Tee it low in the wind? Not so fast. Here’s why the opposite approach might be the best one

Tiger Woods testing tee height on the range

The Open

Controlling trajectory in the wind isn’t easy but making some simple adjustments off the tee can help improve accuracy and prevent you from losing distance.

When faced with an into the wind tee shot with a driver, a lot of golfers immediately gravitate towards teeing the ball lower to lower shot trajectory. On one hand, it’s a smart play to hit the ball lower, but depending on the strength of the wind the extra spin caused by doing so can wreak havoc on dispersion. This extra spin created by teeing it lower with a driver is caused by gear effect which causes the ball to spin more when struck lower on the face.

How face contact changes ball flight golf.com

Hows the wind change ball flight?

The below graphic from Ping’s Ballnamic ball fitting data demonstrate just how much wind can change carry distance on shots hit under the same swing conditions. You’ll notice that as the headwind picks up the front-to-back dispersion shrinks slightly but the horizontal dispersion increases by 7% for every 10 MPH according to Ping’s testing.

Adversely, right to left dispersion shrinks downwind, but front to back increases quite dramatically — this makes controlling distance a lot harder, especially in firm conditions like those found on links courses.

The important thing to keep in mind is that the ball doesn’t spin more or less in the wind. As an inanimate object, the ball only reacts to the impact of the club and then the elements take over from there.

Shots into the wind experience greater drag force (resistance/friction) on the ball, so they react like they are traveling faster in “calm conditions”, and vice-verse for shots with the wind. To use a simple analogy, an F1 car will experience greater downforce energy driving into the wind vs. driving down wind even when traveling at the same speed.

We saw Tiger Woods demonstrate this on the range Wednesday before the start of the Open Championship hitting two shots with varied tee heights leading to some very different results.

So next time you’re playing in the wind, don’t just default to teeing it lower and instead consider hitting it higher with less spin to prevent yourself from losing distance.

Ryan Barath

Golf.com Editor

Ryan Barath is GOLF Magazine and GOLF.com’s senior editor for equipment. He has an extensive club-fitting and -building background with more than 20 years of experience working with golfers of all skill levels, including PGA Tour players. Before joining the staff, he was the lead content strategist for Tour Experience Golf, in Toronto, Canada.