Over The Top

inar01-jim-mclean-ironsIn golf there is one particular term that is very misunderstood by the average amateur.
“Over the top” can mean something in life that is unbelievably great, or on the other hand, over done. In golf is something a bit different.
In golf terminology, “over the top” refers to the club head or the club shaft coming over the plane. Instead on delivering the club “in the slot” (Refer to THE SLOT SWING book), or “on plane”, the path of the club head or club shaft, or both, are above the plane. Yet this is not really the complete answer.
Can the club head be “over the top”, but the club shaft “on the plane, more even under the plane”? The answer is, YES!  This means that the club head path and the club shaft do not necessarily line up or travel along the same track. Confusing? It sure can be to those that have not studied the golf swing. Let me give you an example:
I have a student who is “steep from the inside”. To me that signifies a shaft the is traveling too vertical or “over” the original plane line established at set up (SEE DEATH MOVES IN THE EIGHT STEP SWING BOOK).
I teach my students that each shaft sits on a different plane!  Your driver will have a lie angle near 45 degrees and your sand wedge up near 64 degrees. So all of your clubs lie differently as you set up to the ball.  Therefore your plane angle is slightly different for each club you hit).  A teaching professional will use this original shaft lie angle to help determine your correct shaft and club head angle in the downswing…where of course, it’s critical. I’ll tell you that you either on plane, under the plane, or on plane. Your either “in the slot” or not. The topic today is “over the top”, so from here on I’ll be referring to “over the top”.
Back to my student. He’s over the plane with the shaft. On the downswing I notice his driver shaft line is too vertical. I measure this on my JC Video software, the shaft plane is much steeper than his original plane line (at set up).  The curious problem is this; I also observe his club head is “below” the original shaft plane line. I now see a club head that is under the plane line and a shaft plane over the plane line.
At this point I’d like you to understand that the club head orbits the body on a path that is hopefully uninterrupted. The club head should whirl around your body in a circular motion but it can be too flat or too steep. The shaft (on the other hand) works on an inclined plane that shifts upward as the lead arm completes the back swing and then lowers on the downswing. Ideally the club head path and the shaft plane would line up in “the downward sweep into impact”. My mythical student failed this test. It’s an unusual case, but it does vividly demonstrate the point of what exactly is “over the top”.
Many amateurs swing both the club head and the shaft over the original set up plane. This is caused mostly by the shoulders or arms initiating the downswing. You often observe a lunge with the back shoulder outward to start the downswing. This directs both the shaft and the club head outward as well. The shaft is steep (too vertical) and the club head path is also too vertical. The result is a swing that is over the slot and will result in a wide array of poor golf shots, usually a slice, shank, or pull. Most often miss hits.
You hear commentators and friends say that the pull shot is “over the top” but here is where I introduce you to another less noticed “over the top” problem. It’s this; the club face turns closed just prior to impact. In this case the shaft and the club head might both be perfectly on plane yet the ball is pulled. Why? It’s because the club face “came over the top” and contacted the outside of the ball. The result is a ball that travels closer to the club face, and not the club path and this is how golfers are fooled. My TrackMan launch monitor will show this on my computer screen. It will post a negative number for club face at impact. The student often thinks that the club head was over the plane and outside/in, when in fact the only thing “over the top” was the club face.
In summary consider shaft plane, club head orbit, and club face alignment at impact when you think about “over the top”. I hope a few commentators read this blog, too.

-Jim McLean

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Over The Top

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