Undoubtedly, the most embarrassing tee shot in golf is the drive that pops straight up, barely clearing the tee box. The pop-up is an agonizing mis-hit most often caused by an excessive forward weight shift on the downswing and a club that approaches the ball on a very steep angle of attack. The steep descent de-lofts the clubface to such a degree that the topline of the club effectively becomes the leading edge. The result? Not only a humiliating pop-up, but one of the most hated marks in golf: a scuff on the crown of the clubhead. Yuck.
Eliminating the pop-up can be as simple as finetuning your setup. The key is to make sure your address position encourages a longer and bigger backswing arc, which will automatically shallow out your swing plane and reduce the steepness of your downswing. You’ll also find that the correct setup facilitates a solid backswing weight shift. In addition to the plane errors discussed above, a poor weight shift to the right side during the backswing can increase the likelihood of a pop-up.
The simplest adjustment you can make to your setup to keep the pop-up at bay is to open wide. A wide stance is needed because in order to create a bigger backswing arc, there must be room for it.
Try the following drill. Make abbreviated swings with your feet placed wider than shoulder width. Each swing should move from 2:00 to 8:00 (as if a large clock sits behind you). Concentrate on maintaining a higher position at the top of your swing (hands at 2:00) and a lower position at the finish (hands at 8:00). This will train your body to make a fuller backswing and shift your weight to your back foot on the backswing and to your forward foot on the downswing, instead of the other way around.
PGA professional Dean Hedstrom has taught the game of golf for over 30 years.