Novice golfers often tee the ball for fairway woods, hybrid clubs and irons at the same height as they do for the driver (#1 wood). Big mistake.
Because these clubs have smaller heads and more lofted faces than the driver, they require a different approach. Basically, the ball should be teed lower, or closer to the ground.
How low should you go? It varies by club and personal preference/results, but here are a few basic rules to follow:
Fairway woods (#3, 4, 5 and up)—For most clubs, about a half-inch of your tee should be above-ground, which will put about half the ball above the club's crown. Some fairway woods have bigger heads, requiring a slightly higher tee.
Hybrids—Follow the rule for fairway woods, though you may find it best to tee the ball a touch lower.
Irons—With longer irons (3 through 6), about a quarter inch of tee should be out of the ground, so the top of the ball is even with or a little higher than the top of the clubface. For others (7-iron through wedges), tee it a little lower with each club. For example, the 7-iron should be played with the tee's cup just above the ground; when hitting a wedge, stick the tee all with way in so that only a tiny portion sticks out.
The driving range is a great place to experiment with different teeing heights for the various clubs to find what works best for you. As with most things in golf, there are exceptions to the rules.
Correct Tee Height for Driver, Woods, Hybrids, and Irons
As a golfer, there is a lot to learn when you are first getting started in the game. When you are new, you have to focus on the big pieces like knowing what club to use when, and how to conduct yourself with proper etiquette on the course. As time goes by and you gain more and more experience, you start to learn about the subtle aspects of the game which can have a profound effect on your score. Elements like course management, performing under pressure, and reading the lie of the ball all come into play. If you are serious about becoming the best player you can be, you will take the whole game seriously – even down to the smallest detail.
One of those small details that is worthy of your attention is the tee height that you use with a variety of clubs. How high you tee the ball up prior to starting each hole might seem completely meaningless, but it actually has a major influence over the quality of shots that you are able to hit. When you tee the ball up just right, you will be giving yourself the best possible chance to strike the sweet spot. If the ball is too high or too low, however, you will need to adjust your swing in order to find the center of the club face.
It is important to consider the type of shot that you are trying to hit when you determine your tee height for a given swing. Not all shots are the same, so the tee height that you choose may need to vary from hole to hole in order to maximize your results. As an example, you would likely want to tee the ball lower when you are playing into the wind than where you are playing downwind. Playing into the wind calls for a low ball flight, which is facilitated by a low tee height – but the opposite is true when the wind is at your back. Thus, on a windy day, you will want to play with your tee height based on the direction of the hole you are playing and the shot you have in mind.
Of course, during the average round of golf, you will hit a variety of clubs off the tee – not just your driver. Therefore, you need to understand how to tee the ball up specifically for each of those clubs. Your fairway woods and hybrids are different from the driver, and the irons fall into their own category entirely. Only when you can master teeing the ball up at just the right height for each club in your bag will you be able to get the most from your game off the tee.
All of the instruction contained below is based on a right handed golfer. If you happen to play left handed, please reverse the directions as necessary.
Driver Tee Height Basics
The driver is the club that you will hit most frequently from the tee, so it is only natural to start there when working on your tee height. First, you should work on establishing a 'base' tee height that you will use for the vast majority of your drives. From there, you can learn how to adjust the ball up or down in order to create a variety of ball flights.
While there is plenty of room for personal style within the golf swing, the correct tee height is going to be the same for just about every player. When hitting a standard drive, you want to position your tee so that half of the ball is above the top line of the driver at address. Put another way, you should be able to see half of the golf ball above the level of the top of the club when you set the driver down prior to starting the swing. The reasoning for this tee height is simple – you want to be able to hit up through the ball at impact, and you can only hit up if the ball starts higher than the level of the sweet spot on the driver. If the ball is even with the sweet spot, or even below it at address, you will not be able to hit up properly. Your swing will have to move down through impact, creating too much backspin and causing the ball to climb high into the air. With a tee height that places the middle of the ball above the sweet spot, you can hit up aggressively through the shot, which should lead to an idea spin rate and launch angle.
Teeing the ball up this high when hitting a driver makes some golfers a little bit nervous. As you stand over the shot, it might look like your club head could easily swing right under the ball at impact – leading to a shot that shoots straight up into the air. Don't worry, as this outcome is highly unlikely. As long as you maintain your balance and allow the club to swing up nicely through impact, you should be able to make solid contact without hitting the dreaded pop-up. If you are used to teeing the ball up low with your driver, work on this new tee height on the practice range first to build confidence before you test it out on the course.
So, the basic tee height for your driver is simple – place the equator of the ball even with the top line of your driver, and you are good to go. But what happens when you want to hit a different kind of shot off the tee? The following tips will help you generate a number of different ball flights –
- Tee it low to hit it low. This point was mentioned in the introduction. If you need to hit the ball low off the tee for any reason – like when you are playing into the wind or are facing a narrow fairway – simply push the tee a little bit farther into the ground. While this adjustment will cost you some distance, that is a trade that you should be willing to make in order to achieve a lower flight.
- Tee it high to let it fly. Another point that was mentioned earlier. If you are playing a hole that is going straight downwind, or if you need to maximize carry distance in order to clear a hazard, feel free to tee it up even higher than normal. However, when you make this adjustment, be sure to keep your weight back in the downswing or you could risk going under the ball.
- Tee it low to hit a cut. Hitting the ball lower is not the only reason to use a low tee height. If you want to cut the ball from left to right off the tee to match the shape of the hole you are playing, try teeing the ball a little lower. When the ball is teed lower, you will need to make a slightly steeper downswing to get down to impact – and that steeper downswing path will give you a great chance of hitting a fade. Again, this will cost you some distance, but it is a shot that can come in handy when you really need it.
- Tee it high for a draw. Not surprisingly, you will want to tee the ball higher if it is a draw that you are looking to create. With extra room under the ball, you will have space to attack from the inside in the downswing, which is exactly what you need to do in order to create draw spin. It is easy to turn a draw into a hook when using this method, so keep your lower body rotating throughout the downswing to avoid missing way to the left.
Once you get comfortable with the tee heights you are using for various driver shots, you probably won't need to think about them much on an ongoing basis. Take some time to get this small detail correct now, and you can move on to working on other parts of your game in the near future.
Teeing Up Your Fairway Woods
Not every hold on the golf course is going to call for a driver from the tee. On short par fours, or even long par fours with narrow fairways, you may choose to hit a fairway wood rather than a driver. Also, many long par threes will extend beyond the reach of your irons, requiring you to pull a fairway wood from the bag. When that is the case, you need to understand exactly how high to tee up the ball in order to optimize your performance.
Before getting into exact tee height, it should be pointed out that yes, you do need to tee the ball up when you are hitting a fairway wood. Many golfers think that since they can hit these clubs from the fairway, there is no point in teeing them up. They will just drop a ball on the ground and swing away. While that is well within the rules of the game, it would be a mistake. Teeing the ball up off the ground is an advantage, and you should take every advantage that you can find on the course. Golf is hard enough as it is – there is no reason to make it even harder. Tee the ball up and you will find better contact and improved consistency over playing the ball off the ground.
The basic idea behind determining your tee height with the fairway woods is the same as the driver – you want to position the ball so that you can find the sweet spot over and over again. Unlike the driver, however, you don't want to be hitting up into your fairway woods at impact. Instead, you should be 'sweeping' them off the tee with a flat angle of attack at the bottom. Therefore, try to tee the ball up so that it is even with the height of the sweet spot at address. Set the club down on the ground as if you were address in the ball, then tee the ball up with your other hand, using the club face as a guide. This is a sure method to get the right height each and every time. As long the ball and the sweet spot of the club are at the same level, you are ready to fire.
The same rules from above apply to your fairway woods in terms of creating different ball flights. Tee the ball lower to hit the ball low, and tee it higher to launch one up into the air. Additionally, you can alter your ball position slightly to turn the ball right or left on command. If you want to hit a fade with your fairway woods, move the ball up in your stance a little bit closer to your left foot. To hit a draw, move it back an inch or two. All of these adjustments should be subtle, as you don't want to drastically change your ball flight in the middle of the round.
Most amateur golfers don't hit enough fairway woods off the tee. These are highly useful clubs that offer a wonderful combination of accuracy and distance. Most average par fours can easily be handled with a fairway wood and a mid-iron, meaning that you don't have to take the risk of hitting a driver if there is trouble lurking on one side of the fairway or the other. Get comfortable using fairway woods from the tee and your scores will quickly come down.
Playing Your Hybrid Clubs from the Tee
Just as you can use your fairway woods from the tee and the fairway, so too can you employ your hybrid clubs from many different locations around the course. Using your hybrids off the tee will be mostly a task reserved for long par threes, but you might find the occasional short par four where you can use this strategy as well. Hybrid clubs are extremely popular because they are accurate like long irons, yet are far more forgiving. If you don't yet have a hybrid club in your bag, now would be a good time to test one out for yourself.
The rule for teeing up the ball in front of your hybrids is basically the same as when you are hitting a fairway wood. You want the ball to be lined up with the sweet spot on the club – and since the sweet spot is low to the ground, that means you will barely be teeing the ball up over the top of the grass. You probably won't have much more than a fraction of an inch between your ball and the top of the grass, but that height is just enough to help you make great contact. Depending on your swing mechanics, you can either hit down on your hybrid clubs, or sweep them off the tee like you do with a fairway wood.
It should be pretty easy to tell if you are currently teeing the ball either too high or too low with for hybrid shots. If the ball is coming out low and never really climbing up into the air, you probably aren't giving yourself enough room under the ball to strike the sweet spot nicely. At the same time, teeing the ball up too high will result in a weak ball flight that floats high in the air before coming down short of your target. Spend some time practicing on the range to find the perfect tee height (which should be just slightly above the top of the grass), and then stick with that height for every hybrid shot you play. Unlike the driver and fairway woods, you don't want to adjust your tee height based on the ball flight you desire. Stick with the same height each time, and use other methods (like your stance and ball position) to change your ball flight as necessary.
Tee Height for Iron Shots
During most rounds, you will hit at least three or four iron shots from the tee, depending on the length of the par threes. Additionally, you may choose to use a long iron off the tee from time to time on a par four in order to position your ball safely in the fairway. Since hitting irons off the tee is a regular occurrence, it is important that you can accurately tee your ball at the right height over and over again.
By far the most common mistake made by amateur golfers when it comes to tee height is teeing the ball up too high when hitting an iron shot. Your irons are designed to hit the ball off of the turf, so teeing the ball high is only going to serve to move the ball above the level of the sweet spot. The result is predictable – you make a good swing and the ball feels good coming off the face. When you look up, however, the ball comes down well short of the target. This is the inevitable outcome when you hit the ball too high on the face. The same thing will frequently happen when hitting a shot from the rough where the ball is sitting up off the ground.
To make solid contact with your iron shots while playing them from a tee, you want to push the tee almost all the way into the ground. Basically, the only advantage the tee is going to give you in this case is to make sure you have a perfect lie. If you can see any air between the ball and the ground, you have teed it up too high. Keep pushing the ball down until you can barely tell that there is a tee under the ball at all – that is the perfect height for an iron shot. When you tee the ball almost even with the turf, you put the ball down right in line with the sweet spot on your irons.
Like your hybrids, you also shouldn't be messing with the tee height that you use for your iron shots. Each shot should be played from a very low tee height, enabling you to swing down through the ball aggressively, just like you would from the fairway. The goal is to not have to alter your swing at all between fairway and tee iron shots – you should be using the same mechanics each and every time you pull an iron from your bag.
Remember, the tee is only going to slightly help you when it comes to hitting iron shots. While you will have a good lie each time you play an iron from the tee, you still need to make a quality swing in order to send the ball accurately toward the target. Some players make the mistake of thinking that hitting their irons off a tee instead of from the fairway will be dramatically easier – that simply isn't true. Every shot on the course requires your full attention and effort, whether there is a tee under the ball or not.
There are likely a number of reasons why you fell in love with the game of golf originally. Being outside in the fresh air on the beautiful green grass, spending time with your friends, challenging yourself, getting exercise, the fun of competition, and more all play a role in creating passion for this great game. Working on your tee height, however, likely doesn't register anywhere on that list. To be sure, this is not one of the most exciting aspects of being a golfer. However, it is an important element to consider if you want to elevate your game to another level. The best players are never above looking at even the smallest of details in order to lower their scores. Take a few moments during your next practice session to work on your tee height and you should notice the benefits almost immediately.