Choppin' Wood?
By Erika Larkin on 7/24/13
When you hit a driver off the tee, try to hit up on the ball.

If you are hitting "down" on the ball (which we should do on iron shots), you might end up having a lower trajectory that you would like — or you can end up with a complete "pop-up" shot. Golfers who hit down with their drivers often look like they are "chopping wood" — and rightfully so! They usually are tee-breakers!!

The symptoms

Here are some things to consider if this sounds like you — or you notice that you are breaking lots of tees when driving:

  1. Check your posture:  Back up, then bend your spine down more. Standing too close (or too tall) to the ball can compromise your angle of attack and cause steepness that we do not want.

  2. Check the width of your stance:  Wider is better to help shallow-out your swing.

  3. Check your ball position:  Forward is better to promote an upward strike on the ball.

  4. Check your spine tilt:  Tilt your spine and head a few degrees behind the ball at address. In other words, feel like you are staring at the back of the ball. If you are leaning towards the target at all, then you are set up to "chop" — so lean back a little and launch the ball on the upswing.

  5. Check your foot alignment:  Avoid an open stance. Instead, stand with your toes square, or even slightly closed, to the target (the trailing foot is positioned back slightly). This promotes a better, flatter swing plane.

  6. Check your tee height:  You might think that you're hitting "underneath" the ball and decide to lower your tee. This is a quick fix to avoid pop-ups, but I would recommend teeing the ball up higher and try to swing "out" for it. Swinging out requires long straight arms through impact and a feeling of reaching down the target line. Avoid breaking your elbows past the ball until your hands are way up near your shoulder height.

The drill

Stand up totally upright and raise your arms and club to chest height. Take some swings like you're swinging a baseball bat. Every few swings, lower your chest a little, but keep that "round" feeling. This should help you get the feeling of swinging "out and up" on the ball instead of down.

Erika Larkin is the Director of Instruction at Larkin Golf Learning Community, at Stonewall Golf Club in Gainesville, Virginia. She was named the 2012 Middle Atlantic PGA "Teacher of the Year" and the 2011 "Top Golf Pro" by Washingtonian Magazine — and she's oobgolf's newest columnist! She writes on a variety of topics including instruction, so if you have a question for her or an idea for a column, e-mail her at Enjoy!

[ comments ]
hughesj says:
Some good points, though there are times when you may want to hit down on the ball. For example, hitting into a strong headwind, though granted you will loose some distance but also attempt to minimize the affect of the wind on the shot.

Mark Crossfield's video demonstrates the general distance performance between hitting down and hitting up on the ball. Definitely a must see.
hughesj says:
The video link:
falcon50driver says:
Put your ear to the ground, your shoulder to the wheel, your nose to the grindstone, your toe in the water, feel it out the sweet smell of success and taste the victory.
jasonfish11 says:
And don't forget. Be the ball.
Matt McGee says:
I just went from a 10.5 degree to a 9.0 degree driver. If nothing else teaches you to swing up at a teed ball, that will.
jeremyheslop says:
I put my change and extra tees in my right pocket. Helped with my spin tilt.
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