How to Stop Coming Over the Top in the Golf Swing

By Mike Southern
Good players like Rory McIlroy use a one-piece takeaway to get their club on plane early.
Good players like Rory McIlroy use a one-piece takeaway to get their club on plane early.

Almost every golf magazine offers drills to eliminate that nasty "over the top" move that plagues weekend golfers. But as a general rule, players come over the top because they make a faulty takeaway to start their backswing. They lift their hands and then turn their shoulders. In a proper takeaway, you turn your shoulders to start the backswing, then bend your right elbow (for a right-handed golfer) to get to the top. This is called a one-piece takeaway.

Practice Drill

Lay a club on the ground to mark your target line.

Take your normal setup position, with your knees slightly flexed, your upper body bending over from the hip and your weight over the balls of your feet. Your arms should hang straight down from your shoulders, with your triceps resting lightly against your chest. Hold your club with your regular grip.

Straighten your upper body to an upright position without changing the position of your arms, cocking your wrists or straightening your knees. Keep your lower body and hips in their original address position. Your hands will be around waist high and the shaft roughly parallel to the ground, perhaps pointing up slightly.

Start your backswing by turning your shoulders. Again, don't move your arms, club or lower body; only your upper body turns. Don't lean your upper body. Instead, turn your shoulders parallel to the ground until the club shaft points away from the target, parallel to your target line.

Bend forward (toward your hands) at the waist. Return to the position your body would have been in if you had simply turned your upper body to this position on your backswing. Let your left elbow (if you're right-handed) move slightly away from your side. It should point straight down at the ground. You'll do this automatically as you coil your upper body on the backswing.

Spend a moment holding this position, becoming aware of how it feels, and then turn your shoulders so the club returns to your address position.

Try to swing the club from setup to the waist-high position you were just in. This is a correct one-piece takeaway. It starts your club back on the correct swing plane. With a little practice you'll get where you can do this while your arms remain relaxed. Perform this drill as many times as necessary to ingrain the feel.

Actual Swing

Lay a club on the ground to mark your target line.

Pick your target and take your normal address position. Initially you'll use this swing to hit pitch shots, which will help you integrate the takeaway into your swing.

Make your one-piece takeaway. Don't straighten, turn and bend – just swing the club from address to the waist-high position.

Bend your right elbow at a 90-degree angle to cock the club.

Hit the ball. You'll need a few swings to get the proper rhythm.

Lengthen the swing once you feel comfortable pitching the ball. The primary difference is the rhythm. Just remember that bending your elbow is what cocks your wrists, and you'll soon be able to feel the motion.

About the Author

North Carolina native Mike Southern has been writing since 1979. He is the author of the instructional golf book "Ruthless Putting" and edited a collection of swashbuckling novels. Southern was trained in electronics at Forsyth Technical Community College and is also an occasional woodworker.

Photo Credits

  • Andrew Redington/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images
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