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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: [email protected]

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

Why you are probably better at golf than you think (Part 2)

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Golf is very much a monkey-see-monkey-do sport. If you ever go to the local range, you are sure to see golfers trying to copy the moves of their favorite player. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it does not. While I understand the logic of trying to mimic the “secret move” of the most recent winner on tour, I always balk when the person trying to create their best impression fails to realize the physical differences between them and the best golfing athletes in the world.

Read part 1 here. 

In addition to most golfers not being at the same fitness levels as the best players in the world, they also do not have bodies that are identical to their favorite player. This single statement proves why there is not one golf swing; we all are different sizes and are going to swing the club differently due to these physical differences.

You have to understand your swing

The biggest reason I believe that golfers are better than they think is most golfers I meet do not understand what their swings should look like. Armed with video after video of their golf swing, I will always hear about the one thing that the golfer wishes they could change. However, that one thing is generally the “glue” or athleticism of the athlete on display and is also the thing that allows them to make decent contact with the ball.

We are just coming out of the “video age” of golf instruction, and while I think that recording your golf swing can be extremely helpful, I think that it is important to understand what you are looking for in your swing. As a young coach, I fell victim to trying to create “pretty swings”, but quickly learned that there is not a trophy for prettiest swing.

It comes down to form or function, and I choose function

The greatest gift I have ever received as an instructor was the recommendation to investigate Mike Adams and BioSwing Dynamics. Mike, E.A. Tischler, and Terry Rowles have done extensive research both with tour-level players as well as club golfers and have developed a way to test or screen each athlete to determine not only how their golf swing will look, but also how they will use the ground to create their maximum speed. This screen can be completed with a tape measure and takes about five minutes, and I have never seen results like I have since I began measuring.

For example, a golfer with a greater wingspan than height will have a golf swing that tracks more to the outside during the backswing and intersects the body more towards the trail shoulder plane during the backswing. A golfer with a shorter wingspan than height will have a swing that tracks more to the inside and intersects the body closer to the trail hip plane. Also, a golfer with a greater wingspan than height will have a more upright dynamic posture than a golfer with a shorter wingspan than height who will be more “bent over” at the address position.

Sport coats and golf swings

Have you ever bought a sport coat or suit for a special occasion? If so, pay attention to whether it is a short, regular, or long. If you buy a long, then it means that your arms are longer than your torso and you can now understand why you produce a “steeper” backswing. Also, if you stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart and your middle-finger tips touching the top of your kneecaps, you will have perfect dynamic posture that matches your anatomy. If it appears that you are in a taller posture, then you have your second clue that your wingspan is greater than your height.

Translation to improvement

Using this and five other screens, we can help the athletes understand a complete blueprint of their golf swing based off their anatomy. It is due to the work of Mike, E.A., and Terry that we can now matchup the player to their swing and help them play their best. The reason that I believe that most golfers are better than they think is that most golfers have most of the correct puzzle pieces already. By screening each athlete, we can make the one or two adjustments to get the player back to trusting their swing and feeling in control. More importantly, the athlete can revisit their screen sheet when things misfire and focus on what they need to do, instead of what not to do.

We are all different and all have different swings. There is no one way to swing a golf club because there is no one kind of golfer. I encourage every golfer to make their swing because it is the only one that fits.

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How golf should be learned

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With the COVID-19 pandemic, golf is more popular than ever. Beginners being introduced to the game often find that golf is very hard, much harder than other sports they have played. To simplify the golf swing and make the game easier, it needs to start with a concept.

Golf should first be learned from a horizontal position. If the ball was placed four feet above the ground on a large tee, players would naturally turn in an efficient direction with the proper sequence to strike the ball on the tee.

Take for example, a person throwing a ball towards a target. With their eyes out in front of them? having an awareness to the target, their body would naturally turn in a direction to go forward and around towards the target. In golf, we are bent over from the hips, and we are playing from the side of the golf ball, so players tend to tilt their body or over-rotate, causing an inefficient backswing.

This is why the golf swing should be looked at as a throwing motion. The trail arm folds up as the body coils around. To throw a ball further, the motion doesn’t require more body turn or a tilt of the body.

To get the feeling of this horizontal hitting position or throwing motion, start by taking your golf posture. Make sure your trail elbow is bent and tucked with your trail shoulder below your lead shoulder.

From here, simply lift your arms in front of you while you maintain the bend from your hips. Look over your lead shoulder looking at the target. Get the clubhead traveling first and swing your arms around you. Note how your body coils. Return the club back to its original position.

After a few repetitions, simply lower your arms back to the ball position, swing your arms around you like you did from the horizontal position. Allow your shoulders, chest and hips to be slightly pulled around. This is now your “throwing position” in the golf swing. From here, you are ready to make a downswing with less movement needed to make a proper strike.

Note: Another great drill to get the feel for this motion is practicing Hitting driver off your knees.

Twitter: @KKelley_golf

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Why you are probably better at golf than you think (Part 1)

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Golf is hard. I spend my career helping people learn that truth, but golfers are better than they give themselves credit for.

As a golf performance specialist, I give a lot of “first time working together” lessons, and most of them start the same way. I hear about all the ways the golfer is cursed and how s/he is never going to “get it” and how s/he should take up another sport. Granted, the last statement generally applies to an 18-plus handicap player, but I hear lots of negatives from better players as well.

Even though the golfers make convincing arguments for why they are cursed, I know the truth. It’s my job to help them realize the fates aren’t conspiring against them.

All golfers can play well consistently

I know this is a bold statement, but I believe this because I know that “well” does not equate to trophies and personal bests. Playing “well” equates to understanding your margin of error and learning to live within it.

With this said, I have arrived at my first point of proving why golfers are not cursed or bad golfers: They typically do not know what “good” looks like.

What does “good” look like from 150 yards out to a center pin?

Depending on your skill level, the answer can change a lot. I frequently ask golfers this same question when selecting a shot on the golf course during a coaching session and am always surprised at the response. I find that most golfers tend to either have a target that is way too vague or a target that is much too small.

The PGA Tour average proximity to the hole from 150 yards is roughly 30 feet. The reason I mention this statistic is that it gives us a frame of reference. The best players in the world are equivalent to a +4 or better handicap. With that said, a 15-handicap player hitting it to 30 feet from the pin from 150 yards out sounds like a good shot to me.

I always encourage golfers to understand the statistics from the PGA Tour not because that should be our benchmark, but because we need to realize that often our expectations are way out of line with our current skill level. I have found that golfers attempting to hold themselves to unrealistic standards tend to perform worse due to the constant feeling of “failing” they create when they do not hit every fairway and green.

Jim Furyk, while playing a limited PGA Tour schedule, was the most accurate driver of the golf ball during the 2020 season on the PGA Tour hitting 73.96 percent of his fairways (roughly 10/14 per round) and ranked T-136 in Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee. Bryson Dechambeau hit the fairway 58.45 percent (roughly 8/14 per round) of the time and ranked first in Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee.

There are two key takeaways in this comparison

Sometimes the fairway is not the best place to play an approach shot from. Even the best drivers of the golf ball miss fairways.

By using statistics to help athletes gain a better understanding of what “good” looks like, I am able to help them play better golf by being aware that “good” is not always in the middle of the fairway or finishing next to the hole.

Golf is hard. Setting yourself up for failure by having unrealistic expectations is only going to stunt your development as a player. We all know the guy who plays the “tips” or purchases a set of forged blades applying the logic that it will make them better in the long run—how does that story normally end?

Take action

If you are interested in applying some statistics to your golf game, there are a ton of great apps that you can download and use. Also, if you are like me and were unable to pass Math 104 in four attempts and would like to do some reading up on the math behind these statistics, I highly recommend the book by Mark Broadie Every Shot Counts. If you begin to keep statistics and would like how to put them into action and design better strategies for the golf course, then I highly recommend the Decade system designed by Scott Fawcett.

You may not be living up to your expectations on the golf course, but that does not make you a bad or cursed golfer. Human beings are very inconsistent by design, which makes a sport that requires absolute precision exceedingly difficult.

It has been said before: “Golf is not a game of perfect.” It’s time we finally accept that fact and learn to live within our variance.

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