How does Tee height influence swing and strike pattern?
A factor that many players either ignore or consider unimportant for their drives is the tee height. So: what is the ideal tee height? Here you have to ask yourself what the ideal case should be. What is the purpose of a drive and what are my typical tendencies that I should avoid?
A good and long Drive looks like this: The club comes a little bit from the inside to the ball and the ball is hit in an upward movement, i.e. a positive Angle of Attack. The best place to hit the ball is, of course, in the center, but hits further up and a little bit at the toe side can be even better - or at least not worse - for various reasons. This is where you not only achieve the highest clubhead speed, but also expose the ball with less spin, which equals more length. Of course, a ball that is hit too far out at the toe is uncontrollable and often found in the rough to the left. So the ice is very thin in general.
If you deviate from this ideal, you will always be a bit short with a drive. If you hit the ball e.g. in a downward movement you will get too much spin and a flat launch. If you tend to hit the ball further down or at the heel, the same applies. Both are clearly affecting distance negatively.
There are, however, situations that deviate from this ideal drive, for example, with head wind or when you have to hit a narrow fairway. Then a more neutral Angle of Attack, a flatter launch and a bit more spin can be helpful. Either to keep the ball under the wind or to get maximum control.
Both can be controlled well with the tee height and this mostly without having to change the swing.
Low is of course always relative. This tee height is still playable for a drive but is rather unusual. The equator of the ball is below the crown of the driver. So you know that the club head must not be high in the air, otherwise you just top the ball.
Now it depends mainly on the skills of the player and how he reacts to such a tee height. Our test player, for example, did not necessarily let himself be put off by this. He practically performed his typical driver swing and accepted the balls being hit a little further down the club face. Other players would tend to hit the ball downwards rather than upwards at this tee height. The Angle of Attack would then be at 0 or even negative. If you had to hit a drive off the fairway, your intention would be to hit down to the ball rather than up, which is very difficult to do in this case.
Standard tee height
For our player this is located approximately at the "equator" of the ball. With this height he felt most comfortable and did not have to make any changes to his driving swing.
The highest possible tee
This tee is a few millimeters longer than the standard tee and the driver appears to be sliding under the ball. Here the player has to take care to hit the ball in a clean upward motion to avoid undercutting it.
The results of the test
low tee means flatter launch, more spin, flatter ball flight and less length.
In contrast, the ideal tee: higher launch, less spin, higher ball flight and more length.
The slightly too high tee: basically no change to the ideal tee - only adaptation of the swing.
The results are not the same for every player and it depends on whether a player is able to adjust to the height of the tee or not. A clearly too high tee is a disaster for someone who cannot adjust his swing. He would miss almost every ball. This did not happen to our test player as he simply hits the ball with 1° more in the upswing and thus avoids too high hits. Therefore, the values between the ideal tee height and the high tee were practically identical for him. So the high tee did not bring any additional distance.
Why is the launch different?
This is mainly due to the fact that the driver's club face is not straight, but curved. Depending on the driver model this curvature is different. This means that the driver has about 4° loft in the lower part of the clubface and 12° loft in the upper part. So the difference in loft is actually 8° - depending on whether you almost spike the ball or almost miss it. The difference in the launch is correspondingly serious.
Why is the spin different?
This is mainly due to the construction and also depends on the design. Basically the rule is that balls hit further down the clubface get more spin. This also applies to wedges, irons and woods. Tour professionals try to hit their wedges in the lower three grooves and not in the middle of the clubface. With a driver, you want as little spin as possible. The maximum spin is usually obtained by hitting the ball further down and towards the heel. Minimum spin is when you hit the ball higher up and towards the toe.
What is the optimal tee height?
The optimal tee height is the one that makes it easiest for a player to take the ideal driving swing. Here you can only give recommendations for tendencies. If a player tends to hit the ball far down and at the heel, a higher tee helps.
If a player does not hit the ball in a proper upward movement, a higher tee will also help. If you want more control, a flatter flight and more spin, you should tee lower.
Regardless of this, it is generally recommended that the tee is raised until the Angle of Attack is correct, the launch is optimal with the loft and shaft, and the ball tends to be hit in the middle and higher up on the face. Hits in the lower part of the clubface should be rare at this tee height. This would be the ideal tee height for an optimal and long ball flight. However, if you want more control and a flat ball flight, the tee height should be set accordingly low.