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Golf Tips From a Pro: The nature of the top

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By Mark Wehrman EBS Contributor

To improve your strike and get the golf ball airborne, shift your weight and momentum toward the target. Above is an example of the right way to impact the golf ball and below is an example of the wrong way to hit it. PHOTOS COURTESY OF MARK WEHRMAN

If you have played a decent amount of golf in your life, you’ve probably “topped” a ball or two. When this happens, the ball never gets off of the ground and will roll a short distance before coming to rest. The strike doesn’t feel solid and the result of the shot is very poor. Teaching golf my entire adult life, I’ve spent countless hours correcting this very shot. So, let’s talk about what’s actually happening.

When you top the golf ball the majority of the time it’s not because you hit the top of the ball. It’s because you hit up on the golf ball. When you hit up on the ball you put topspin on the ball and it spins itself into the ground.

Hence, the dreaded top. So, why do we hit up on the golf ball? We hit up on the ball in an attempt to help the ball get airborne. I often hear people tell me that they have trouble getting under the ball. It is this effort that is the root of the topped golf ball.

So, what should we do to get the ball in the air? In order to hit the ball solid and make it go in the air, the clubhead needs to work down through the golf ball at impact. If the clubhead is moving downward at impact, the ball rides up the clubface using the loft of the club to propel the ball in the air and the grooves on the club are what puts spin on the ball.

The easiest way to make the clubhead work down through impact is to shift your weight and momentum toward the target while making your downswing. Usually, when you top the ball, it is because your hands, arms and the club are swinging forward and your weight is hanging back.

There are two drills to help you with this motion. First, as a right-handed golfer, hit balls off of your left leg. You can also walk toward the target after impact, training your body to get off of your right side. These drills ensure a downward strike on the golf ball, essentially causing the ball to go up in the air. Bottom line, do not ever try to help the ball in the air. If you do, you will hit the ever so common top. Instead, hit down through the ball to make it go up in the air.

Mark Wehrman is the PGA Head Professional at the Big Sky Resort Golf Course.

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