Tip from the Pros: The Sky Ball!


I can’t tell you the number of golfers that have sheepishly and, full of shame, shown me the ‘idiot mark’ on top of their driver. Doh! All of us have had this happen at one time or another. The dreaded pop-up has frayed all of our nerves at some point and time. Let’s “pop” in and take a look at some potential causes of this disastrous shot.

In general, a popped-up drive can be caused by a couple of things.

  1. Creating too steep of an angle into the golf ball.
    • The golf club is moving in an outward direction, relative to the swing plane, during the downswing. This could be from the popular over-the-top move. The steepness in the golf swing causes the golf club to move vertically down and through the golf ball. Visually, this would look like you are chopping down on the golf ball. The golf ball, in response, shoots straight up into the air. This distinct move in the golf swing can get so severe that golfers have managed to dent the top of their club. Sorry, dents aren’t covered under the club warranty!
  2. Teeing the ball up too high.
    • Teeing the ball up higher than normal began a few years ago.  Golf club manufacturers wanted us to hit the ball higher up on the face of the golf club.  Technology is quickly evolving and that is no longer the case.
  3. The rarest cause, but one that is possible, is having too shallow of a swing path.
    • The golf club comes from the inside and low to the ball.  Creating this flat of an angle may cause the ball to go over the top of the clubhead.  If you have this problem, you may also experience the dreaded shank and dead right.

Now that we know what causes a pop-up, let’s fix it! Here are some quick tips to combat your steep swing:

  • Tee the ball lower. This is a short term cure, but it will stop you from damaging your club.
  • Try a baseball swing. This sounds funny but it should help your swing path. Take some full swings, swinging approximately six inches over the ball (meaning you should miss it on purpose).  This drill will help flatten the swing path.
  • Swing like Zach Johnson.  What??  YES, he is a Masters champion! His success is based on the fact that his left arm never goes below his right arm through impact.  To make sense of this, hold your lead arm (closest to the target) straight out from you in a horizontal manner.  Put your trail arm at about a 45 degree angle to the ground.  If you can get closer to this position at impact, the club will stay flatter.

I hope this helps cure the occasional pop-up and keeps the tops of your clubs free of scratches or marks! Here’s to hitting more fairways!

Todd Benware

Todd Benware has been a Class “A” member of the PGA of America since 1996. He is a two-time All-American at Ohio Wesleyan University, and a 1996 Ohio Wesleyan Sports Hall of Fame Inductee. Todd is a talented golf instructor, giving over 10,000 golf lessons since turning professional in 1991. His understanding and knowledge of the golf swing allows him to identify the cause of a student’s problem and create a solution. He has experience using both TrackMan and FlightScope golf ball tracking systems, and is a recognized professional club fitter by Ping, Mizuno, and Titleist.