The Wooden Peg
We don't tend to give it much thought, but the idea that we get to start each hole by placing the ball up on top of nice little perch is a pretty big thing, really. In the beginning, there was a bucket of wet sand on each teeing ground, and the golfer would build a little mound on which to place the ball for the initial shot of each hole. From there, it was "play it like you find it."
Then along came the wooden "tee" and that made it much easier. Over the years, as drivers got bigger, tees also got longer. Then came the "revolution" of the high-tech tees with all kinds of designs and claims. Call me old school, but I can’t buy off on the concept that the tee itself can add yards to a drive, but maybe it can. I just prefer the wooden tee, and have my preferences for color and/or length.
Anyway, I'm on this topic today because of a question by Bill Y., who sent an email asking about tee height:
"I have a question on tee height. How high should a ball be teed when using a driver, fairway wood and iron (short and long)?Well, Bill, let me start by saying that I find Mr. Palmer’s advice to be dead on (like I’m going to argue with The King?). We have the opportunity at the start of each hole to give ourselves an absolutely perfect lie for the opening shot, so why wouldn’t we take that “gift”? That said, however, a “perfect” lie for one shot might not be so for another. A good lie to hit a knockdown spinning short iron into the wind, for example, is not the same you’d choose to hit a high, soft fairway wood, is it?
Since most holes are opened with a shot with your driver, let’s start there. Modern drivers have deep faces, and those faces have a roll, or curvature, from top to bottom. Under close examination, you’ll find the bottom third of the face has a lower loft by 1-1.5 degrees, and the top third has a higher loft by the same amount. (I might add that very few drivers on the market are as strong as the number indicates – marketing at work!). So, if you want to hit a lower drive into the wind, consider teeing the ball lower to help you make contact in that lower loft area of the face. Conversely, if you want to launch a high one downwind, teeing it higher can help you achieve that. In general, however, I think the ball should be tee’d up so that about 1/3 to ½ of the ball diameter is above the face at address, with the driver rested on the turf.
With clubs other than a driver, my advice is to use a tee (or a broken stub) to give you the best lie for the shot you are planning to hit. With fairway woods, perching the ball ¼-½” or so off the turf can inspire confidence. Same with hybrids or middle irons. For short iron and wedge shots, I think you want to have the bottom of the ball just off the top of the grass, simulating a perfect fairway lie.
So those are my basics. What do you readers have to add? And Bill, congratulations on winning a new EIDOLON V-SOLE Wedge.
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I use the Zero Friction tees. I was able to bargain hunt and got 50 for around $5. I'm not sure if they help my drives any, but I like them for their durability. For the whole season I've only went through 10 or so. Most of the time I lose them before the actually break. On two of the ones that did break, I ground down the broken tips and use them as my fairway wood & iron tees. :)
I had read somewhere that when you hit a driver, the lower in the face you make contact, more spin will be generated; costing you distance. Is this true and would we really want to add more spin to a shoi going into the wind?
Terry, I agree with your advice on tee height for the various clubs, that's pretty much what I've learned to do over the years. I'm also not sold on the gimmick tees. I can't really imagine the brief interaction the tee has or doesn't have with the ball at launch has any bearing on the result. To me they seem like quick fixes for larger problems with core fundamentals. But...they don't cost that much, so we buy them and try them out.
I've actually been using Epoch 'Performance Golf Tees' most of the year, but I'm not even really sure what they're supposed to do. I was mostly interested in the durability of the plastic tee vs wood, but they're snapping a lot now that it's colder out. I'll probably go back to the painted wooden tees soon. I've always enjoyed being able to see an indication of what my swing path was from the paint...and plastic tees don't do that.
Sorry for the novel. Did I really just write that much about tees? I should probably start working now.
Good advice. In theory if you tee up for an iron, you could hit the ball off the thinner top part of the clubface (if you took a normal iron swing) and lose a lot of distance. But I find that as long as you don't overdo it, you can get comfortable swinging just a bit stronger than usual, which usually means the clubhead path won't be quite as low as normal, thus you still hit the ball on the sweet spot.
I used to tee iron shots as low to the ground as possible because it was a sign of a lazy swing, then I saw a Palmer video where he asked "If you can use a peg in the ground, why wouldn't you?" and figured that was one thing from him I could copy just fine.
@ The Natural 79 - Good point regarding the paint at the bottom o f the clubs, specially drivers and fairway wood to give you feedback on the swingpath.
I was thrilled to find out that I had won an EIDOLON wedge. I spoke with one of your staff members in order to decide which wedge would be best for me to try.I cannot believe how helpful he was. If your wedges are as good as your fine staff, I'll be back soon for additional clubs . Thank you again.
I like to wiggle the tee in the ground when Im putting it in the ground, giving it less friction when it comes out. I think the effect is minimal, but it cant hurt. Also, I never understood why people use full length tees on par threes. That must add a decent amount of resistance considering how far in the ground they go. I always use the nubs from broken tees. They give the good "lie" but give very little resistance to the swing.
I really like the hybrid size ZF tees for all my irons and fairway woods. I bought about 50 this year and have not broken one yet.
On an unrelated note, my new eidolon wedges were waiting for me at my front door today. I'm pumped up to get them out on the course!!!
Interesting topic which doesn't get a lot of play, but is a fairly crucial consideration. One thing I've learned over the last couple years which seems to defy intuition, is that if I want to hit a lower ball with a fairway wood, I will actually tee it up higher. This encourages me to swing more shallow. When I tee it too low with these clubs is when I tend to come at the ball with too steep a swing and end up hitting a skyball.
On the other hand, I have learned to tee my irons very low. I used to tee them up to like 1/4" high with the longer clubs cuz I thought it gave me more forgiveness, but all it seems to do is encourage me to hit it thin. With the irons I try to simulate a nice grass lie, and no higher than that.
The white paint also helps me determine if my swing was coming straight though the swing plane by looking at the bottom of the club.
Matt F says:
I use the ZF yellow tees for the durability. Like dc8ce, I make a point on the broken ones so I have smaller tees for FW's etc. They also mark my clubs on the bottom like a wooden tee.
i use the rule on the driver of the ball is spilt horizontally with the top of the driver face. so half the ball is above the driver. for woods, hybrids i put tee a little above the grass, and longer irons i do almost the same as hybrids, short irons i put all the way down to simulate the super perfect lie.
I read an article in Golf Magazine last month that advocated amateurs tee the ball so that the top of the ball is at or below the top of the crown of the Driver head. The reason being that most amateurs are teeing the ball too high & are striking the ball too high on the driver face & sometimes even only striking the bottom half of the ball @impact causing a loss of ball speed/distance. By teeing the ball lower the ball has a better chance of impacting the sweet spot maximizing ball speed/distance. The article also points out that the rule of teeing the ball high so that the ball contacts the upper portion of the face so that deadens back spin & maximizes hang time should only be really practiced by tour pros & golfers that have swing speeds >100 mph. I understand the concept of wanting to sweep the ball off the tee on the up stroke w/the Driver which is why people have advocated high tees for a long time but I have found this article to be true for me & have no problem achieving high ball flights.
I heard a story that an amateur golfer asked John Daly for a tip on how to get more distance on his drives. John told him to tee up the ball and lean his tee as far forward as possible without the ball falling off. Intrigued, the golfer asked " How much extra distance will that give me?" to which John replied "Oh 'bout 1/4 inch".
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