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Should you tee the ball lower when hitting into the wind?

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If you’ve ever played golf in strong winds, you’ve probably heard someone tell you to “tee it lower when hitting into the wind” with the driver to “cheat” the wind. For as long as I can remember, I said and did the same thing when it was windy regardless of the fairway conditions — but was this actually correct or just an old wives tale?

Thanks to Trackman and swing robots, we can actually test this old postulate and see if teeing it down does indeed help, or rather hinder, your distance production in windy conditions.

Let’s examine a study done by Trackman regarding this fact and see what the data actually shows.

For the experiment, the robot hits shots with a ball speed of 168 mph, which is the speed produced by your average PGA Tour player. The only thing manipulated for this test was the robot’s tee height, everything else being constant. As we know, altering tee height can influence many other things in real life, but it is interesting to see how this changes things within the “lab.”

A normal shot hit with perfect launch conditions gives us the following numbers:

  • 168.0 ball speed
  • 14.0 launch angle
  • 2100 spin rate
  • 294.2 carry
  • 39.4 landing angle
  • 317 total yards (on the average PGA Tour fairway)

Reducing the Tee Height and hitting the ball with perfect launch conditions gives us the following numbers:

  • 168.0 ball speed
  • 7.0 launch angle
  • 2250 spin rate
  • 266.2 carry
  • 26.8 landing angle
  • 300.6 total yards (on the average PGA Tour fairway)

As this shows us, with the lower tee height, you see that the ball has an obvious reduction in carry but will land much flatter than the normal tee height.

Now let’s look at how different wind speeds affect launch conditions from a normal tee height versus a lower tee height.

Screen Shot 2015-07-21 at 10.15.01 AM

Trackman’s testing results: Normal tee height (left) vs. low tee height

Based on the results, if you’re playing in calm conditions, or even 10 mph of wind, you should tee the ball as you normally would. But as the wind speed increases to 20 to 30+ mph, you should experiment with the lower tee height. However, a lower tee height must be used only on hard and fast fairways in order to have any chance to “run” out to the total distance achieved with the normal tee height. If you try to tee the ball lower and hit it flatter into soft fairways, you’ll have an issue achieving normal distances.

NOTE: This study does not factor in impact conditions — more specifically spin loft and smash factor.

Take this study to heart if you consistently make solid contact and have near perfect launch conditions most of the time. But remember, if you adjust tee height and begin to hit the ball all over the face, with different lofts and different angles of attack, your results will differ drastically. As your spin loft increases, compression is lost and the ball will spin more, which can raise your spin rates into the wind. 

Related: What is spin loft?

Producing too much spin in the wind hurts both your overall distance and dispersion. Also, if you impact the ball too high or too low on the face, you will lose ball speed, reducing distance as well.

I encourage you to take the time and experiment on a launch monitor with different tee heights in varying wind conditions. Don’t cost yourself distance and control just because you’re teeing the ball up at an incorrect height for you.

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Tom F. Stickney II is the Director of Instruction and Business Development at Punta Mita, in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico (www.puntamita.com) He is a Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher, and has been honored as a Golf Digest Best Teacher and a Golf Tips Top-25 Instructor. Tom is also a Trackman University Master/Partner, a distinction held by less than 15 people in the world. Punta Mita is a 1500 acre Golf and Beach Resort located just 45 minuted from Puerto Vallarta on a beautiful peninsula surrounded by the Bay of Banderas on three sides. Amenities include two Nicklaus Signature Golf Courses- with 14 holes directly on the water, a Golf Academy, four private Beach Clubs, a Four Seasons Hotel, a St. Regis Hotel, as well as, multiple private Villas and Homesites available. For more information regarding Punta Mita, golf outings, golf schools and private lessons, please email: tom.stickney@puntamita.com

13 Comments

13 Comments

  1. Rob

    Aug 7, 2015 at 6:41 pm

    I high tee might produce better distance into the wind in all conditions, but keep in mind that the wind is never directly head on and the ball never flies exactly straight. High tee = higher launch = more hang time = more time for the ball to be blown into the woods. Lower tee = lower launch angle = less hang time = less time for the wind to blown into the woods. When playing in strong wind choke down and swing smooth to ensure solid contact, keep the ball low and get it rolling as soon as possible.

  2. MHendon

    Aug 6, 2015 at 11:42 am

    Here’s the problem with this test. Perfect contact with a robot ever time. In the real world where all of us play we don’t make perfect contact flighting the ball straight every time. If you curve the ball at all you will see a more drastic effect on both distance and direction with the higher flight. Thats the real reason for teeing the ball lower to try and keep your tee shot in play.

  3. talljohn777

    Aug 5, 2015 at 3:14 pm

    Sorry, but I do not see that conclusion. The driver into the wind chart shows that the normal tee height in all conditions is longer.

  4. Scott

    Aug 5, 2015 at 2:09 pm

    I’m a little confused at the analysis. In every scenario the ball teed higher had longer carry and total distance. The numbers got tighter as the wind got stronger, but still surpassed the lower tee numbers. Wouldn’t this indicate that there’s not much need to tinker?

  5. Cliff

    Aug 5, 2015 at 9:14 am

    Tom – Good info! Any chance you could do a piece on tee shots into the wind with a left or right spin bias. I typically hit a 5-10 yard cut on calm days but into the wind it turns into 15-30 yards depending on the wind speed. Teeing it down helps me keep the ball in play and find more fairways because it doesn’t stay in the air as long.

  6. William

    Aug 4, 2015 at 3:48 pm

    I’ve found that just a small amount lower tee height with a slower swing speed and solid contact keeps the flight lower with just a minimal loss of distance.

  7. jcorbran

    Aug 4, 2015 at 2:12 pm

    teeing it lower and getting a lower launch angle helps keep the ball out of the wind that may be at higher altitudes to begin with.

  8. dapadre

    Aug 4, 2015 at 5:17 am

    Bingo! Thanks for this Tom.

    In Holland most courses have hard wind. Its very common to have 20 mph winds, in fact here when its around 10 mph its not even considered windy so we need to know how to play in the wind.

    My Golf pro said that most amateurs should tee it up at their normal height but should concentrate on SOLID CONTACT ( so you may need to slow it down a notch) with a SHALLOW attack. Teeing it low will cost most amateurs to hit down imparting spin.

    Also you should simply accept the fact that you will get less distance. I have tried this adn its works like a charm. Ok wont get my usual 260/270 avg but 240/250 also works.

  9. Graham

    Aug 4, 2015 at 3:40 am

    Tom, thanks for the article–very informative to get some numbers behind this! Any chance you can you show what the numbers look like for non-tour type ball speeds? I think it’s pretty unlikely that the majority of people reading this article have ball speeds in the high 160s, meaning that assuming a properly fitted driver they also are working with a baseline of more than the depicted 2100rpm (which of course means more vulnerability to the wind already). As John says, it’s also very difficult for a real non-robot person to change tee height without altering AoA, and thus increasing spin rate perhaps more than is illustrated here. If you were to start with a ball speed of around 150 and spin around 3,000rpm, does the math end up working out the same?

  10. john

    Aug 3, 2015 at 9:30 pm

    teeing the ball down increases the chance of a downward angle of attack thus increasing spin, as your graph shows – teeing the ball down will make the ball go shorter into any kind of wind.
    key is to launch the ball lower using a shallow angle of attack to play the shot with the same amount of low spin, any increase in spin will create resistance (and any wind will increase that).

  11. Barack

    Aug 3, 2015 at 8:24 pm

    Interesting, our how about someone who has a slower ball speed (99.5% of golfers)?

    • prime21

      Aug 5, 2015 at 6:40 am

      Then go play the Ladies Tees & the #’s will remain the same from a % standpoint. You all do realize that the man works right? Every study cannot be duplicated for 20 different swing speeds in right & left handed models. However, if you were to part with a few of the bills currently being protected by the benji moths in your pocket, and received a proper club fitting for your driver, your #’s would be similar because your launch/spin/land angle #’s would resemble those given above. How bout a “thank you Tom, this is great information” instead of a whiney reply admitting that you hit it like an infant? Even better, why don’t you pay the man for a lesson & BAM, any #’s you would like to know about will magically be revealed to you. In life, as in golf, you get what you pay for.

      • Double Mocha Man

        Aug 7, 2015 at 11:39 am

        Prime 21… have you been taking “Politically Correct” lessons from Donald Trump?

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Instruction

The Big Shift: How to master pressure and the golf transition using prior sports training

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If you’re an #AverageJoeGolfer, work a day job, and don’t spend countless hours practicing, you might be interested in knowing that sports you played growing up, and even beer league softball skills, can be used to help you play better golf. We’re sure you’ve heard hockey players tend to hit the ball a mile, make the “best golfers”, while pitchers and quarterbacks have solid games, but baseball/softball hitters struggle with consistency. Did you know that a killer tennis backhand might help your golf game if you play from the opposite side? Dancers are way ahead of other athletes making a switch to golf because they understand that centeredness creates power and consistency much more efficiently than shifting all around, unnecessary swaying, or “happy feet.”

Lurking beneath fat shots, worm burners, and occasional shanks, are skillsets and motions you can pull from the old memory bank to apply on the golf course. Yes, you heard us right; your high school letterman jacket can finally be put to good use and help you improve your move. You just need to understand some simple adjustments different sports athletes need to make to be successful golfers.

In golf, shifting from your trailside into your lead side is what we’ll call the TRANSITION. Old School teachers refer to this motion, or shift, as “Foot Work”, New-Fangled-Techno-Jargon-Packed-Instruction uses “Ground Pressure/Force” to refer to the same concept. Don’t worry about the nomenclature; just know, as many GolfWRXers already do, that you must get your weight to your lead side if you want any chance at making solid and consistent contact. TRANSITION might be THE toughest motion in golf to master.

The good news for you is that TRANSITION happens in all other sports but in slightly different ways, depending on the sport. Golfers can more quickly learn TRANSITION, and speed up their swing learning process by understanding how prior sport experience can be applied to the golf swing.

[The basics of a solid golf move are; 1) you should have a SETUP that is centered and balanced, 2) you move your weight/pressure into your trail side during the TAKEAWAY and BACKSWING, 3) TRANSITION moves your weight/pressure back into your lead side, and 4) you FINISH with the club smashing the ball down the fairway. Okay, it’s not quite as easy as I make it sound, but hopefully our discussion today can relieve some stress when it comes time for you to start training your game.]

Baseball/Softball Hitters

Hitting coaches don’t like their hitters playing golf during the season, that’s a fact. The TRANSITIONS are too different, and if they play too much golf, they can lose the ability to hit off-speed pitches because their swing can become too upright. Golf requires an orbital hand path (around an angled plane) with an upright-stacked finish, while hitting requires batters to have a straight-line (more horizontal) hand path and to “stay back or on top of” the ball.

Now we apologize for the lack of intricate knowledge and terminology around hitting a baseball, we only played up through high school. What we know for sure is that guys/gals who have played a lot of ball growing up, and who aren’t pitchers struggle with golf’s TRANSITION. Hitters tend to hang back and do a poor job of transferring weight properly. When they get the timing right, they can make contact, but consistency is a struggle with fat shots and scooping being the biggest issues that come to mind.

So how can you use your star baseball/softball hitting skills with some adjustments for golf? Load, Stride, Swing is what all-good hitters do, in that order. Hitters’ issues revolve around the Stride, when it comes to golf. They just don’t get into their lead sides fast enough. As a golfer, hitters can still take the same approach, with one big adjustment; move more pressure to your lead side during your stride, AND move it sooner. We’ve had plenty of ‘a ha’ moments when we put Hitters on balance boards or have them repeat step drills hundreds of times; “oh, that’s what I need to do”…BINGO…Pound Town, Baby!

Softball/Baseball Pitchers, Quarterbacks, & Kickers

There’s a reason that kickers, pitchers, and quarterbacks are constantly ranked as the top athlete golfers and it’s not because they have a ton of downtime between starts and play a lot of golf. Their ‘day jobs’ throwing/kicking motions have a much greater impact on how they approach sending a golf ball down the fairway. It’s apparent that each of these sports TRAINS and INGRAINS golf’s TRANSITION motion very well. They tend to load properly into their trailside while staying centered (TAKEAWAY/BACKSWING), and they transfer pressure into their lead side, thus creating effortless speed and power. Now there are nuances for how to make adjustments for golf, but the feeling of a pitching or kicking motion is a great training move for golf.

If this was your sport growing up, how can you improve your consistency? Work on staying centered and minimizing “happy feet” because golf is not a sport where you want to move too much or get past your lead side.


Dance

My wife was captain of her high school dance team, has practiced ballet since she was in junior high, and is our resident expert on Ground Pressure forces relating to dance. She has such a firm grasp on these forces that she is able to transfer her prior sports skill to play golf once or twice a year and still hit the ball past me and shoot in the low 100s; what can I say, she has a good coach. More importantly, she understands that staying centered and a proper TRANSITION, just like in Dance, are requirements that create stability, speed, and consistent motions for golf. Christo Garcia is a great example of a Ballerina turned scratch golfer who uses the movement of a plié (below left) to power his Hogan-esque golf move. There is no possible way Misty Copeland would be able to powerfully propel herself into the air without a proper TRANSITION (right).

Being centered is critical to consistently hitting the golf ball. So, in the same way that dancers stay centered and shift their weight/pressure to propel themselves through the air, they can stay on the ground and instead create a golf swing. Dancers tend to struggle with the timing of the hands and arms in the golf swing. We train them a little differently by training their timing just like a dance routine; 1 and 2 and 3 and…. Dancers learn small motions independently and stack each micro-movement on top of one another, with proper timing, to create a dance move (golf swing) more like musicians learn, but that article is for another time.

Hockey

Hockey is a great example of the golf TRANSITION because it mimics golf’s motions almost perfectly. Even a subtlety like the direction in which the feet apply pressure is the same in Hockey as in Golf, but that’s getting in the weeds a bit. Hockey players load up on their trailside, and then perform the TRANSITION well; they shift into their lead sides and then rotate into the puck with the puck getting in the way of the stick…this is the golf swing, just on skates and ice…my ankles hurt just writing that.

If you played hockey growing up, you have the skillsets for a proper golf TRANSITION, and you’ll improve much faster if you spend your time training a full FINISH which involves staying centered and balanced.

Now we didn’t get into nuances of each and every sport, but we tried to cover most popular athletic motions we thought you might have experience in in the following table. The key for your Big Shift, is using what you’ve already learned in other sports and understanding how you might need to change existing and known motions to adapt them to golf. If you played another sport, and are struggling, it doesn’t mean you need to give up golf because your motion is flawed…you just need to know how to train aspects of your golf move a little differently than someone who comes from a different sport might.

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Clement: Effortless power for senior golfers

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Are you struggling with range of motion? Want more EFFORTLESS POWER? We are truly the experts at this having taught these methods for 25 plus years, while others were teaching resistance, breaking everyone’s backs and screwing up their minds with endless positions to hit and defects to fix. Welcome home to Wisdom in Golf!

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Clement: How to turbo charge your swing

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The shift in golf instruction continues and Wisdom in Golf and GolfWRX are right out there blazing a trail of fantastic content and techniques to get you to feel the most blissful, rhythmic golf shots you can strike! This here is the humdinger that keeps on giving and is now used by a plethora of tour players who are benefitting greatly and moving up the world rankings because of it.

The new trend (ours is about 25 years young) is the antithesis of the “be careful, don’t move too much, don’t make a mistake” approach we have endured for the last 30 years plus. Time to break free of the shackles that hold you back and experience the greatness that is already right there inside that gorgeous human machine you have that is so far from being defective! Enjoy!

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