Jake was a competitive golfer for over a decade dating back to the days of being the Captain of his high school golf team. He has played more than 200 courses across 32 different states in the US. Now semi-retired, Jake continues to golf 3-4 days a week with a current 2 handicap, gives golf lessons to his friends and family, and provides a wealth of knowledge to Golf Circuit from his competitive playing days. Jake combines practical expertise with technical knowledge to create golfing strategies and training techniques for both beginners and scratch golfers.
Let’s face it; we’ve all been there. You feel sure that you’re in the middle of a good swing, and the next thing you know, you’ve topped the ball, and it’s dribbling away from you.
Doing this occasionally can be pretty embarrassing, but it can start to get really frustrating if it’s happening a lot.
Luckily, there are a few simple adjustments you can make to your swing that should help you to stop topping the golf ball and get you on your way to making good contact more often than not.
So, let’s take a look at the most likely reasons that you’re hitting topped shots and delve into the best ways to address this.
The Reasons You’re Topping The Golf Ball
It may seem simple, but one of the most common reasons that golfers hit fat or thin shots is that the angle of their spine and their posture doesn’t stay consistent throughout their golf swing.
To consistently make the right contact with the ball, you need to maintain correct posture during the whole of the swing.
The ideal posture is to have flexed knees, stay bent at the waist, keep your back straight and keep your arms hanging loose.
If you maintain the right posture for the whole swing, you will start making better contact with the ball.
Adopting the correct stance is crucial to avoiding topped shots, especially when you have an awkward lie and are hitting the ball uphill.
This is because you’re likely to lean downhill after you’ve hit the ball.
This will give your swing a heavy upward arc which is one of the best ways to make sure you hit a topped shot. To avoid this, you should keep your shoulders sloped instead of level.
As I’m sure you know, golf is already pretty difficult, and it can be even harder if you’re not using the right equipment.
If you’re using a golf club that is too short, it means that you’ll be reaching for the ball, which will negatively affect your stance and posture, which, you guessed it, will lead to you topping the ball.
See our driver shaft length guide to learn how to fix this.
The reverse pivot is one of the most common causes of topped shots. This is caused by a poor weight shift during the swing and leads to you pivoting off your front foot instead of your back foot.
This means that your weight stays at the back, causing you to hit up over the top of the ball. To avoid this, you should keep your knees flexed and your feet wide when at the address position.
Avoiding the ground
Another common reason that you might be hitting topped shots is that you’re overcompensating for catching too much ground with your golf swing.
This is especially common in amateur golfers who overcorrect their swing, which then results in them catching the top of the ball.
Easiest Ways To Stop Topping The Golf Ball
Pendulum swing arc
To improve your swing arc, you should try to emulate a pendulum’s motion. The top of the grip on your golf club should act as the fixed point while the rest of the club swings below it.
A good golf swing is when the arc bottoms out at the same point each time you do it leading to solid contact with the ball.
Keep your head steady
So many golfers find it difficult to keep a steady head as they swing, but it’s crucial to ensure you don’t top the ball.
During the backswing and downswing, there should be as little head movement as possible, as any movement will make it harder to return the club to where it needs to be.
If you’re a right-handed golfer, you may be tempted to move your head to the right, but this will throw off your swing and make it harder to square the club again.
Correct hand placement
As part of your pre-shot routine, you should always check that your hands are in the correct position. Your hands should be in a slight forward press rather than back at address.
Having your hands in this position will improve your overall golf game as it will help you to hit down on the golf ball rather than trying to lift it.
Hit down on the ball
A lot of golfers mistakenly believe that to get the golf ball into the air; you need to hit it underneath. However, it would help if you actually hit down on the ball by making contact with it first and then the ground.
Only hitting the ball will result in a topped shot, and hitting the ground before the ball means you’ll hit a fat golf shot.
To address this, make sure your weight moves forward onto your lead foot on your downswing. This will cause your swing to divot at impact, which will result in a downward blow to the ball and then the ground.
One of the best impact bags for golf can help refine this skill.
Easiest Ways To Stop Topping The Golf Ball With A Fairway Wood
One of the surest ways to top a golf ball with a fairway wood (like the 3 wood or 5 wood) is to try and hit it too hard. You’re more likely to grip the club too tightly when you do this, making you tense up and disrupting the entire swing.
Make sure you’re not trying to kill the ball and focus on developing a consistent and steady tempo instead.
Read our guide on how to increase your golf swing speed without sacrificing accuracy.
Correct ball position
To prevent topping when you hit fairway woods from the turf, one of the most important things to get right is your ball position.
The best position is to place the ball between 1 and 2 ball lengths behind the inside of your leading foot. This will make it easier for you to have the right attack angle so that you can hit down on the ball.
Even when using fairway woods, you still want to make a divot and hit the ball and then the ground.
Low club head
Another good method to avoid hitting topped shots is to have a low and slow takeaway. You should keep your club head nice and low and make sure that you don’t rush the takeaway.
If you keep your backswing low and slow, it’ll make it easier to return to the club, and you should start hitting a lot of good golf shots.
The right lie
Fairway woods aren’t meant to be used in tight lies or out of the rough, so in these situations, it’s a better idea to use a higher loft wood.
However, if you are going to use a fairway wood from the rough, there are a couple of adjustments you can make to make it less likely that you’ll top the ball.
Make sure that you have a harder grip than usual so that the clubface stays square, and also open the clubface a little at the address to help keep the hosel open.
Level head drill
For this drill, you won’t be hitting any balls as. If you do, you’ll quite possibly take out the person who is helping you with it.
Your assistant should stand opposite you and hold their driver upside down. Once you’re in your address position, they should hold the club grip slightly above your head.
Now, try a full swing and try not to let your head make contact with the grip on the backswing or downswing. If it does, keep trying until you can consistently complete swings without your head touching the grip.
You should also ask your helper for feedback on the position of your head during your swings.
Weighted club drill
This drill requires a weighted club, which should be a driver or, if not, a driver to which you have added weight yourself. The aim of this drill is to help you practice keeping your takeaway low and slow.
Using the weighted club, begin your takeaway and once the club is parallel with the ground, hold it there. Do this for as long as you can without getting overly tired, as it will help your takeaway become much smoother.
Try and work this routine into the beginning of each practice session, as the weighted club should stop you from jerking the club at the start of the backswing and should greatly improve your takeaway technique.
Front foot drill
For this drill, you’ll first need to simply prepare to take a swing. At the peak of your backswing, when your club has become parallel to the ground, pause the swing and hold the club still.
Now, see if you’re able to lift your front foot so that it’s off the ground. If your foot won’t budge, you haven’t transferred your weight to your back foot.
Keep trying until you can lift up your front foot, and then move on to the next stage of the drill.
Now, it’s time for your back foot. Go through your swing and then hold the club still in the follow-through position.
See if you can lift up your back foot. If not, then there hasn’t been a proper weight transfer to your front foot, and you’ll need to repeat this drill until you can lift up your back foot.
Once you feel like you’ve got the hang of this, start trying this drill while hitting balls, and make sure to try it with all of your clubs.
Find your limits
Although this isn’t really a drill, a good way to improve your swing and avoid topping the ball is to know where your limits are.
Try taking some swings where you start your downswing as soon as your left arm starts to bend on your backswing. This probably won’t be much earlier than you would usually start your downswing.
Over time, this can help to improve your range of motion, and you could even try isometrics to improve this even more.
As we’ve seen, there are many reasons that you might be topping the ball on a regular basis.
Whether it’s improper weight shift, having the wrong address position, or simply using a club that’s too short, this issue is fairly easy to correct as long as you have persistence and keep trying those drills.
Remember, the first thing to do is to identify the main reasons that you keep topping the ball, as there are usually one or two areas that you’ll need to improve the most.
Then, you can start practicing your drills, and topping the ball should soon become a thing of the past.