Play Your Best | Gimme One ThingJuly 1, 2019

Stop topping it and get your next shot airborne with this drill

Illustrations by James Yang

I'll concede that nothing panics a golfer like hitting two or three shanks in a row. But coming in at No. 2 on the pop charts is a case of the tops. Hitting multiple shots that fail to clear the limbo stick is pretty unnerving. Even worse, the reason it's happening is clear to the patient—except it's not. Most golfers mistakenly think they're topping it because their club is skimming the top half of the ball on the way down. They think they're getting out in front of it when they swing. Actually, the opposite is true. -- with Ron Kaspriske

The club's low point is behind the ball, sometimes well behind, and the clubhead is catching the top half of the ball as it ascends. If you look at golfers who top it, you'll probably see their upper bodies drifting away from the target, and they're favoring their back foot in the downswing. That's why it's not uncommon to see a top off the tee, although it happens off the turf more frequently. Just know that if you're topping it, you've got to change the spot where your club is bottoming out.

There are many ways to correct this problem. I'll give you one to work on while you wait to play your next shot, and another you can use as a swing thought. First, find a downslope where you can get into your golf posture and make a practice swing. When you swing down the slope, step down the hill with your back foot as you follow through with the club. You'll start to feel how the body needs to move toward the target in the downswing to move the swing bottom forward.

Now it's go-time. Even after you work on the drill, you still might be a little worried about topping another one. Don't be. Instead, here's a swing thought that will reinforce those step-through practice swings: Shift your spine forward. Assuming you can stay in your address posture as you swing down, moving your spine toward the target will improve your swing bottom. You might have heard the advice of keeping your chest over the ball. This does the same thing. Give it a try. And if it's sunny out, make sure you're wearing shades. You're going to have to get used to looking up to follow your shots.

GREG DUCHARME is a Golf Digest Best Young Teacher. He's an instructor at the Michael Breed Golf Academy at Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point in New York City.