It’s rare that a game goes by when one of our playing partners are not compelled to offer advice as to how to improve your swing.
It doesn’t seem to matter how well or poor a golfer is playing, on course lessons seems synonymous with a leisurely round with your buddies.
On course instruction as helpful as it can be at times, is simply the wrong place to attempt changing your swing technique.
We spend time on the range working on our swing technique, tempo and making the necessary changes that will assist us in keeping the ball in play and lowering our scores.
Thinking about swing technique and making changes is, and should be, reserved for the driving range as we have the luxury of having an endless amount of balls to hit.
While on the course we need to eliminate the thought process and just swing the club.
If you have too many thoughts in your mind your body becomes confused and the end result will be poor. Paralysis through analysis will most certainly drive up your scores.
Avoid this at all costs.
One of the most common mistakes golfers make is topping the ball.
Topping the ball is where you hit the top or the middle of the ball sending it rolling on the grass with not much distance.
This is otherwise known as a worm burner. For some, a chronic problem but all of us have experienced this shot at one time or another.
The most common on course tip by playing partners for those of you who experience topping the ball is keep your head down.
Keeping your head down will ensure that you make contact with the ball and assist in hitting it up in the air and to your target. It makes sense that if you’re topping the ball then you’re lifting your head.
In the following paragraphs, I’ll explain one of the main reasons for topping the ball but attempt to explain why keeping your head down could be the worst phrase in golf.
This simple phrase, in fact can cause you to top the ball even more than you do now.
First, you need to understand the nature of topping the ball. Topping the ball is simply the fact that the club does not return back to the ground at the bottom of the swing or impact. There are many swing flaws that could cause this to happen.
In our set up position we need to begin with a slight bend in our knees and ensure that we are bent over at the waist.
It’s the angle in the upper body that we need to ensure remains constant throughout the swing. It’s this angle or the breakdown of this angle that quite often will cause us to top the ball.
When you get in the set up position and create the angle or bend over to address the ball, we need to make sure that we have good posture.
Good posture as it refers to the back simply means straight.
This is from the waist up to the top of the head. If you keep your head down you create a curve in the upper back (otherwise known as tension) and will cause poor posture.
Secondly, keeping the head down at your address position almost certainly ensures your chin is now resting on your chest or at worst close to the chest. This is the main problem with keeping your head down as it does not give you the space for your shoulder to rotate under your chin in your backswing.
As you rotate or take the club back into your backswing, the shoulder needs to have room to turn under your chin so that you can get the club back to the top of your backswing.
As a result of keeping your head down, the shoulder hits the chin early in the backswing forcing your body to rise and causing you to lift your head.
Keeping your head down will or could cause one of a few swing flaws.
One of these includes bending the left arm (for right handed golfers). If you’re attempting to keep your head down then you have no space for the shoulder to turn under your chin in the backswing.
Therefore you need to make a compensation and one of these compensations and subsequently causes topping the ball is bending your arm.
Your left arm (for right handed golfers) starts straight, must remain straight in the backswing and must be straight at impact to assist in consistent ball contact.
Keeping your head up in a comfortable position at address will assist in making this happen.
The main fault that’s created by keeping your head down at address is lifting in your backswing and also the number one cause of topping the ball.
The angle in your back that you start with at address must be maintained in the backswing and through impact to give you an opportunity to make solid contact.
In other words you’re lifting in the backswing. If you lift as you take your club back then you must drop back down by the time the club gets back to the ball otherwise you’ll top the ball. This is the main reason players top the ball and it is directly related to keeping the head down.
The end result is that you’re lifting your head but the reason why you’re lifting your head is because your head is down.
The head is connected to the shoulders which is connected to your torso. If you don’t create space at the address position for your shoulder to turn under then it is your torso that lifts. When the torso lifts or straightens out in the back swing then your head will invariably raise. This is what the on course instructors are seeing and the reason why they’ll you to keep your head down.
The on course instructor’s intentions are good and can certainly see what’s happening to cause a topped shot but the solution they give will cause you to top the ball even more. Creating great posture at address by lifting your chin or standing taller will most certainly assist you in eliminating topping the ball and enjoying your round much more.
Scott Bergdahl is the head professional at the Lakewood Golf Resort east of Sylvan Lake