Causes of the Over the Top Golf Swing

Searching for causes of the over the top golf swing?

Many of us have been there.  The struggles with the terrible slice and the loss of distance.  You may also experience the occasional pull shot that all of a sudden flies left and does not come back.  

There are two results of the over the top golf swing:

  • The Slice
  • The Pull Shot

Neither of these are reliable golf shots that result in quality golf.  We are here to help you understand the causes of the over the top golf swing and then of course we will provide some solutions to help you hit the ball straighter or maybe even hit a draw. 

One other issue you might face is inconsistent ball contact due to the typical steep angle of attack with this unwanted motion in the golf swing.

I love to play golf as much as anybody and hopefully if you have reached the point in your golf journey where you are tired of playing this type of golf shot, we can help you out and get your golf game headed in the right direction.

Tired of being in the woods. Find out our solutions below to your swing issues.

Causes of the Over the Top Golf Swing

  • Starting the backswing by taking the club too far inside.
  • Lifting your arms too much in the backswing.
  • Starting the downswing with your upper body.
  • Flying your front shoulder too far open in the downswing

After we break down the 4 main causes of the over the top golf swing, we will provide solutions that involves drills and online golf instructors that can help your game, but first let’s start with the New Ball Flight Laws to have an understanding of the slice and the pull shot.  

Understanding where the clubface and swing path need to be will help you have a better understanding of what is actually taking place.

Key Understanding: New Ball Flight Laws

For years, the golfing world was confused on what the ball flight laws were.  The old way of thinking is that the ball started in the direction of the path and then curved relative to the clubface. 

However, the reality and what actually takes place is that the ball will start where the club face is pointing at impact and then will curve relative to the swing path.  Here are the two basics that you need to remember:

  • The ball will start where the club face is pointing at impact.
  • The ball will then curve relative to the swing path direction.

As a result of these ball flight laws a slice can occur with an open or closed club face.  A draw can also be hit with an open or closed club face. The club face will impact where the ball starts and then curve relative to the path.  Here are a couple of examples to help you better understand.

Example 1: Traditional Pull Slice

With the traditional pull slice, a shot hit by many high handicap players, the ball will start left of the target line and then curve to the left.  This means the clubface is closed relative to the target line. Let’s say the club face is 3 degrees closed. Then let’s say that hte path is 6 degrees left of hte target line.  We have the following:

  • Clubface: 3 degrees closed
  • Swing Path: 6 degrees left

This means the ball will start left and then curve away from the swing path resulting in a fade or a slice.

Example 2: Traditional Push Draw

THe shot that many golfers desire to hit is the push draw.  I know growing up, I would watch all of the good golfers at my golf course and see them hitting a draw that would start to the right and curve back towards the target.  Here are the numbers on a push draw and n example.

  • Clubface: 2 degree open
  • Swing Path: 3 degrees to the right

This means the ball will start to the right and then curve away from the path, resulting in a slight push draw.  In this example if the clubface was 1 more degree open at 3 degrees open and and match the swing path the shot would be slight push to the right. 

Example 3: The Pull Shot

So now that you are getting the idea of the ball flight laws, let’s show what would cause the pull shot.  

  • Clubface: 5 degrees closed
  • Swing Path: 5 degrees closed or to the left

With these numbers the ball would start left and stay left.  Since the face and the path are matched up. If the path were one degree left or right the ball would draw or fade.

How that we have an understanding of the new ball flight laws let’s get into the causes of the over the top issues that often produce examples 1 and 3 above.  

Cause #1 – Starting the backswing by taking the club too far inside.

In an effort to get the swing to be more rounded and swing more in to out, some golfers will drag the club too far inside on the backswing, resulting in feeling trapped in there and the only solution is to swing out over the top. 

The swing becomes a little bit of a loop and then the swing comes out over the top. This often comes from opening the hands too much. Now there are exceptions to every situation and there are some professional golfers that have played at a high level that start the club too far inside including Raymond Floyd and Nancy Lopez. 

So you can play great golf with an inside takeaway, but you must understand the ball flight laws and try to keep that front shoulder closed and stay on the inside of the ball on the downswing.

Cause #2 – Lifting your arms too much in the backswing.

Other golfers will have too much lift in their arms, causing their swings to get very steep and vertical, they will then cut across the ball and swing to the left.  Instead of being patient and allowing the hands to drop, they often pull down too hard with the hands at the start of the downswing.

Once again you can swing with some lift in the arms and hands, but you must be able to shallow the club.

Cause #3 – Starting the downswing with your upper body.

The third cause is getting to the top of the backswing and then starting the downswing with the upper body.  The upper body gets ahead of the lower body, resulting in a swing path that goes too far to the left.

The proper swing sequence starts with the lower body firing shortly before the upper body.  Jack Nicklaus tried to have his arms beat the buttons on his shirt to the ball. This helped keep his upper body back and to keep his path more natural or right of the ball.

Cause #4 – Flying your front shoulder too far open in the downswing

The final group of golfers are the ones that get to the top of the backswing and the front shoulder flies open causing the hands and the swing path to get too far to the left.  The club never shallows and the golfer cuts across the ball and the shot is either the pull or the pull slice depending on if the path and the face line up at all.

I know what you are saying at this point, great I understand the ball flight laws and I hit at least these four causes above, but please help me stop this movement in the swing.  Here are some solutions that we think can work for just about every golfer.  

I know at one point early in my career, as a young baseball player, I had a tendency to fall into the 4th category of flying that front shoulder open.  I worked through this all and eventually started hitting a push draw. My only regret is that there would have been more clear information on the ball flight laws, which I didn’t learn until I read the Stack and Tilt book and reviewed the system that Andy Plummer and MIke Bennet were promoting.  

I don’t think they get enough credit for helping us all better understand a system that produces a slight draw on demand.  With the understanding of the ball flight laws, I am now able to hit draws completely on demand and hit a fade when I need to, although to this day I prefer the draw shot.

Here are some solutions you can use to cure our over the top golf swing and the pull or slice that results.  Embedded into each of these solutions are my favorite online golf instructors that I think are best at helping cure the over the top movement.

Practice, practice, practice – but make sure you are practicing the right movements.

Here are the three solutions:

  • Solution 1 – Vision
  • Solution 2 – Setup
  • Solution 3 – Drills

Solution #1 – Vision

My number one golfer instructor that I believe provides the best information for helping golfers of all levels is Shawn Clement.  You must check out this video below on hitting a draw. If you try to hit the draw and can be successful you have cured your over the top movement. 

You have to be able to create a vision in your mind of what this swing path looks like. It might be a good time to pull out that smartphone and record your swing from down the line and see where your hands go at the start of the downswing.

I do not like to give advice of don’t do this in your swing, instead we want to focus on what you should do.  Let’s start by talking about vision. You must have a target in mind and swing out towards that target. This starts with having a solid vision of the path and club face along with the target that you want to hit.

This video will give you a better idea of what causes the draw and the fade in the golf swing.

Solution #2 – Setup

The draw of the anti over the top swing often starts with the proper setup.  You will see in the Shawn Clement video above that the draw or fade starts with the proper setup of your body, the club face and the direction that you are going to swing. 

We know that you want to swing out towards your target to control your swing path and pre-set the club face in a certain place to help the ball curve away from the path. So to hit a draw, we want to aim the club face towards the target and then swing slightly out to the right for the right handed golfer.  

Another golf instructor to check out is Jim Venetos, he goes even further than Shawn Clement and promotes closing your shoulders and pre-setting your weight forwards. 

This helps you keep the club on an in to out path and have the club face aiming straight which should produce a club face that is around 1 to 2 degrees right or open and a swing path that is 3 to 4 degrees to the right.  Like magic, you can start to hit the draw.

Jim Venetos believes in stillness and not allowing your body movements to mess with your swing. The power is generated in the gravity and the circular motion of the golf swing.  If you have struggled with the slice from the over the top movement, you have to check out Jim Venetos.

It might seem rather out there at first, but trust me, it works! If we can fix your swing path, we can fix your over the top movement, your poor contact and your loss of distance and control.

Solution #3 – Drills

Of course, we want to put some drills into place to train the body to swing on a path that is 2 to 3 degrees to the right for the right handed golfer.  We need to make sure the club face is closed relative to the path, but first we must get that path to the right.  

For those of you that have a flying shoulder and you start the downswing too aggressively with your upper body, you should check out this drill by Jim Venetos:

Here is a Shawn Clement video on the cure to the over the top swing.  The drill is more pre shot routine, but something you can do at the range with the perpetual motion drill to train your body to swing along the correct path.  

Here is a drill by Monte Scheinblum on how the shoulders should work.  You can practice this drill at home in front of a mirror to help you get the feeling and see the proper movement of the shoulders:

Do You Have Hope?

Stay patient as you battle the over the top motion.  I would recommend checking out Jim Venetos and even using his swing as a drill if needed to feel the club dropping into place and getting the ball to curve to the left. 

This might be the first time in your life that you see the ball actually draw. Start small with this pre set up, where you put the weight forward, close your front shoulder and then stay still during the swing.  You need to get that feeling of the shoulder staying closed and the arms and club to shallow to produce that beautiful draw.  

Once you can hit that draw with a half to 3 quarter swing, I would drill that for several days, even if it is with wiffle golf balls in your backyard.  Get that ball to start to the right and curve to the left. Once you get that feel you can better apply to your regular swing.

Utilize the closed stance, weight forward, still swing when your body is getting to active and you start to come over the top again.  The golf swing is a patient explosion where you have to remain calm early on in the downswing and let the swing happen.

Of course you will fire away at the ball, but the speed must come at the ball and many over the top golfers swing too fast early on their downswing and have loss speed by the time they get to impact.

Take Action – What You Can Do Today to Get Better

What does this mean for you?  I believe in the following recipe to get better:

1 – Improve your motion in the golf swing by identifying a golf instructor.  Here are some options:

Here is a list of golf instructors that we have reviewed:

2 – Train to swing faster and improve your swing speed.  Here are some options:

Looking to gain more Speed and Distance in your swing. Two Options:

3 – Understand course strategy and work to break through your next barrier.  Here is a series on breaking through:

We have provided guides on how to break 100, 90, 80 and 70. Check out more below, if interested.

Did you know that I build a golf simulator in my garage and have played over 500 rounds of golf on my SkyTrak system?  It has been a game changer and one worth checking out. Here are some of my other posts on golf simulators frequently asked questions:

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