The topped shot is one of the most embarrassing misses, and many players try to cure it with the wrong prescription—the old "keep your head down" tip. The No. 1 cause of the top is bending the elbows through impact, which shortens the radius of the swing. It's often a compensation for a steep swing that's coming down on top of the ball too much. Make sure your lead arm is fully extended to the ground through impact. Feel your trailing arm extend after the strike, and your lead elbow fold in response.
I've taught all kinds of professional athletes, both privately and for "The Haney Project" on Golf Channel. I think a lot of athletes like golf because it offers a serious challenge—and one that's different from their sport. Baseball players often struggle because you hit a baseball with the side of your hand leading, which produces a slice in golf. Big football linemen can't always turn so well, so quarterbacks and kickers have quicker success. Basketball players can have a hard time because they're so tall and far away from the ball. In general, hockey players transition very well. They're used to hitting something on the ground and to the side of them. But there are no shortcuts. They all have to practice, just like you.
Hank Haney, a Golf Digest Teaching Professional, is based at the Hank Haney Golf Ranch in Lewisville, Texas.