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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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