It’s possible to hit your drives too high, even when you make solid contact. Obviously, excess height will decrease how far the ball rolls, and it can hurt your carry distance, too.
Hitting the ball extra high with the driver is generally a sign of too much backspin. This can often be chalked up to your equipment, other times to your swing, and sometimes traced to a simple flaw in your setup.
Review the following causes and cures if you struggle with super-high tee shots:
Avoiding the Nasty Pop Up with Your Driver
Most of the problems you encounter in your golf game are problems simply because they will affect your score at the end of the day. The goal is to shoot the lowest possible score, and hitting poor shots is obviously a hurdle in the way of accomplishing that goal. However, some poor shots are not only damaging to your score, but your ego as well.
This is true of a popped up driver shot off the tee. More than any other shot on the golf course, other people are generally watching when you hit a tee shot. Your whole group is gathered around the tee taking turns, and there might even be some other people on the course within sight of the hole you are playing. To hit a golf driver pop up under these circumstances can be highly embarrassing. Not only will you be stuck with a shot that only traveled a short distance off the tee, but you will also have to deal with the embarrassment of hitting such a poor shot in front of a group of people. When you think about having fun on the golf course, this probably isn’t what you had in mind.
While it might not be of much comfort, you certainly aren’t alone in this problem. Plenty of golfers have asked the question of ‘why am I ballooning my golf driver’, and what do I need to do to stop it. Hitting your golf driver too high trajectory is also troublesome because most courses don’t start mowing the fairway for a hundred yards or so off the tee. That means a golf ball flight too high with driver will probably fall short of the fairway cut and force you to play the next shot from a poor lie in the rough. Golf is hard enough even when you are hitting good tee shots – but hitting the golf driver pop up from time to time makes it nearly impossible to score well.
If you are fighting a golf driver too high trajectory, there is hope. By fixing a couple of relatively basic fundamentals within your swing, you can eliminate this problem and move on to other parts of your game that need attention. In fact, you will be amazed at how once this issue is taken care of, you won’t even worry about ‘ballooning my golf driver’ ever again. With the faulty mechanical element taken out of your swing, the golf driver too high trajectory simply isn’t a shot that you will be able to hit. And that is a good thing indeed.
Be sure to note that all of the instruction found below is based on a right handed golfer. For those of you who play left handed on the golf course, please reverse the instructions so that they apply to your swing correctly.
It’s All About the Angle
In golf, the angle of attack that you use to come into the golf ball is a big deal. It is something that many players don’t ever talk about – or even think about – but it has a lot to do with the kind of shots that you are able to hit. Think of the angle of attack as the slope that your club is moving along as it comes into the impact position. A downward angle of attack would mean that the club is getting closer to the ground as it gets closer to the ball, while an upward angle of attack means that the club is getting higher off the ground as it moves through impact. This is a pretty simple concept, but it can have major consequences on your game.
With your irons, you want to have a downward angle of attack into the ball. This is what allows you to take a nice divot after contact and impart backspin onto the shot. While you don’t want to get too steep to where you are taking a huge chunk out of the turf, you do want to ensure that you are hitting down aggressively through the ball. Hitting up on your iron shots is a recipe for thin shots, topped shots, shanks, and more. Basically, nothing good is going to result if you are hitting up on your iron shots.
With that said, the story is pretty much reversed when it comes to hitting the driver. You don’t necessarily need to hit up on the driver, but you definitely don’t want to hit down. In fact, the ideal angle of attack for a driver swing is probably one that is moving as close to parallel to the ground as possible. You want to be sweeping the ball off the tee as the club moves through impact just over top of the ground. Obviously you don’t want to take a divot when hitting a driver, so swinging on a downward angle of attack isn’t going to work. If you are hitting golf driver too high on a regular basis, there is a good chance that you are swinging down into the ball.
In golf swings that are using a downward angle while hitting a driver, two outcomes are likely, and neither of them are positive –
If you are hitting your golf ball flight too high with driver, there is basically no doubt that you are hitting downward on the ball through impact. Understanding that fact is the first step toward getting it fixed. Now that you know why you don’t want to be hitting down on your driver off the tee, it is time to get to work on making the necessary changes in your swing.
Control Your Center of Gravity
The following tip is an easy way to think about your golf swing – wherever your center of gravity is, that is where the bottom of your swing will be. Just by understanding this simple point, you can quickly and dramatically improve your game. Knowing where the bottom of your swing is going to be for any club that you hit is information that will help you to make the right kind of contact based on the desired ball flight.
When you know where the bottom of your swing will be, you can then work on positioning your body properly in relationship to the ball at impact. For example, if you are hitting an iron shot, you want to place your center of gravity just in front of the ball at impact so that the club will still be moving downward when it contacts the ball. This allows you to hit the ball just a fraction of a second before the club bottoms out, takes a divot from the grass, and starts to move back up again. Placing the ball near the middle of your stance is the best way to achieve this successfully because your natural body rotation (along with good balance) should place your center of gravity right where it needs to be - which is just a couple of inches in front of the ball.
Getting back to the topic at hand, this information is also highly useful when it comes to hitting the driver. As discussed above, you want to make contact with your driver when the club is moving parallel to the ground – or as close to that point as is possible. Therefore, you want to find your center of gravity just barely behind the ball at impact. This will give the club a chance to reach the bottom of it's arc and just slightly start to move back up when it hits the ball. Creating this launch position is ideal, and will give you the best chance at both accuracy and distance.
So do you need to change your swing dramatically from irons to driver in order to alter the way your center of gravity moves? Of course not. The change that is most important here is ball position. Where your iron shots should be played with the ball near the middle of your stance, a driver hit off the tee should be positioned up near your front foot. You want to find your center of gravity in roughly the same spot for every swing that you make – this promotes consistency and good timing. By altering the ball position in your stance, you can change where your center of gravity is relative to the impact position.
All of that adds up to the point that you need to check your ball position if you are struggling with hitting golf driver too high. Many amateur players make the mistake of placing the ball too far back in their stance, similar to where they play their irons from. Doing so creates a downward angle of attack in your swing – even if the rest of your swing mechanics are just fine. Check on ball position as one of the first points to correct popped up drives before moving on.
One more note regarding center of gravity – it should move as little as possible during the swing. Ideally, you would like to keep it mostly in place and just rotate around that point during your swing. It will naturally move forward toward the target a little bit during the downswing, but there should not be a significant ‘slide’ to the right or left at any point during your swing. Good balance in the golf swing means plenty of rotation and minimal side to side movement. Not only will this point help you avoid the dreaded pop up off the tee, it will also help make you a better player overall.
Turn, Don’t Lift
As with many other swing faults in the game of golf, the problems that lead to a popped up tee shot can actually occur within the first few inches of the swing. Your takeaway has a lot to do with the eventual success or failure of your swing, so pay careful attention to how you move the club back away from the ball as your swing begins. If you go wrong at this point, there won’t be much you can do later in the swing to fix the problem.
One of the common mistakes that can be seen in the takeaway of players who struggle with the pop up is lifting the club too quickly up into the air. Rather than making a good turn away from the ball using the torso and shoulders, these golfers use their hands and wrists to start the motion of the club – and often, that motion is more vertical than it is horizontal. This leads to a backswing that is far too steep and high above the head, making it difficult to hit a quality shot.
It all comes back to the angle of attack highlighted earlier. If you swing the club high up into the air right from the takeaway, you are creating an angle that is higher than it should be. To even make contact with the ball, you will have to swing down rather steeply into the shot. However, this steep angle opens you up to the possibility of popping the drive up into the air – or at best hitting a weak and high drive that doesn’t fly very far down the fairway. The driver is a club that is meant to be swung ‘around’ your body, not up and down like a wedge.
If you are fighting this kind of faulty takeaway in your swing, try the following basic drill. On the driving range, set up with your driver like you are going to hit a regular shot off the tee. Only this time, instead of putting the ball on the tee, place the ball on the ground behind the head of your driver. As you start your swing, try to use the head of your driver to roll the ball back away from the tee. This will force you to keep the driver low to the ground for the first few inches of the swing. If you lift up with your hands and wrists, the driver head will go right over the ball and it will be left in place.
Don’t hit any actual shots with this drill – you are simply working on the mechanics of your takeaway. After a few successful repetitions of rolling the ball gently back away from the tee, go ahead and place the ball up on the tee and hit a few drives. Try to replicate the feeling that you had in the takeaway when you were doing the drill as you hit these shots. Hopefully, this simple drill will correct your faulty takeaway and lead to a flatter, shallower swing with your driver.
The driver is the biggest club in your bag, so you want to use the big muscles to swing it as much as possible. That means taking your hands and wrists out of the equation for the most part, and making a turn with your torso and shoulders to set the club in motion. By using your big muscles to move the club, you are going to develop the potential for more power, as well as become more consistent with your ball striking. These changes might take some time to become natural in your swing, but they are necessary if you would like to not only eliminate the pop up, but generally become a better overall player.
A Note About Tee Height
The first reaction that many golfers have when they hit a pop up drive is that they must have teed the ball up too high. After all, if the club went under the ball to make it go straight up into the air, the tee height must have been the problem, right? While it isn’t that simple (as you have learned above), tee height can be a problem that contributes to pop up drives.
There is a simple rule of thumb that can be used to get the ball on the tee at just the right height time after time. As you place the tee in the ground, try to position the ball so that the middle of the ball is aligned with the crown of your driver at address. In other words, when you set the club head on the ground behind the ball while taking your stance, half of the ball should be sitting higher than the top of your club. For some amateur golfers who are used to teeing the ball up too low, this can look a little scary at first – however, it is the ideal tee height position for a driver.
Why do you want the ball at this height? Putting half of the golf ball above your driver at address allows for you to make that slightly-upward swing that we discussed earlier and still find the sweet spot at impact. If you were to tee the ball up much lower than this, any kind of upward movement in your swing through impact would cause you to hit the ball low on the club face and miss the sweet spot. In order to maximize distance, as well as the control you have over the ball, you need to be getting as close to the sweet spot as possible. And that means placing the ball on the tee so that half of it is above the crown of the club.
Getting the right tee height is the last step in avoiding popped up drives, so commit to doing this part right even if it makes you a little nervous at first. If you were to keep your ball lower on the tee, you would only be encouraging that downward swing that you need to eliminate from your game when it comes to the driver. To make the adjustment from a low tee height to this new position, try to gradually make the change just a fraction of an inch at a time. Slowly tee the ball up higher and higher until you reach the optimal point and are comfortable using it on the course. There will be an adjustment period, but trust the changes you are making and see them through to the end.
There is no doubt that hitting a pop up drive on the golf course can be embarrassing – and certainly damaging to your scorecard. However, there is no reason that you can’t eliminate this shot from your game by working on the tips included above until you have solved the problems that are creating this shot in the first place. As a nice bonus, the things that you need to work on to get rid of the pop up will also make for solid improvements to your swing and your game as a whole. Things like the angle of attack in your downswing, your center of gravity, and even your tee height might all seem minor on their own, but they can have a big impact when they all come together properly.