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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 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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Walters: Try this practice hack for better bunker shots

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Your ability to hit better bunker shots is dramatically reduced if you have no facility to practice these shots. With so few facilities (especially in the UK) having a practice bunker it’s no wonder I see so many golfers struggle with this skill.

Yet the biggest issue they all seem to have is the inability to get the club to enter the sand (hit the ground) in a consistent spot. So here is a hack to use at the range to improve your bunker shots.

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Golf Blueprint: A plan for productive practice sessions

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Practice range at the Dormie Club. Photo credit: Scott Arden

Stop me if you’ve heard this one.

You’ve gotten lessons.  Several of them.  You’ve been custom fitted for everything in your bag.  You even bought another half a dozen driver shafts last year looking for an extra couple of yards.  And yet, you’re still…stuck.  Either your handicap hasn’t moved at all in years or you keep bouncing back and forth between the same two numbers.  You’ve had all the swing fixes and all the technological advances you could realistically hope to achieve, yet no appreciable result has been achieved in lowering your score.  What gives?

Sample Golf Blueprint practice plan for a client.

One could argue that no one scientifically disassembled and then systematically reassembled the game of golf quite like the great Ben Hogan.  His penchant for doing so created a mystique which is still the stuff of legend even today.  A great many people have tried to decipher his secret over the years and the inevitable conclusion is always a somewhat anticlimactic, “The secret’s in the dirt.”  Mr. Hogan’s ball striking prowess was carved one divot at a time from countless hours on the practice range.  In an interview with golf journalist George Peper in 1987, Mr. Hogan once said:

“You hear stories about me beating my brains out practicing, but the truth is, I was enjoying myself. I couldn’t wait to get up in the morning so I could hit balls. I’d be at the practice tee at the crack of dawn, hit balls for a few hours, then take a break and get right back to it. And I still thoroughly enjoy it. When I’m hitting the ball where I want, hard and crisply—when anyone is— it’s a joy that very few people experience.”

Let me guess.  You’ve tried that before, right?  You’ve hit buckets and buckets of range rocks trying to groove the perfect 7-iron swing and still to no avail, right?  Read that last sentence again closely and you might discover the problem.  There’s a difference between mindful practice and mindless practice.  Mindful practice, like Mr. Hogan undoubtedly employed, is structured, focused, and intentional.  It has specific targets and goals in mind and progresses in a systematic fashion until those goals are met.

This is exactly what Nico Darras and Kevin Moore had in mind when they started Golf Blueprint.  In truth, though, the journey actually started when Nico was a client of Kevin’s Squares2Circles project.  Nico is actually a former DI baseball player who suffered a career-ending injury and took up golf at 22 years old.  In a short time, he was approaching scratch and then getting into some mini tour events.  Kevin, as mentioned in the Squares2Circles piece, is a mathematics education professor and accomplished golfer who has played in several USGA events.  Their conversations quickly changed from refining course strategy to making targeted improvements in Nico’s game.  By analyzing the greatest weaknesses in Nico’s game and designing specific practice sessions (which they call “blueprints”) around them, Nico started reaching his goals.

The transition from client to partners was equal parts swift and organic, as they quickly realized they were on to something.  Nico and Kevin used their experiences to develop an algorithm which, when combined with the client’s feedback, establishes a player profile within Golf Blueprint’s system.  Clients get a plan with weekly, monthly, and long-term goals including all of the specific blueprints that target the areas of their game where they need it most.  Not to mention, clients get direct access to Nico and Kevin through Golf Blueprint.

Nico Darras, co-founder of Golf Blueprint

While this is approaching shades of Mr. Hogan’s practice method above, there is one key distinction here.  Kevin and Nico aren’t recommending practicing for hours at a time.  Far from it.  In Nico’s words:

“We recommend 3 days a week.  You can do more or less, for sure, but we’ve found that 3 days a week is within the realm of possibility for most of our clients.  Practice sessions are roughly 45-70 minutes each, but again, all of this depends on the client and what resources they have at their disposal.  Each blueprint card is roughly 10 minutes each, so you can choose which cards to do if you only have limited time to practice.  Nothing is worse than cranking 7 irons at the range for hours.  We want to make these engaging and rewarding.”

Kevin Moore, co-founder of Golf Blueprint

So far, Golf Blueprint has been working for a wide range of golfers – from tour pros to the No Laying Up crew to amateurs alike.  Kevin shares some key data in that regard:

“When we went into this, we weren’t really sure what to expect.  Were we going to be an elite player product?  Were we going to be an amateur player product?  We didn’t know, honestly.  So far, what’s exciting is that we’ve had success with a huge range of players.  Probably 20-25% of our players (roughly speaking) are in that 7-11 handicap range.  That’s probably the center of the bell curve, if you will, right around that high-single-digit handicap range.  We have a huge range though, scratch handicap and tour players all the way to 20 handicaps.  It runs the full gamut.  What’s been so rewarding is that the handicap dropping has been significantly more than we anticipated.  The average handicap drop for our clients was about 2.7 in just 3 months’ time.”

Needless to say, that’s a pretty significant drop in a short amount of time from only changing how you practice.  Maybe that Hogan guy was on to something.  I think these guys might be too.  To learn more about Golf Blueprint and get involved, visit their website. @Golf_Blueprint is their handle for both Twitter and Instagram.

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