There are a lot of little things one must do in a golf swing. We all concentrate on the big picture such as, grip, swing plane, posture and alignment. All major considerations for a good balanced swing, but we tend to forget the small stuff. The small stuff however will greatly affect the major stuff and cause miss hit golf shots we tend to blame on the swing. Having your hands ahead of the ball is one of these little steps, which will always cause miss hit balls.
In our learning of a golf swing, we here the term swing plane (the path of the club). If all things are good at address we should hit down on the ball at contact, especially with our irons. This down ward action allows the design of the club face and the grooves to work. In the lower range of club choice this is how we get our back spin.
We must have our hands ahead of the ball at address, to insure proper hand place at impact. The back of the left wrist should lead the club head toward the target through impact. Generally, if you have gripped the club properly, the club face and the back of the left wrist are pointing in the same direction at the start of your swing.
If you have swung properly your club face and wrist will be in the same place as they were at address of the ball. With the irons, you should have your hands farther ahead of the ball than with your woods. With my woods, I like the back of my left hand to line-up with the face of the ball. With the irons, I will have the back of my right hand, line-up with the face of the ball.
The irons are swung on a downward angle of attack, contact being made just above the point where it rests against the ground. Positioning the hands forward at address makes it easier to deliver a correct descending blow. With my wedges, I will have both hands completely ahead of the ball to really come down on it to give me good back spin when attacking the pin.
With my students, I find most common, when they come to me complaining about topping the ball is improper hand placement. When your hands are behind the ball at address the club face is ahead of your hands. At impact this will result with your wrists pointing up and lagging behind the club face. Shot result is a topped ball.
If you make a proper downward swing and the club face is ahead of the ball, the result will be hitting behind the ball.
Don’t automatically blame your swing, if you find this happening to you. Check your hand placement at address.