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Tips to Stop Topping and Chunking Golf Shots
There are few guarantees in the world, but this is certainly one of them: at some point, you’ve either topped or chunked your shot. More than likely, you’ve done one of each — plenty of times.
That’s a part of the challenging aspects of golf. Ball striking is difficult and by far the most difficult skill to master, which leads to extra strokes and higher scores out on the golf course.
Even the low-handicap golfer is going to occasionally catch a shot a little chunky from time to time, so don’t feel too bad. If the game was easy, everybody would be out there crushing the course! But worry no more because there are answers out there if you’re willing to look for them.
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Hitting consistently flush golf shots takes lots of practice and mastering techniques, but it can be done by everybody, at least to a level where you don’t have to worry about topping or chunking the shot at every address of the ball.
Here are some tips to stop topping and chunking golf shots. Soak it up!
What Does it Mean to “Top” the Shot?
Just to make sure everybody is on the same page, defining what it means to “top” a shot is a good place to start. When the ball comes to rest on the ground, it naturally sits on top of the ground with part of the ball touching the surface and the top portion well off the ground. When you top a golf shot, it simply means that the clubface came into contact with the top half of the ball that sits above the ground. Ideally, the is supposed to come back to the ball and compress down toward the bottom half of the ball. It then rolls up the grooves in the clubs and explodes outward with a nice loft and fairly soft landing depending on the degree of the club you’re using.
When you top the golf ball, the clubhead is not making flush contact with the ball on the face to compress it, but rather the leading edge of the club (think the bottom edge) is rising before impact and hitting the ball top half. This results in the ball flying very low to no loft at all and generally losing lots of distance and control on the shot. Topping a shot is extremely frustrating and can rear its ugly head for several reasons, which will be discussed in a moment.
What Does it Mean to “Chunk” the Shot?
Just as defining a topped shot, it’s important to understand what it means to “chunk” a golf shot before providing tips on how to prevent it from happening. Essentially, this is the opposite problem of topping the ball. The clubface comes back down toward the ball, but hits the ground first before contacting the ball. This results in a large divot coming up from the ground behind the ball and a short to an extremely short shot becomes the club’s speed was greatly reduced after contacting the ground. Typically, the ball can loft high in the air or take a low-flight path depending on how early and how much of the ground the club head hit before contact with the ball itself. Hitting a shot chunky or fat is equally frustrating for a player, but can often be more easily corrected than topping the ball.
How to Stop Topping Shots
Topping the ball is a common issue that most beginners and low-experience golfers experience on a routine basis. There are several factors that can potentially come into play, so it’s important to first identify what is causing the topped shots in the first place. Here are some typical reasons you might be topping the ball and tips to correct the issue.
The biggest reason golfers routinely top the ball out on the golf course is due to poor posture, either from the initial setup or losing the correct posture somewhere in the swing. Players who have weak or stiff muscles in the back and hamstrings, butt or hips struggle to maintain their address posture when swinging the club. Workout to strengthen those muscles or focus on not coming up out of your posture on the downswing to keep from topping the ball.
This is an easy fix if you’re topping the ball because of it. Your swing plane should be consistent, but if the ball is too far forward in your stance, the club is coming up just before impact, so move the ball back in your stance. Usually, for iron shots, the ball should be midway between each foot down the center of your body.
This is a frequent problem for amateur players because it’s tempting to want to see where your shot ends up. But it’s counterintuitive. Your desire to see the shot from the start is what’s leading to errant shots in the first place. You need to keep your eyes on the ball all the way through contact. It can help to focus on the front of the ball at address to get your mind locked in on staying down through contact and avoiding hitting the top of the ball. You can’t hit what you can’t see.
In an ideal swing, your weight should begin neutral at address, shift to your back foot on the backswing then shift all the way through to your front foot on the downswing until contact. When you top the ball, you’re “reverse pivoting,” which just means you’re doing the exact opposite of what you should. Your weight is on your front foot on the backswing and transferring to the back foot on the downswing. Your body is moving away from the ball and heightening the arc of your downswing so that the clubface is too high at impact.
The final tip is certainly achievable because you completely control it without any contributing pieces — how hard you swing. Remember, it’s about increasing swing speed (through fluidity), not increasing how hard you swing. Trying to crush the ball only leads to a breakdown in your fundamentals and results in errant contact and shots. Overswinging causes you to lift out of your posture and throws the swing plane all out of whack, so the leading edge hits the ball first and not the clubface.
How to Stop Chunking Shots
Hitting fat shots is a problem that can plague a beginner or experienced golfer equally because it’s frankly not hard to do. There are so many moving elements in a swing and a lone mistake ripples throughout the rest of the process. Keep these basics in mind:
- A flat left wrist
- Weight on your left side
- Forward shaft lean
- Head behind the ball
- Extended right leg
With a little practice on the range and following these following tips, you’ll cut down on those chunky shots and see your scoring average improve
Sense a theme here? Proper shifting of weight goes a long way in a strong golf swing. However, the issues in this process are different than when you top a shot. Instead of a reverse pivot, a chunky shot results from a player shifting their weight to the back foot on the backswing and leaving it there or transitioning it to the front foot too slowly. This shallows out the arc of the swing, causing the clubhead to hit the ground before the ball. Focus on engaging your hips and shifting the weight to the front foot at impact.
In the reverse of a top, the ball is likely too far back in your stance at address, shallowing out the swing plane and leading to the clubhead striking ground before the ball. Again, keep the ball in the middle of your stance down the center of your body on your iron shots. If the ball is forward in your stance, and your weight is not shifted, this will also cause a chunky shot, so be mindful of both in unison.
Much of your power comes from the coiling of the upper body and uncoiling to release that stored energy on the downswing and through impact. If your ball position is solid and the weight transfer is sound, but there is still a fat shot, then it’s likely your chest remains turned in away from the target. This forces the hands to pick up the slack, trying to square the face for impact, but instead, you just stick the clubhead into the ground. An active body leads to passive hands, so keep the body unwinding through impact to maintain lag and compress the ball.
This can be the most difficult aspect of a swing to correct because of poor habits becoming muscle memory. A sound swing plane greatly increases the consistency in your ball striking, so it should be a focus. When hitting fat shots, the clubhead approaches the ball too far inside — making it under plane. The backswing takes the arms and clubhead too far to the inside, tending to create shallow arcs and chunky contact.
Using an alignment rod is the best way to cure swing plane issues as it gives you a straight-line visual of where your club is going both back and down to impact. The longer your swing goes, the harder it is to maintain a proper plane. So don’t be afraid to shorten your swing to find consistent contact. It’s better than chunking the ball because you’ll still hit it farther, straighter and remain in the short grass!
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