I would say coming over the top is one of the most common problems among mid to high handicap golfers and it might be the most misunderstood problem.
Every time a ball goes left does not mean you came over the top. If you hit a pull slice, it doesn’t mean you came over the top. You can hit those shots by hanging back on your right side (left side for left handed golfer), holding the release too long and “raking the hands” across the ball, etc. None of those things are over the top.
Over the top refers to when your hands go back on one plane (usually one too far to the inside) and come “over the top” of that plane onto a “more outside” plane.
Everyone worries about this and it is bad, but in my opinion the fix many people use either ends up making them come more over the top…or worse, gets them rerouting their hands underneath the plane.
When people come over the top, they either self diagnose, have a know it all friend diagnose, or a teaching pro who should have his credentials revoked tell them to swing more inside out.
95% of the time, and that is a low estimate, coming over the top is a result of taking the club back too far to the inside with the arms. Then the club is in a position where you can’t hit the ball and you are forced to come over the top in order in order to not whiff or shank the ball.
That being the case, trying to swing more inside out just makes the problem worse.
In my 25 years of studying the golf swing, I have only seen a handful of players take the club straight back with their shoulders and come over the top. Every one of them played a nice controlled fade and all of them were good to great players.
If you come over the top, here is what you need to do. Spend 50 cents on a thin dowel rod at the hardware store. Make sure it is straight and not bowed. When you hit balls, point the dowel rod at the target and put the ball far enough away from dowel rod so you won’t be worried about hitting it.
Now here comes the good part. Use your shoulders to take the club away and try to keep the club head along the same line as that dowel rod for as long as possible.
Two important factors. One, do not watch the club as it goes back, the dowel rod is only there for a visual perspective. If you watch the club go back, that will become a habit. Two, don’t use your arms and hands to push the club out to the dowel rod.
The dowel rod is not a guide to move your club along, it is just an object to give you some visual perspective on where straight back is.
The object of this drill is to use your shoulders more and arms less. If any of this is confusing, I am going to put up a video and refer back to this post.