you are using your wrists to try and help the golf ball in the air. 2. You try and see where the ball is going and the head picks up causing you to hit the top of the ball.  To correct this, we have to hit down at the golf ball for it to go up! For more information on the full golf swing click here

What is a “Topped Shot”

A topped golf shot is when you hit the top of the golf ball with the bottom of the club face. The result is a shot that stays very low to the ground and rolls towards the hole. Topping the golf ball makes it hard to judge your distance control and complicates thinking when deciding which club to use in your bag. 

Hitting Down to Go Up (Excluding the Driver)

To utilize each golf club’s loft correctly, we need to hit down at the golf ball. To do this, we have to remember a few things:

  1. Press the hands slightly forward
  2. Keep the weight over the golf ball
  3. The ground is your friend

1. Press the Hands

What does pressing the hands mean? When addressing your shot, press the hands towards your target so that they are ahead of the golf ball. Now, this doesn’t mean that you turn your clubface in your hands. You simply push the hands forward.

forward press
My hands have pressed ahead of the golf ball so that I can come down at a steeper angle

Why do we do this? We have to have forward press when hitting shots with our irons, hybrids and fairway woods because the low point of our swing is past the golf ball! Pressing the hands forward is a reminder to the brain that you need to hit down at the ball, therefore, hitting the ball first, and then the ground.

2. Keep the weight over the golf ball

Now that the hands are pressed ahead of the golf ball, we need to make sure that we return to that same angle on the downswing. Beginning golfers tend to “flip” the wrists down at the golf ball to help the ball in the air. We can’t allow this!

To keep the weight over the golf ball, we have to use the rotation of our hips to stay centered over- top of the golf ball throughout the swing. Any swaying back and forth will cause the low point of your swing to change and result in a flip, aka topped shot!

top of the swing
The lead arm stays extended as you rotate the hips around the golf ball

3. The ground is your friend

I recently did a little survey with over 50 of my beginning students asking them if they thought to hit the ground was a good thing or a bad thing when making their swings. To my surprise, almost all of them said that they associate hitting the ground during the golf swing a bad thing!

Golf clubs are designed for you to hit the ground with the bottom of the club (called the bounce of the club).

Bounce GTFB

The compression that you create hitting the ground coming down at a steep angle is what is going to get the golf ball into the air!

Giant Tee Drill: A new technique that has been working well with my beginning students is the giant tee drill. Imagine that there is a giant golf tee underneath the golf ball going down into the earth. Your goal to get the golf ball up in the air and utilize the club’s loft is to hit that golf tee. This drill teaches you how to come down at the golf ball at a steeper angle of attack. Time and time again I see golfer’s use this drill and get clean contact off of the face of the club!

Driving Tips

The driver swing is a bit different than the rest of the clubs in your bag. Why? The driver has a large clubhead, and to make proper contact, you have to raise the golf ball in the air using a golf tee. Rasing the ball in the air means that you have to make contact with the ball on the upstroke instead of the downstroke. This means that your weight should be just behind the golf (only a few inches) to allow you to come “up” at the ball.

The trouble beginning golfers have with the diver is they come up too quickly. This is due mainly to the fact the driver is the lightest club in the bag, and a high amount of golfers swing too fast at the ball.

To avoid topping the driver:

  1. Play the ball off of your front foot
  2. Keep your backswing low to the ground of the takeaway
  3. Use the hips to rotate the body around the golf ball
  4. Keep the front arm extended
  5. Your weight should slightly behind the ball the whole swing
  6. Swing Easy!
  7. Imagine hitting the golf tee to activate the loft of your driver
Cure Your Slice Forever
Full backswing with the weight slightly behind the golf ball.

Where to Put the Ball in Your Feet

Each golf club has a different length than the next. (4 iron is a longer club than a 5 iron) Because of this, the low point of our swing is going to change so we need to understand where the golf ball needs to be in our feet to hit down at the golf ball correctly. To learn more about ball position click here!

Knowing the Different Club Lofts

It is crucial that you know the different club lofts in your bag once you start getting better contact with the ball. For a general reference, use the information below to see the lofts of a complete golf set. 

  • Driver: 8-13 degrees
  • 3 Wood: 14- 17 degrees
  • 5 Wood: 19-24 degrees
  • 3 Iron: 19-24 degrees
  • 4 Iron: 22-26 degrees
  • 5 Iron: 27-30 degrees
  • 6 Iron: 31- 36 degrees
  • 7 Iron: 37-40 degrees
  • 8 Iron: 40- 43 degrees
  • 9 Iron: 43-47 degrees
  • Pitching Wedge: 47-52 degrees
  • Sand Wedge: 53-58 degrees

The lower lofted clubs are going to travel further and have a lower ball flight. The higher lofted clubs are going to travel shorter and have a higher ball flight. We need to know this information when trying to find the right club for each measured distance. To learn more about finding your yardages on the golf course, click here!


So let’s bring this all together. If you are topping the golf ball, it is because you are coming “up” on the golf ball too quickly and hitting the top of the golf ball. Two factors cause this:

  1. Your weight shifted behind the golf ball
  2. You were trying to time the golf swing with your wrists instead of rotating the hips down at the golf ball.

Remember that we have to hit down at the golf ball to utilize the clubs loft! Hitting down at the ball is going to turn you into a more confident ball striker, so the next step is to learn how far you hit each club in your bag. Once you start to understand your distances, you’ll be able to control your shots more easily on the course and start to see your golf scores get lower!

Follow these quick tips, and you will start getting your shots higher in the air and having more fun on the golf course! For more information on what you need to get started on the golf course, check out my golfer’s survival guide here! 


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