One of the most common causes of wasted strokes during a round of golf – for beginners and even some more advanced players – is the topped iron shot. Imagine you have just hit a beautiful drive that found the fairway on a par four hole and now all you have left is a semi-long iron into the green. Getting the ball to the green will allow you to have a shot at birdie, but it is absolutely essential to hit the green on this second shot to at least have a reasonable chance at a par. Unfortunately, the thought of a potential birdie or at least a reasonable shot at par, combined with the negative thoughts of wasting another beautiful drive come together all-too-frequently to make the second shot on a hole like the one described here one of the most difficult golf shots for beginners. Couple that with poor swing technique with the golf irons and you have the making of one of the most common scenarios for wasted strokes that plague almost any golfer: the topped iron shot. In this tutorial, we’ll take a look at how you can reduce or even eliminate these types of wasted strokes from your next round of golf with just a few simple golf swing tips.
Why You Top the Golf Ball
Let’s take a look at the reasons why it is so common (read: easy) for many golfers to top the golf ball, especially with their irons. As I preach all over this website it is ALWAYS how the club face contacts the golf ball that determines EVERYTHING. So how does this apply to your iron shots? Let’s take a look at an image to help visualize exactly how you want your iron’s face to contact the ball. As you can see from the picture to the left, when the leading or lower edge of an iron contacts the golf ball below the center line (called the equator) the result is flight or loft. The opposite is also true: When the leading edge of the club face contacts the ball at or above this center line the result is a topped golf shot.
The reasons the club face may contact the ball too high are generally because the golfer lifted his or her head too early to see where their shot was headed. When you lift your head it is almost a guarantee that your leading shoulder is also lifted, resulting in a different (slightly higher) club position at impact. Another common reason for having the club raised too high above the ground at impact is fear of contacting the ground or the ‘I am afraid I might hurt my hands’ shot. So now that you know WHY you top your iron shots, let’s analyze how to stop topping your iron shots.
One of the common ‘sayings’ or words of wisdom given to beginning iron players is that you need to ‘hit down on the ball’ and I really hate that piece of advice because it gives the impression that the golf ball should be driven into the ground. As you can see from the close-up picture above and as you will learn from the video below that demonstrates a simple golf drill to stop topping the ball, this is not exactly true. The image above does depict a dotted line to illustrate the path of the club face and – as you can see – it is at a slightly downward sloping angle, but the angle is almost imperceptible and trying to intentionally achieve this downward contact is almost impossible and can lead to hitting into the ground. The key to remember is that contact between the leading club edge and the golf ball that occurs anywhere below the center line of the ball prevents topping.
How to Stop Topping Iron Shots Video
The main idea to keep in mind from the video is that your legs or weight needs to be shifted more towards your front the further towards the front of your stance the ball lies. While the drill presented above is an excellent one and the idea very sound, my advice is to ALWAYS play the ball in the same position in your stance, but stand farther away from the golf ball with the longer irons (3,4, 5 and 6) and closer with the shorter irons (7, 8, 9). By doing this, it is much easier to make consistent contact (or bottom out with your club as the instructor in the video puts it) in the same position and the same way with every club.
So just to summarize:
1) Contact the golf ball below the center line (or equator) with the leading (lower) edge of your iron
2) Keep your head down throughout the golf shot
3) Don’t be afraid of contacting the ground with your club – it’s necessary for a good golf shot
4) Practice the drill presented in the video, but try altering the drill slightly it so that you keep the ball in the SAME position in your stance, but stand farther away from the ball with the longer irons and closer to the ball with the shorter clubs.
Learning how to stop topping your iron shots is not difficult, but like everything else in golf there is a mental aspect to improving this area of your game, as well as several swing adjustments that you will need to make and a practice regimen that would be good to run through several times prior to playing your next round.