ATTENTION, READERS in the 28 EUROPEAN VAT COUNTRIES: Because of the new VAT law, you probably can't order books direct from my site now. But that's okay -- just go to my Smashwords author page.
You can order PDFs (as well as all the other ebook formats) from there.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Dexter’s Coming Over the Top, Part 1

I was going to try making my first video for this post but the weather is not cooperating. (If you saw any of the Wyndham in nearby Greensboro, where they were playing LCP, you know it’s been pretty soggy here.) Since I’ve decided to break this post into more than one part, I may get a chance to make one for the other posts.

This first post focuses on understanding what makes a swing to go “over-the-top.” It’s hard to fix it if you don’t understand what you’re doing.

It’s kind of ironic. Just one week before Dexter made his first post about his over-the-top swing, I did an instructional article for about the correct way to make a one-piece takeaway. Not only that, but Michael Breed on The Golf Fix did a segment on how your takeaway affects your plane just a couple of days before Dexter’s post. (I don’t recall if he actually used the term “one-piece takeaway,” but that’s what he was demonstrating.) This is a common problem, and that’s why I want you to understand what’s happening.

First, you need to understand the difference between an over-the-top swing and any other kind of swing. It’s very simple, really:
In most swings, your hands reach the top of your backswing and that's as high as they’re going to go; then they start down. In an over-the-top swing, your hands are going up when they reach the top of your backswing… and then they keep going up.
It’s very easy to say, “Yes, yes, I understand” and totally miss what’s happening here. In a normal swing your hands are traveling toward the top of the backswing at an angle (i.e., your swing plane), stop traveling upward (even though they might still be moving back or down a little), and are then able to start forward and downward again, hopefully on a swing plane somewhat similar to the first one.

But in an over-the-top swing, the hands are traveling almost directly straight up to the top of the backswing. When they get there, they can’t just stop; they have to change direction so they can head forward and downward again. So, just like the poor driver who missed his turn at the last intersection, they make a U-turn at the next opportunity, looping over and forward at the top of the backswing. Voilá! You’re in the wrong lane, and you’ve got a big pull working.

Dexter posted several videos of his swing, all showing a down-the-line view, in this post. Here’s the one I chose to focus on:

And here are a couple of stills I pulled from it, right around the :21-:22 second mark. I’ve added an X to each pic to show about where his hands ought to be, and a black line to show roughly where the club shaft would point. (They aren’t perfect, but they’ll give you an idea. To help fight his over-the-top swing, Dexter has closed his stance a little, which makes it difficult to get things perfect. I settled on making the marks relative to his chest position.)

Two stills of Dexter's swing

As you can see, Dexter’s hands have traveled much farther around him (i.e., his backswing plane is too low) than they should be at these points in his swing. His hands are still below shoulder height, even though he can’t turn much further from the ball. They should be at or above shoulder height when he has turned this much. And see how the club shaft is pointing straight back, parallel to the ground? He’s swinging around, not up.

But his hands have to go up; they’re still not at the top of his backswing. So what will he do? He’ll lift his hands almost straight up to the top of his backswing (that’s really all he can do from this position). And now he’s got a problem, because his hands need to make a turn much sharper than 90-degrees to get back on plane and start down. So he does the only thing he can do—he makes a U-turn at the top, looping up and over so he can start down again.

In some cases, because a player is literally pushing his or her hands straight up, they’ve got so much momentum working against them that they have to use their hip (the right hip for a right-hander, the left hip for a left-hander) to counteract that momentum. The hip moves up and away from the target (rather than forward and around, as it would in a correct swing) and tilts the spine toward the target. As a result, the shoulder gets pushed up even higher and the hands loop even farther over-the-top.

Sounds like a real mess, doesn’t it?

But the problem isn’t the backswing per se. Rather, it’s the takeaway that starts the backswing... and that’s a much simpler problem to fix. I’ll explain how we do it in the next post.


  1. This is great Mike. I had no idea that I was that shallow on the takeaway. I am no where close to where I need to be huh?. I was practicing today and I was trying to figure out how to get a little steeper without getting too steep.

    Ironically, I think that is how the problem started. I used to chop down on the ball so I guess I thought I needed a shallower takeaway so that I would not come in so steep. Unfortunately, it looks like I took it to the extreme.

    It is really cool to see the lines that you put into the stills. They tell the whole story. I am looking forward to your next post. I am sure your post will help others with this problem as well. Can't wait to be rid of the loop. Thanks again.

  2. You're closer than you think you are, Dex. You know, guys like Tiger and Phil may be spraying it all over the place but, when they're asked, they say "I'm really close." The newspeople laugh, but that's because everybody makes golf too difficult. A relatively small change can have big results; often the real trick is recognizing what that small change should be.

    Here's the real irony: Your attempt to shallow out your swing actually made it steeper. Steep and shallow are relative terms. Bubba's swing is incredibly steep, but he's 6'4"... and it doesn't stop him from playing great golf. Forget about shallow and steep, Dex; think instead about making good contact. That's what we're going to work on.

    It's going to take me another two or three posts to cover it all. It's not because it's too complicated; it's just that my camera died and it takes a fair amount of words to explain what a simple video would make clear very quickly. Hopefully I can get one made soon, but in the meantime I'm going to go ahead and do written posts.

    Again, don't worry about getting steeper or shallower. Once you learn how to make a proper takeaway, those details should take care of themselves. We're going to make this fix as easy as possible, so don't start over-analyzing things... yet. ;-)

  3. That's a brave kid ! I always hate the idea of seeing myself on video because I never look as I hope I do...then I know how much work needs to be done on my swing.

  4. If it makes you feel any better, Court, the tours are loaded with good-looking swings struggling to keep their cards. The best players generally have the funkiest swings. Everybody bashed Trevino's swing, but I bet they'd pay good money for his 6 majors.


  5. MMmmmmmmm - nope - doesn't make me feel any better. :-D

    One of these days I'm going to get the hips turning right and stop swaying in front of the ball. Until then, I'm thrilled to buy a game. Just switched to the new True Temper GS95 shafts with a regular flex. (down from stiff) Not having to put so much effort into the swing makes it easier to get all the parts working together.

  6. FUNKY SWINGS UNITE!!! I need to call up Lee Trevino, Kenny Perry, and Jim Furyk. That would be a great foursome of "funky swingers."

    I just got back from playing a round. I didn't get a chance to hit the range and it rained. It took a while to get warmed up and with it being so wet, the course wasn't in great condition. It was a tough round to say the least.

    I tried to make a fix in my swing from the first tee and it just didn't work. I tried getting into the positions that you indicated in the stills, but it was impossible to do it on the tee box without the chance to practice it on the range before hand.

    After the 4th hole, I just decided to to think about staying behind the ball on the tee shot. Every time I get ahead of the ball, I hook it. After that adjustment, I began to hit fairways. The loop was still there though. Instead of sacrificing the round, I just decided to go with what I know instead of thinking too much.

    I'm looking forward to the next post. I was going to practice tomorrow anyway, so I'll be able to make use of the drills that you have in mind. I just hope it doesn't rain. Tomorrow is supposed to be like today. Wet and humid.

  7. I love reading articles about "curing, fixing and correcting" the over the top swing. By my count, there are more than 100 teachers on line advertising their own method for curing it. What none of them say is that, without lots of lessons - not just now but in perpetuity - and the time and inclination to practice a lot, the old swing will inevitably return. Back when I took lessons, my swing would get on plane for a few weeks but, because I'm a lazy loafer, I'd regress (a Hank Haney word - he uses it a lot) winding up more confused than when I started.

    Frankie C

  8. Any new move needs practice to "make it yours," Frankie. And I know every teacher has their own way of attacking problems. What I would say makes my approach different is that:

    1) I'm not teaching any new moves. My contention is that OTT moves are caused by doing things out of order -- lifting then coiling, rather than coiling first. That's a fairly easy fix.

    2) My method doesn't cost anything. Since it's just a matter of sequence, there's really nothing new to learn. Again, you're just changing the order.

    3) If Dex is any indication, this approach gets some pretty impressive results pretty quickly.

    I'll admit I don't worry too much about plane. I think most people find their correct plane naturally as long as they coil properly. Having watched how well players like Matt Kuchar and Dustin Johnson play -- although their planes are extreme opposites -- I figure that, as long as your plane is consistent, you can learn to play good golf with it.

    But OTT swings never work. That's why I did this series of posts. I'm glad you're enjoying them.