Fred Vuich
Monday, April 30, 2007

You're on the tee of a brutal 470-yard par 4 and really need to bust one if you're going to get home in two. What's your swing key?

One thing you're probably not thinking about is how high you teed your ball. But you should be. Tweaking your tee height, it turns out, can be one of the best—and easiest—adjustments you can make to pound higher and longer drives.

Our Study

Who took part:
Twenty-seven golfers, aged 25 to 71, with handicaps ranging from scratch to 29. Of the players, 25 typically used a mid-height tee and two preferred a high tee.

The tee heights
• At the low tee height, the top edge of the ball was even with the top edge of the driver so that the entire ball was below the crown.
• At the mid tee height, half of the ball was above the crown.
• At the high tee height, the bottom edge of the ball was slightly above the top edge of the clubface so that the entire ball was above the crown.

Our Experiment
The players were divided into three groups of nine by handicap level: 0-9, 10-19, and 20-and-above. Each golfer hit 10 drives at each tee height, with each group hitting from the three tee heights in varying order to ensure that fatigue and motivation were balanced within each group. Only the best five out of 10 drives at each tee height were recorded so that mis-hits would not skew the data. Participants used their own drivers, with clubheads ranging from 410 cc to 460 cc.

The Results

Inside the Numbers

The Biggest Winners

Long and straight

Fairway Rough Beyond Rough
Low tee 58.5% 30.4% 11.1%
Mid tee 54.1% 34.1% 11.9%
High tee 61.5% 27.4% 11.1%

The Aftermath

The tee height study was conducted by Eric Alpenfels, a GOLF Magazine Top 100 Teacher in Pinehurst, N.C., and Bob Christina, Ph.D., dean emeritus of the School of Health and Human Performance at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro.

The Science: Moment of Impact

Catching the ball
At impact

After impact

Once clear Striking the ball

What the Tour Pros Do

What the pros say
Darren Clarke Zach Johnson Bubba Watson Ryan Moore Jerry Kelly Camilo Villegas Paul Lawrie Bart Bryant Jose Maria Olazabal Jim Furyk

\nCreating The Perfect Height

For a 6-iron through wedge, bury the tee in the ground so you can see only its head.

For longer irons, leave about a 1/4-inch of the tee above the ground.

For hybrids and fairway woods, leave about 1/2-inch of the tee above the ground.

Make a High Tee Work for You
Drill 1: Extend your arms for power

Quick Tip

Drill 2: Get on the power plane

Slide your right foot back from the target line about 1 foot at address and swing across your body. Your stance will allow your left shoulder to turn under your chin as your right hip coils on the backswing. On the downswing, your right arm and shoulder will naturally drop to the inside, creating a powerful inside-out swing path and a flatter plane through impact. Hit a few balls from this position and you'll groove a rounder, on-plane swing that, combined with a high tee height, will allow you to hit the kind of towering draws you've always dreamed about.

Drill 3: Load your weight onto your back foot

To feel the sensation of transferring your weight onto your back foot, take some practice swings on a slight incline. The slopes that often separate one tee box from another are perfect for this. As you begin your backswing, notice how your weight quickly and effortlessly shifts to your back foot. This sensation will be exaggerated because of the slope, but will be a useful reference when you swing for real. Be sure to keep your weight on the inside of your back foot. If it shifts to the outside, you will lose the solid base you need to transfer your weight to your front foot. To hone the feeling of shifting your weight to your front foot during your downswing, reverse this drill and do it on a downslope.

Quick Tip

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