Drills for the Top of the Golf Swing
The exercises and checks in this section will allow you to verify that you are properly positioned when you reach the top of the golf swing. They will help make sure you keep flex in your knees, i.e., that you don’t collapse your knees during your backswing. They will also help in letting you know if your hands are in the right position at the top (both left and right hand) and if they are holding the club correctly so that it points at the target. All together, these golf drills help in making sure you are in the best position possible from where to start the downswing.
Proper Upper Body Rotation Drill
Power is created and ultimately transferred into the ball in great part due to the coiling and uncoiling of your upper body. Or in other words, how you rotate your upper body around your spine plays a great role in delivering force onto the ball. Making sure that you rotate your upper body correctly is key in producing a good golf swing and this drill will provide you with a quick check to make sure you are on the right path.
- Hold a club with your hands across your shoulders so that it is parallel to the ground and set up as you normally would for a golf shot in front of the ball.
- Rotate your upper body as if you were performing a backswing and hold the position when you reach what would be the top of the golf swing, i.e., when you would stop rotating.
- Take note of where the butt end of the club is pointing and how your legs and knees are positioned.
- Ideally, your golf club should be pointing in the general direction of the golf ball and both of your knees should be slightly flexed, much like they were at address. This position ensures that your upper body is correctly storing the energy that you will want to transfer onto the ball at impact.
- If you find out that the club is pointing well back of the ball you may notice that your knees have collapsed in order to reach that position (unless you are unusually flexible). This tells you that you went overboard with your backswing and that you probably will have issues making proper contact with the ball.
Collapsing your Knees will Lead to All Sorts of Swing Errors
Letting your knee collapse in order to continue your backswing will lead to all sorts of golf swing errors. For one, it will make you fail in your attempt to maintain your spine angle throughout the swing. Secondly, this low position can lead you to standing up at impact as you gradually straighten your left leg on the downswing. Finally and perhaps worst of all, it may signal that your swing is suffering from a reverse pivot where your weight is on the forward foot at the top of the swing, instead of being on the back foot.
Proper Club Position at the Top Drill
In your way to the top of the swing you will have gone through the takeaway and backswing. We cover drills for those swing sequences in this section that make sure you take the club on the right path. But how to tell if you are positioned correctly at the top of the swing? Use this drill as a quick check to see if your position at the top is too flat or too vertical.
- Make a few practice swings before holding your position at the top of the swing.
- Notice where your hands are located and let your wrists loose so that the shaft of the club falls on you.
- If the club touches around your shoulder bone when you let it drop it means that your top of the swing position is on-plane. If the club falls on your right upper arm then it means that your position at the top is too flat. Finally, if the club strikes you on your neck then you’ll know that your position is too upright at the top.
Importance of an On-plane Swing
If your swing is either too flat or too upright during your backswing and into the top of the swing position your body will have to make all sorts of adjustments during the downswing in order to guarantee a good contact with the ball. While it is not impossible to strike the ball well from those positions you may find that you are suffering from consistency issues as a result. It is much easier to make consistently good contact with the ball with an on-plane swing and this drill provides you with a quick check to insure that you do.
Proper Club Direction at the Top Drill
If you’ve followed the previous drill (see above) you’ll know the correct position of your hands at the top of the swing. But getting the hands in the right box is only half of the battle. Indeed, you still need to figure out if your hands are pointing the club in the right direction. Follow this top of the swing drill to find out if your club is square at the top, laid off, or across the line.
- Set up as you normally would for a golf shot and take the club back and up. Hold the position when you reach the top of the swing.
- Notice where the shaft of the club is pointing. (It helps if you are able to swing in front of a mirror, with the mirror positioned behind the line of the shot.)
- If the club is pointing forward, i.e. towards the target, the club is in a proper position at the top and can be said to be square to the target. If the club is pointing left of the target it means that you are in a laid off position at the top. Finally, if the club is pointing right of the target then your club is in an across the line position at the top.
- Tip: Instead of using a mirror you can quickly check your right hand’s thumb to figure out where the club is pointing.
Importance of Pointing Club at the Target at the Top
If your club is in a laid off position at the top it can point to mistakes made during the backswing. Indeed, an out-to-in swing path – typical of a slice – will likely produce a laid off club at the top of the swing. On the other hand, if your club is across the line at the top it can mean that you are bending your left arm during your backswing or simply that you are turning your upper body and arms past the point where it is no longer efficient to do so. In any case, a club that points at the target at the top of the swing hints at a proper backswing and a position from which you can reliably begin your downswing for a good strike at the ball.
Proper Right Hand Position at the Top Drill
In this last drill we’ll look at the position of the right hand at the top of the swing. Making sure that the right hand position is proper will give you a strong position from where to begin your downswing as you head into impact with the ball.
- Pretend that you are holding a golf club and set up as you normally would for a golf shot.
- Bring the imaginary club up through what would be your normal takeaway and backswing and stop when you reach the top of the swing.
- Separate your left hand from the right, letting it fall down but notice the position of the right hand as it hangs in the air.
- If your right hand is in an ideal position it should have the following attributes:
- Your right elbow should be bent slightly more than 90 degrees.
- Your right wrist should also be bent at approximately 90 degrees.
- Your right hand should be pointing up towards the sky
- Your right elbow should be below the level of your right shoulder.
Pretend You Are Holding a Tray of Drinks
A good mental image for how you should be positioning your right hand at the top is to pretend you are holding a tray of drinks, as a waiter in a restaurant or bar would. Sure your fingers would not be closed against your hand but you get the idea. Setting yourself up in this position will put you in a great position from where to begin your downswing and ultimately have a great contact with the ball.