Causes of an Over the Top Swing

As we discussed yesterday, one of the big causes of the slice in golf is an “over the top” swing where the club gets outside the swing plane and target line.

This flaw can really be caused for a variety of reasons. Golf Tips Magazine has a nice article covering four common causes of the over the top move.

To summarize, the author, Todd Sones, points to:

  • Taking the club away too flat, or inside the swing plane
  • Getting too much weight on the left at the top of the back swing
  • Too narrow a swing arc
  • Club face too open at the top

Let’s discuss each of those in a little more detail.

Club Too Flat

The ideal position for the club during the takeaway is on-plane. Taking the club too far to the inside can cause you to get “stuck” on the downswing. Because you can’t make a decent approach to the ball from that far inside, your right elbow will come up, re-routing you to the outside.

The article also points to the problem of rotating your forearms too early during the takeaway. This also causes you to get stuck on the down swing. The only way to deliver the club to the ball when that happens is to come over the top. The rotation of the forearms should match the shoulders. One of my own problems is rotating my forearms a little too much and fanning the club face open.

Weight on the Left at the Top

This is also known as the reverse pivot. This might be all right for the Stack and Tilt swing, but it’s a killer for the conventional swing. To keep from topping the ball, your weight has to fall back to the right on the down swing. Not only does this rob you of power, but it can cause you to get over the top.

Narrow Arc

To create power, you need to have the widest swing arc possible. All that means is that the hands and butt of the club stay as far from the body as possible during the swing. This doesn’t mean that you should add tension to your swing by keeping your left arm rigid. It simply means that you don’t want to let your right arm fold around you on the back swing. If you do, then the tendency will be to throw it out away from you on the down swing, resulting in the over the top move.

Club Face Open at the Top

At the top of the back swing, if the club face is too open (with the toe pointing at the ground), the tendency will be to swing hard with the upper body, causing an over the top swing, as your body scrambles to square the club face.

For a little more discussion about these flaws and some information about correcting them, check out the article at Golf Tips Magazine.


In addition to the factors mentioned above, another common cause of an over the top move comes from improper setup. The biggest problem comes when the shoulders and feet are open to the target. “Open” simply means that they are aligned left (for a right-hander). At setup, the feet, hips, and shoulders should be aimed parallel-left of the target. The “train-tracks” analogy is what you’re going for there.

Keep in mind with all these flaws that having any of them doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll slice the ball. They’re just typical factors. The golf swing is an interesting system in that you can pile on band-aid fixes to overcome issues like this. Unfortunately, you’ll probably never have any measure of consistency playing with these flaws and whatever compensations you have to do to make your swing work.

While the over the top move is a big cause of slices, it’s not the only thing that can do it. Sometimes, the club is properly delivered to the ball on the down swing, but a slice still occurs. Tomorrow, we’ll talk about the grip and how it can cause you to slice. In addition, there are some other factors that we’ll discuss. Later, I’ll go over some drills to help you fight your over the top swing.


Further Reading:

Combat Your Slice (Life in the Rough)
Some Other Factors That Can Lead to a Slice (Life in the Rough)
Banish Your Slice (Life in the Rough)
Four Common Causes of the Over the Top Move (Golf Tips Magazine)
Proper Alignment (Life in the Rough)


  1. Steve says:

    Nice article some good tips.

  2. Double Eagle says:

    Thanks, Steve.

  3. What a great post! I really think that you hit the nail on the head when you said keep the club square on the backswing. I know in my golf swing I really have to stay focused on taking the club straight back. It’s one of the first things I check when I’m having slice or hook problems. Thanks for the tips!

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