Golf Swing Tip: Vanquish Your Over the Top Swing by Copying Bubba Watson’s Elastic Left (Right) Shoulder

By | February 16, 2020

Symptom:  Over the top downswings that results in slices, shanks, and other erratic shots, especially with longer irons and woods.  Your over the top swing looks ugly and produces ugly slices.

For sure, nobody ever says, “Wow, how did you hit it so far with such a slow, easy swing?”  You wonder how anybody does…

Overview:  Think of your left shoulder as being elastic, so that it stretches at the start of the downswing but does not immediately pull the club down as you start driving toward the ball.

Why it works:  By keeping your left shoulder elastic as you start your downswing, your body will naturally bring the club through on an inside path to hit the ball.

Lower Body Leads

Bubba Watson Start of Downswing elastic left shoulder prevent over the top

Bubba Watson starts his downswing but keeps the clubhead where it was at the top of the backswing.

We have all heard that power and consistency in the golf swing swing comes from the lower body and hips.  Some of us have been annoyed by this, thinking, “OK, that’s great, but how do you deliver the power from your lower body and hips, through your torso and your arms, consistently, to the ball?”

Well, one thing is for sure:  You must resist the urge to hit at the ball with your shoulders and arms from the top of the backswing (hitting from the top, or the over the top swing, or casting).  Rather, you must let your lower body initiate the downswing, with your hands and arms going along for the ride as the downswing begins. A very effective way to visualize this is to think of your left shoulder as a piece of elastic.  In other words, as you start your downswing, you should feel your left shoulder stretch like elastic, storing energy for later in the downswing.

To see this concept in action, let’s have a look at Bubba Watson.  (Full disclosure here — I don’t like much about his swing except his downswing transition — which is excellent and one of the keys to his tremendous distance).  But hey, I don’t have two Green Jackets, and he does.  Anyway, have a look, especially between (0:15 and 0:16).

Elastic Left Shoulder Cures the Over the Top Blues

If you manually toggle the video between (0:15) and (0:16) you can see the Elastic Left Shoulder (well, right shoulder, since Bubba is a lefty) in action.  Please focus on the clubhead between (0:15) and (0:16) — it’s above the guy with the white hat — and it is still in the same place!  This, despite the fact that he has started driving with his legs on the downswing. Actually the clubhead has moved between (0:15) and (0:16), lengthening his backswing and then starting his downswing.  But the point is that it hasn’t gotten any closer to hitting the ball for an entire (slo-mo) second as he starts his downswing.

Putting it All Together

The “elastic left shoulder swing thought” accomplishes at least three very important things:

  • You will keep the clubhead back behind you longer (like Bubba did between 0:15 and 0:16), which allows you to avoid casting or throwing or coming over the top, which will cause a weak slice.
  • Since you won’t be casting the club, you will keep your balance more easily.  This will help you keep your head still during the downswing.
  • Your swing will slow down at the top during the backswing-to-downswing transition, and therefore it will look more graceful and natural.  But you will generate more clubhead speed and consistency at impact, which will give you more power.  This is what people ooh and ahh about, and makes them wonder how you can hit it so far with such an easy-looking swing.

You will also find that it helps to grip the club as lightly as possible to avoid tension in your left shoulder.  And please do not fixate on keeping your left elbow straight either, as this too can introduce tension that is not productive.

The “elastic left shoulder swing thought” is positive, simple, and non-technical enough to remember and apply on the golf course, during your round.  Combine this thought with a “throw the stick with my right arm” thought and you’ve got both arms covered.  You will be on your way to a consistent, repeatable swing that you can trust on the golf course.  Give it a try next time you practice or play.  I’ll bet you see immediate positive results!

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