How to Stop Skying Your Driver

Spending too much time looking up at the sky after hitting driver? You might need help avoiding pop-ups.
DAJ/Getty Images

Are you having trouble with driver pop-ups, also known as skyballs? No golfer wants to sky his driver — it's embarrassing. The golfers you're playing with might yell out something about making it rain. You might even scuff up the top of your driver, or even, if it's a particularly bad mishit, dent the crown of your driver. Not to mention the fact that your golf ball will still be very close to the tee — many skied drives go almost as high as they go far.

So, if you're skying your driver shots, how do you stop? We'll go a little more in-depth here.

What Is a Skyball?

A skyball is a golf shot played off a tee in which the ball pops up high into the air and travels only a short distance forward because contact happened at the very top of the clubface or even off the crown. Hence, it is also commonly called a pop-up, or referred to as "skying" the ball.

What Causes a Driver Pop-Up?

The base cause is always this: The golf club gets under the ball at impact. In other words, the golfer swings the club into impact in such a way that the clubhead slides under the ball, rather than contacting the ball around the center of the clubface as is desired.

OK, But What Makes a Golfer Swing the Club Under the Ball?

There are several possible causes. The grip is rarely an issue with golfers who are skying the ball. But it's possible that ball position is.

Remember with your driver setup that the golf ball is forward in your stance. For a right-hander, the ball position with driver should be level with your left (front) heel or instep.

If the ball is too far back in your stance with driver, that can be a cause of the dreaded pop-up.

You also need to make sure your stance is not too narrow, and that your front shoulder and hip are higher than your rear shoulder and hip. When hitting driver, you want your head to stay behind the ball at impact, and this setup — your spine tilted away from the target — helps you do that.

To Stop Skying Driver, Remember: Sweep, Not Steep

With irons, you want the clubhead to still be descending when it contacts the ball. That's where the phrase "hit down on the ball" comes from. But with the driver (or other wood or hybrid shot with a teed ball), you want to sweep the clubhead into impact. In fact, the driver should be slightly on the upswing when it contacts the teed ball.

Keeping the ball forward in your stance, using a wider stance with with your spine tilted away from the target: these things help you achieve a sweeping approach to the ball.

Because if you are hitting lots of skyballs, you are too steep with your driver swing. You don't want your swing to feel up-and-down with the driver, but around: a wider, fuller arc. Skyballs can happen when your swing is "too much up and not enough around," as instructor Roger Gunn put it.

On the downswing, Gunn wrote, "It should feel like the clubhead is swinging more level to the ground and not so much up and down."

Sweep into impact with the driver; don't drop the driver head down steeply into impact.

Is There a Swing Drill That Will Help Me Stop Skying My Driver?

Yes: You need to get the feeling of staying back, of keeping your head behind the ball at impact on drives. The following drill is recommended by Gary McCord in his book Golf for Dummies.

McCord suggests finding an upslope and setting up so that your front foot is a little higher than your back foot. Tee the ball and hit drivers off that upslope. The uphill lie, McCord writes, promotes the feeling of staying behind the ball at impact on drives. That prevents your body from moving ahead of the ball before impact, which causes the driver to come into impact too steeply. Remember: Sweep, not steep, with your driver to avoid pop-ups.

What About Tee Height?

Teeing the ball too high or too low can also cause driver pop-ups. With a 460cc driver, you want to tee the ball so that at least half the golf ball is above the crown of your driver when the club is soled next to the teed ball. (Some golfers prefer the entire ball above the crown, but if you're already skying the ball start at just half the ball above the crown.)