Your first drive of the day is always an exciting moment and you are prepared. You have warmed up on the driving range, pulled a new ball from your bag, put on your glove, and grabbed a tee. You want to get off to a good start; maybe today will be the day you finally break 100, 90, or 80 for the first time. As you get ready to make that first swing, do you even consider how high should you tee your golf ball? Something so simple can make a big difference in how you strike the ball. Without noticing, have you made your tee shot harder than it needs to be?
Small details such as tee height and ball position can be the difference between elite players and casual golfers. Depending on the shot you are trying to play, you definitely want to adjust the height of your tee.
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When it comes to a golf tee, how many options are there?
We are focused on how high you tee up the ball, not really the length of the actual tees. Golf tees come in various sizes, but primarily are offered in 2.75”, 3.25”, or 4”. Using a longer tee gives you more options, because you simply push them in the ground further if you want to tee it low. The other option when teeing it low, is to simply find a broken tee that someone has left behind.
The real question – you have a full-length tee, but how far off the ground should your ball be to give you the best chance for success? Let’s start by talking about the 3 primary options when you consider a tee shot:
- As High as Possible – the tee is barely in the ground – your ball is sitting nice and high
- Just Above the Grass – the tee is pushed mostly in the ground, but your ball rests just above the grass
- No Tee – hit if off the deck – simply place the ball on the ground
All 3 can be correct, depending on the shot you want to play.
When to tee it high and let it fly!
It’s time to Let the Big Dog Eat. Grip it and Rip it. This wasn’t true 30 years ago, but now that driver heads have gotten so large, you almost can’t tee it up too high when you are looking to rip that club down the middle.
There are two things unique about a good driver swing/shot.
1) You don’t want your driver to hit the ground during the swing – you want as much speed as possible and hitting the turf will decrease your acceleration.
2) You want to hit up on the ball, to promote a higher launch angle and additional distance.
So, if you have the big stick out (driver), tee your ball as high as possible and give it a mighty lash.
Some clubs just need to be slightly above the grass
Maybe you have reached a par 3 and need to hit a 7-iron off the tee or a tight par 4 and you want to hit 3-wood for safety. These are both shots that you should tee up, but not very high. You are looking to simulate a perfect lie in the fairway. Push your tee almost all the way into the ground, so you ball is just above the grass.
A common mistake on fairway wood and iron shots is teeing the ball up too high. You get your power and consistency on these shots by using the ground – you want to hit the turf just after you contact the ball. Teeing these up too high, can cause you to scoop the ball off the tee, leading to loss of distance and accuracy.
Sometimes just leave the tee in your bag
This may sound like an oxymoron, but not every tee shot requires a tee. Just because you are on the tee box, doesn’t mean the best option might not be to simply place the ball on the grass. Think about it this way – most of the time that you hit a fairway wood or iron shot, you are in the fairway. The tee box is typically in as good, if not better shape than the fairway.
By not using a tee, you are hitting a shot that you practice more often. When you hit 9-irons on the driving range, do you typically tee it up or just hit it off the ground? No tee at all is definitely an option but would only recommend it on short par 3s. If you are hitting an 8-iron or less, try no tee and would never recommend hitting a wedge off a tee.
Pro tee height ideas
Now that we have the basics, do you want to try some creative shots? Don’t pull these shots out on the course right away but see how they work on the driving range. These don’t work for all golfers but can be a nice option.
- Driver Off the Deck – have you ever tried to hit your driver off the ground (no tee)? Give it a try. It will definitely go lower but can be a handy shot into the wind. If you tend to curve the ball too much, this will typically straighten your ball flight.
- Fairway Wood or Hybrid off High Tee – not as high as the driver but tee it up 1” above the grass and try to make a driver swing (hit the ball with an upward motion and don’t hit the turf). This should launch the ball higher.
- Driver with Par 3 Tee Height – easier than hitting the driver off the ground, try to hit off a low tee. If done right, this produces a low “stinger” that will run forever.
So, how high should you tee your golf ball? Final Thoughts
The concept of teeing up your golf ball seems simple. Easier than trying to hit a punch shot from the woods or making a 15-foot putt for birdie, but worth giving some thought.
The next time you go to the driving range, try some different tee heights – do you notice a difference in the shots you hit? What works better with your swing? You might discover some new shots that will help you on the course. Oh yeah, if you can perfect the Driver Off the Deck, you will amaze your playing partners!