Probably half of all first-tee jitters ever experienced by golfers can be blamed on one dreaded shot—the cold-topped tee ball. Just thinking of it brings winces, especially to players who periodically suffer this fate. This is the time of year when company outings and other command-performance golf events drag an infrequent player onto the tee and into the limelight.
The good news for those who fear the cold-top is that a pre-swing fine-tune can go a long way toward preventing the problem. Steve Cramer, pro at Crofton C.C. in Crofton, Md., traces topping troubles to incorrect posture. The original pose of the body is incorrect, and gets worse instead of better as the golf swing unfolds.
“What I see most as the root cause of topping and thin shots is the chin tucked too far into the chest at address,” explains Cramer. “The likely reason for this is that old keep-your-head-down idea, which tends to cause problems.” As the golfer with his chin tucked toward the chest makes a backswing, relates Cramer, the left shoulder bumps the chin and causes and upward movement of he head. Now the golfer is straightened up and his hand-eye coordination is thrown off. He has to dip back down to set things right and can’t. The club comes through an inch or two due north of the golf ball, and only a slight contact is made.
“Eye contact with the ball is what you basically need,” Cramer says, “not literally having your head pulled down toward the ball.” To banish the topped shot from your repertoire, assume an athletic address position with plenty of space between your chin and your chest.
And if you need a reminder or motivation that this type of adjustment makes a difference, you might study up a bit on the basic science of eye-hand coordination. It’s a kinetic function that we absolutely take for granted—although golf is an activity that puts eye-hand accuracy in the spotlight. Next bucket of balls you spill over, remember that eye–hand coordination places a demand on every element of your central nervous system. That means basic vision, movement of the eye as controlled by ocular muscles, something called proprioception (brain’s awareness of where the hands are) and small-muscle control in the wrists and hands.
Ever used an impact decal when you practice? Those little stickers on the clubface give a world of information about how you’re striking it, and how well your central nervous system and brain are supporting your efforts at ball-striking accuracy.