Here’s Why You’re Topping the Golf Ball (and How to Stop)

The topped golf shot is arguably the most frustrating shot in all of golf. 

Not only do you not get the satisfaction of seeing the ball soar through the air and land next to your target, but you also have the embarrassment of the ball traveling a very short distance.

If you’ve had any amount of experience playing the game, you know there’s always someone around who is telling you what you need to do to improve. 

Unfortunately, pointing out that you’re “topping the golf ball,” or committing some other foreign-sounding offense, does little to help. At least, not without further explanation.

If you’re a beginner golfer, odds are you’re not even sure what the term “topping the golf ball” really means – much less how to solve the problem. 

Let’s start with the basics.

The term “topping the golf ball,” refers to hitting the ball above the ball’s equator. 

Considering that the infamous “sweet spot” lies just below the actual center of the ball, hitting above the equator can cause all kinds of things to go wrong. 

The result is a ball that travels low to the ground (sometimes referred to as a “worm burner”) robbing you of distance and accuracy.

But before you can act to solve the problem of topping the ball in golf, you need to learn a little more about what it means, what causes it to occur, and how it affects your shot. 

Once you know these things, you can begin correcting your swing to solve the problem so you can begin shooting lower scores!

What Causes You to Top a Golf Ball?

When you “top the ball” in golf, it means one simple thing is going on. The club is striking the ball above its equator. Unfortunately, there are a few potential causes of that. You may be experiencing one or more of these causes.

The golf swing is like a machine. When something is off in just one small part of the machine, it can throw the entire swing off balance yielding perplexing and, sometimes, comical results – well, comical for everyone else in your group. 

Not so much for you.

While topping the ball is a common problem in golf and the issues it creates can really play havoc with your score, there is not a one-size-fits-all solution. 

You may need to try quite a few adjustments to address the specific cause(s) of your topping problem.

Here’s the thing. Even skilled golfers make the mistake of topping the ball on occasion, according to Jack Nicklaus. 

It’s not something reserved for “newbie” golfers. In most cases, skilled golfers make this mistake when swinging for the fences (for those who like the occasional mixed sports metaphor).

When you’re really trying for maximum distance is when you are often at the greatest risk for topping the golf ball. 

If you’re struggling with this challenge, you may have any number of problems with the mechanics of your swing, the movement of the club while swinging, or the way you pivot, or errors in your setup or position. 

These are a few of the potential causes of topping the golf ball:

  1. Your arc is too high at the bottom of the swing. When this happens you usually have two options. You either completely whiff the ball. Embarrassing, but it happens. Or you hit above the equator, topping the ball.
  2. You reach the bottom of the arc before hitting the ball and are on an upswing when the club connects. Again, you’re hitting above the equator as a result of reaching the bottom of the arc too soon.
  3. You’re reaching the bottom of your arc after you’ve hit the ball. When the bottom of the arc occurs too late, you’re still hitting above the ball’s equator, meaning you’re hitting at the top of the ball rather than the sweet spot.

These are the three most common causes of topping the ball, though there are many errors golfers make that create these situations. Most of them are related to your swing mechanics.

Other Causes (and Solutions) for Topped Golf Shots

Now that you understand some of the primary causes related to topping the golf ball, it’s time to address them in a way that helps you improve your golf swing. Here are a few solutions depending on what is causing you to top the golf ball:


This mechanical error in your golf swing can result in topping the ball. Whether you’re sliding your hips back and not correcting prior to impact or you’re sliding too far forward during the downswing, the result is the same.

Solution: Lean in your right knee as you turn away from the golf ball. This prevents the upper body from sliding back during the backswing and takeaway.

Reverse Pivot

This occurs when you move weight in the opposite direction of your swing. For instance, if you shift your weight to the front instead of the back foot during the backswing, you’re going to top the ball.

Solution: Concentrate on shifting weight slightly to the back foot while swinging back rather than moving it forward.

Improper Positioning

Failing to position the ball properly in your stance can also lead to challenges that result in topping the shot. For instance, if the ball is too far forward or back in your stance, the arc of your swing will be off, resulting in a topped golf shot.

Solution: Position the ball in the middle of your stance for irons and in-line with the lead heel for your driver. This helps the natural arc of the swing “bottom out” just after contact has been made with the ball – an ideal position for solid golf shots.

The Club Is Too Short

If your clubs aren’t the right length or you’re choking up too much on them, the entire arc of your shot is going to be out of position.

Solution: Invest in custom-fitted golf clubs or hold the club higher on the grip instead of choking down.

Uneven Weight Distribution

In some cases, the problem is that you’re placing too much weight on your front or back foot.

Solution: Distribute your weight evenly between your front and back foot, approximately a 50/50 split.

The Takeaway…

Topping the golf ball can be extremely frustrating, especially if you’re trying to improve your game. 

Generally, when you top the golf ball, it’s because you are making contact above the equator (top half) of the ball.

There are a number of potential causes that could be to blame:

  • Swaying.
  • Reverse Pivot.
  • Poor positioning.
  • Clubs that are too short.
  • Uneven weight distribution.

In order to address this fault, it might take some trial and error. Begin trying out some of the solutions mentioned in this post and find the one that works best for you. 

Before you know it, you’ll be hitting high arching shots with no effort at all!

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