Coming Over the Top: The Most Misused Term in Golf

This is a very difficult article to write for a teacher like me. At best I’ve been referred to as a creative problem solver who thinks outside the box. At worst, let’s just say people have found creative ways to call me difficult. When it comes to over the top, I get difficult.

I’ve dedicated my life since the age of 19 to teaching this game and I still don’t know what over the top actually means, and that’s okay. Let’s get into why.

An Endless List

When I see a golf swing, I can easily predict (like most of you reading) when others are going to say, “He comes over the top."

My questions are - is coming over the top bad? If so, why is it bad?

Before I tell you when I think this phrase is useful, let’s make a list of all the definitions I’ve heard over the years:

  • When the shoulders open up to start the downswing
  • When the shaft of the club is steeper in the downswing than it was in the backswing
  • When the player's swing path travels left of the target
  • When the path of the hands move forward at the beginning of the downswing
  • When the shaft of the club stays “above plane” in the downswing

There is No Universal Definition for Over the Top

This list could get longer, but as you can see, over the top can mean something different to each person you talk to. But every scenario I listed above can create a shot that flies in the hole.

Some of the greatest players in the world have come over the top. The greatest player of our generation went through a period of time when he rehearsed coming over the top before each shot. So why is one of the most common swing characteristics so frequently referred to as a swing fault?

As a golf instructor, there are many things I have to do well to be effective. Perhaps the most important is adapting my language to match the player in front of me. If I give my player a drill, I’ll ask them what they feel when they perform the drill so when I remove them from the practice environment they have a feel to try and replicate when playing.

It’s not uncommon for them to say, “I feel like I’m coming over the top.” If I hear that, I’ll ask my player what that means to them. Whatever they say becomes OUR definition for over the top. If you work with me, you’ll rarely hear me tell a player what they’re doing wrong. My main goal is to help a player get to where they want to be.

Be Careful With This Term

Now finally how to get something useful out of this blog post. When you walk into a lesson, the best thing you can do is tell your teacher what you want to do better. Don’t waste your time and money telling the teacher what you think you do wrong.

You’re paying them to figure that out so they can help you get what you want. If your teacher tells you to feel like you’re coming over the top, don’t freak out. That feeling may help you play the best golf of your life. If you still think coming over the top is bad do a google video search of Craig Stadler and Craig Perry’s golf swings. I’m pretty confident you wouldn’t mind playing golf at their level. Try keeping an open mind.

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