Time and again amateur golfers walk off the 18th hole or driving range looking at the ball striking of their irons and see it is out on the toe. While they may think, “this is much better than off the heel” because they don’t want to shank it, they often wonder just how much further they would hit it if they struck the sweet spot instead of out near the toe. So, why do you always hit it off the toe?
There are a number of reasons amateurs hit the toe of the club and end up flipping at impact. The number one reason is they are coming across the ball or over the top at the last minute. The good news is, if you are doing this, your over the top is much later than some of your buddies or playing competitors. If you strike the ball well, but it is out on the toe, you are likely coming across later in your downswing. This means you aren’t immediately coming across with your shoulders at the top of the downswing. So, how can you fix it and hit the sweet spot?
While your swing is likely from the inside there is still plenty of work to do to get the ball closer to the middle of the club face. It is not as easy as simply setting up with the ball closer to the heel. In fact, do not do this. This is going to cause huge problems. The way to get closer to the middle of the clubface is to maintain posture all the way through impact and getting your right side through the ball. That’s the good news. The bad news is that this is extremely difficult. You must have core strength and amazing flexibility to get through the ball without pulling across at impact.
The best drill to get your right side through the ball is to act like you are chipping the ball, make sure your left leg is braced and try to soften your right leg as much as possible. Use your right lower obliques, the back side of them, to get the core turning. You should feel as if your navel is turning towards the target and to the left of the target after impact. Try to do this without using your hands or arms. It can take thousands and thousands of reps of this to program your brain not to use your hands and arms to get the ball to impact.
The reason you are hitting it off the toe is your hands and arms take control right before impact and pull across. You may also want to practice softening your left elbow and allowing your right elbow to lead through impact. Once again, this is extremely difficult, but it will help you get your right side through the ball without trying to use your hips or left side. What most amateurs do not understand is the left side is not used on the downswing. The left side is used to brace on the downswing. Do not think you need to “explode the left hip” to get your right side through the ball. That is pulling with the left side and will lead to many more problems and inconsistencies down the road.
If you hit the ball well, but it is on the toe or outside of the club, you are not that far off. You just need to work on getting through the ball with your right side. Absolutely DO NOT set up with the heel of the club closer to the ball. Also, DO NOT change your setup and stand closer to the ball. This is not going to fix the problem of hitting it off the toe. It will cause many more problems.
Pro Swing Tip – If you are a truly elite golfer and you want to take your game to the next level, we have to get your arms to stay on the target line all the way through impact while your core and body are turning around your braced lower body. The best golfers in the world have very soft arms and especially soft elbows at the top of the backswing. When they get to the top of the backswing, it is mostly with the core and lats; not with the arms at all.
This gives them the opportunity to have very soft arms at the top. They then use the same body they turned back with to start the downswing. The momentum of the body all allows the arms to fall behind and the right shoulder slowly falls behind the right hip. With the arms super soft, pro golfers can then throw their torso at the ball which causes the arms to stay on the target line all the way through impact. Some of the best ball strikers in the world will explain that if feels like their forearms are touching and their body throws their arms to the right of the target and away from the body after impact.
While the arms are being thrown away from the body, the lats keep turning around the lower body which is why professional golfers hold that amazing pose with the club above their head, the right shoulder down the target line and the left leg braced. Being able to do this will take many, many years of training the body. Do not think you can go to the range tomorrow and soften the arms at the top of the backswing and throw them to the right of the target with the torso on the downswing.
When the sequence is perfect, it feels like the right elbow is leading the club into impact and there is a huge recoil right after impact which causes the club to end up above your head. Just after impact, the knuckles should be facing directly at the target. This is when the right side needs to keep traveling and the right lat needs to drive under and around.
Amateurs Coming Over the Top
Some swing coaches like to say that all golfers come over the top at one point or another. The amateurs that are double digit handicappers that hit that 215 yard lazy fade that turns into a slide likely start coming over the top as soon as they start the backswing. If you are an amateur that starts your backswing with your hands or arms you are likely coming over the top very early. The body cannot catch up once the hands or arms take over. This means that as soon as you take the club away with your hands you are already setting up to come over the top by ripping with your shoulders. This is exactly why the harder you swing, the more the ball slices.
A quick fix for those that start with their hands is to set up to the ball and start the backswing with the left side of the body. It can take many reps to get the left side to activate, but once it does, you will realize just how much your hands and arms dictated your swing in the past. If you can keep the club outside the hands going back, you are likely using your body. There are dozens of swing aids to help with the feel of keeping the hands in front of the chest. The most popular is the ball that hangs down from ones neck.
No matter what aid you use, you have to keep your hands and arms directly in front of your chest throughout the entire backswing. Think about keeping the elbows inside the nipples throughout the entire backswing. If you can do this, you will end up hitting the ball much better. You will go through some growing pains but you will be using your core and chest much more which is how speed is generated in the golf swing. Many people are likely thinking, “Why would I want to keep the club in front of my chest?” The more the club gets behind you, the more likely you are going to pull it back towards the ball with your hands, arms or shoulders. We want to get the club back to the ball with our body, not our hands.