What Tiger Woods’ driver tee height can tell us about his Masters game plan
For about 15 minutes on Tuesday morning, viewers tuning into the Masters On The Range broadcast were granted a front-row seat to a driver masterclass from Tiger Woods.
During the session, Woods routinely touched 174 mph ball speed with his TaylorMade Stealth Plus driver — a number that had social media buzzing — and rarely missed his target line.
The numbers and dispersion pattern matched up with Fred Couples’ comments that Woods’ “driver was a machine” during their Monday practice session.
“He was bombing it for one,” Couples said. “If you want to talk golf, he was bombing it. I know [Justin Thomas] is not the longest hitter on the Tour, but I know he’s damn long. He was with him flushing it.”
Woods knows distance (not to mention dispersion) is one part of the equation if he wants to contend at the Masters. But there’s another that involves being able to not only work the ball both ways but vary trajectory as well.
Woods didn’t discuss his game plan for tackling Augusta National during Tuesday’s pre-tournament press conference, but the different driver tee heights he tested on the range revealed the 15-time major winner is ready for anything this week.
With a cool western wind, ranging from 10 to 20 mph, expected to hang around for all four rounds, Woods varied the tee height from high to low to see how the ball would react.
It’s common knowledge that adjusting tee height will ultimately alter ball flight. The lower the tee height, the more likely you are to produce a penetrating ball flight — something Tiger might need if the wind is up and he’s trying to find the fairway. Teeing it high, on the other hand, with a positive angle of attack will increase launch and carry.
Thanks to advancements in technology, we’re now able to get a more accurate picture of what Woods sees when he tees it high and low with the driver. As the camera locked in one Woods’ swing, a second screen captured the launch monitor data for each shot.
When Tiger tees it high
Carry: 298 yards
Ball speed: 174 mph
Launch angle: 16 degrees
Curve: 12 yards
Descent angle: 41 degrees
Apex: 140 feet
When Tiger tees it low
Carry: 281 yards
Ball speed: 174 mph
Launch angle: 10 degrees
Curve: 7 yards
Descent angle: 32 degrees
Apex: 89 feet
Some general takeaways from the numbers Tiger produced with each tee height: he’s sacrificing distance when he tees the ball down, which isn’t a huge surprise. Teeing the ball down means Tiger is impacting the ball with a negative angle of attack and imparting additional spin on the ball. Hence the 17 yard dropoff in distance.
If Tiger is teeing off into a strong head or crosswind, he’s putting a premium on accuracy over distance anyway. With a 10-degree launch, he’s doing his best to keep the ball below the wind and under control. Teeing it lower can also induce an easier-to-control fade shot shape for most golfers. (If you’re looking for more content on the benefits of teeing it low in certain situation, check out a recent edition of GOLF’s RoboTest series.)
Compare those numbers to the high tee position and it becomes very apparent that Woods has two entirely different shots in his arsenal for Augusta National, depending on how the course is playing. Going to a ball that’s teed up higher on the face will significantly increase launch, carry and apex, especially if you’re impacting the ball with a positive angle of attack (ascending blow).
If you’re just picking up the game, take a page from Tiger’s recent practice session and test out different tee heights with the driver the next time you’re at the range. Grooving your driver swing is important, but if you play in an area where wind is a factor, it’s important to have a few different go-to shots in the arsenal.
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