If you watch golf on TV (or YouTube now thanks to LIV golf), you see guys hitting absolute bombs off the tee. It seems like everyone carries the golf ball at least 300 yards off the tee, if not more. Some drives are crazy long at 350+ yards!
Which motivates the everyday golfer to start speed training and swing faster, all in hopes to hit it longer off the tee. While speed plays a big role in maximizing your total distance, there’s another aspect to think about as well – the tee height for your driver.
Too many golfers just randomly put the peg in the ground and swing away. But if you truly want to increase total distance, hit more fairways, and gain strokes off the tee, you need to understand the right tee height. Keep reading to learn how this impacts your ball flight, trajectory, and distance.
Height of Tee for Driver
Did you know that the average male amateur golfer has gained 16 yards of distance over the past 24 years? The USGA publishes its annual distance report each year (besides 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic) and it’s astonishing to see the numbers.
Golfers are hitting it longer than ever, mostly due to technological advances in equipment. But the pros are hitting it even longer thanks to new gear, Trackman devices, intense training programs, and a team of people behind them.
Before you go down the rabit hole of adding distance, let’s answer the question of how high you should tee the driver.
Finding the right tee height for a driver has two answers…
The general rule of thumb is about half of the golf ball should be above the face of the club at address position.Most standard long tees are 2 ¾ inches and allow this position with today’s drivers but there is a large selection of different tee sizes too.
In the past, tees were much shorter than today as clubheads were substantially smaller. Think about the old drivers that Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer used – if they tried a modern tee with those drivers, their performance would suffer greatly.
Your driver tee height needs to match your driver head!
This is a key component when it comes to hitting your driver consistently well. Otherwise, you’re leaving yards on the table and making golf much harder on yourself.
But the truth is, there’s a lot more to consider as it’s not always a one-size fits all approach. To find the right driver height, let’s break down a few other factors to make sure you hit the ball consistently well off the tee.
Size of Clubhead
As you know, golf gear has changed drastically over the years.
Tee sizes specifically have changed drastically over the years due to the changes of technology and clubhead size. If players still used the same tees from previous generations, the clubs wouldn’t perform nearly as well.
Since drivers are so much bigger than ones in the past, the sweet spot is much higher up. If you used short tees with new drivers, the ball would miss the sweet spot and distance would suffer.
For this article, let’s assume you’re using a driver that has a 460CC. This is the most common size for drivers like the Callaway Rogue ST Max or the TaylorMade Stealth. It’s also the maximum size allowed by the USGA.
The second thing to consider is your attack angle at the golf ball. This is something that’s so important as it has a direct impact on distance and accuracy.
Let’s not confuse angle of attack with launch angle either. Here are the definitions of both from Trackman Golf:
- Launch angle: Launch Angle is the angle the ball takes off at relative to the horizon. Launch angle is highly correlated to dynamic loft; it will always be a little less than dynamic loft but a similar value. The PGA Tour average is 10.9 degrees.
- Attack angle: The vertical direction of the club head’s geometric center movement at maximum compression of the golf ball. The PGA Tour average is minus one-degree attack angle.
When you tee the ball lower, you will have a steeper angle of attack.
Which makes sense because you’ll need to hit more down to make proper contact with the golf ball. If you tried to hit up on a golf ball that was tee low, you wouldn’t make very consistent contact with the golf ball. But for a driver, you don’t want the tee too low so that you hit down on it which will cause the dreaded popup.
To Hover or Not to Hover Your Driver
Another factor that comes to tee height is something you do at setup. Do you like to hover the golf club or do you like to sit comfortably on the ground?
A great example of someone who hovers the club is Bryson DeChambeau. He wants as much power as possible and likes to hover the driver (and most clubs) when hitting off a tee. Other players that have hovered the club include Jack Nicklaus and Greg Norman.
Greg “the Shark” Norman detailed the reasoning behind his decision to hover the club for two big benefits on his website.
“First, it keeps my grip pressure constant. As you stand over a shot, you have a natural tendency to regrip, and each time your hands shift on the club – even a fraction – it has a major effect on the outcome of the shot.
Second, it promotes a very smooth one-piece takeaway with the clubhead flowing straight from the ball. This is particularly true with the driver; there will be no tendency to snap the clubhead up quickly and vertically as there can be when the club is soled.”
But if you hover the club, you might need to adjust tee height. The higher you hover the club above the ball, the higher the tee height to ensure you are set up to hit the ball in the center of the face.
Don’t feel like you need to hover the golf club to hit great drives though. Other great players like Tiger Woods and many others don’t hover their drivers.
Ultimately, you should do what you feel is best for your swing.
If you struggle with a smooth takeaway or feel extra tension at address, try out hovering the driver. Experiment on the range to see what works best for optimal performance.
If you want to impact trajectory you need optimal launch conditions which are determined by tee height.
A shorter tee will help produce a lower ball flight. This is great if you want to hit the ball low or are playing into the wind.
For example, let’s say you’re playing into a strong headwind and don’t want to sacrifice distance. Instead of trying to change your swing arc, ball position, and anything else, simply teeing it lower will create less spin and hit it straighter. Even the average golfer can get consistent results by teeing it a half inch lower (this works for iron shots too).
Conversely, to hit the ball higher, you need the correct height which is a bit higher than normal. This will help your tee shot maximize total carry distance and leave you a shorter approach shot to the green. This is ideal when you’re downwind and want to keep your ball in the air as long as possible.
Tee Shot Shaping (Changing Your Ball Flight)
Another thing to consider about tee height is the shape of the shot you want to hit. Do you want to play a draw, cut, or straight ball?
Tiger Woods discussed this in detail in his Golf Digest series, “My Game: Tiger Woods.” You can watch the full video here on YouTube as it’s now free to watch.
In the series, Tiger documents how to hit his patented cut, a draw, and “the bomb.” Each one requires a different tee height to accomplish his ball flight goals. He also uses a modest tee height compared to other players as he doesn’t like to hover the club.
In this video, you can see how Tiger hits almost down slightly on his normal cut shot. He likes to cover the ball more and to do this, needs a lower tee ball. This is why it’s hard to hit a high cut – both shot types are working against each other. It’s much easier to hit a low cut or a high draw than vice versa.
So if you’re the type of golfer who prefers to play a power fade, tee the ball slightly lower. This will help promote that ball flight and not get too steep on the downswing.
Tiger doesn’t seem to play a draw shot nearly as much as he did in his younger days. This is likely due to injuries and slightly slower swing speed and also due to his physical limitation. Plus, he might not need to hit a draw as much since new technology helps his total distance.
But in the series, Tiger talks about the importance of teeing the ball slightly higher when hitting a draw. He says to hit a draw, you need more speed to turn the ball over.
Having a higher tee makes it easier to increase speed and keep the ball in the air. If you tee it too low, your draw might turn into a snap hook.
The last type of shot Tiger discusses in the series is the straight bomb. This shot isn’t used often anymore as it’s not easy on his body, but will pull it out of the bag when he needs a long, straight shot.
To do this, Tiger tees it up as high as possible and more than half the ball is above the crown. Then, he swings as hard as possible and tries to hit up on the ball. He keeps his weight back to increase launch angle and doesn’t try to work the ball left or right.
The next time you head to the driving range, make sure to test out different tee heights depending on your ideal shot shape.
FAQs About Tee Height
Still not 100% sure on how high you should tee your golf ball? Keep reading to learn more of the most frequently asked questions and answers.
How does the tee height affect driving distance?
Most people think lower tee height means less distance and higher tee height means more distance. But there are so many other factors including driver size, clubhead speed, launch angle, attack angle, weather conditions, and more.
While tee height does play a role in total driving distance, it’s not everything. It’s best to experiment with different tee heights in practice to see which helps your overall driving performance the most. Remember, distance is important but so is accuracy too.
Should I use plastic tees or wooden tees?
There are more choices than ever when it comes to picking the right tee. As discussed in our golf tees article, there are three main types; wood (bamboo), plastic, and brush tees. Rubber tees are also commonly used but only at the driving range, not on the golf course.
For most golfers, it comes down to tee height and personal preference. Personally, I only use wooden tees while other guys I know use plastic, and some use both.
Keeping a consistent height is more important than wooden or plastic tees in my opinion. It’s always best to experiment with both and see how they impact performance (use a launch monitor if possible to get the most accurate data).
Why are my tee shots so low?
If your tee shots are going low, it could be from a variety of factors including:
- Poor contact
- Tee height too low
- Improper weight transfer
- Too short of a backswing
And other factors. If you’re struggling off the tee, make sure to record your swing and use a launch monitor when possible. Getting some data and videos of your golf swing can help you find ways to improve and start hitting it higher for longer distances.
Do brush tees actually work?
Have you ever seen a high-level golfer use brush tees?
Over the past few decades of playing golf, I can say I haven’t. That doesn’t mean they don’t work but I think the promises made about increasing distance and accuracy are a little far-fetched. If brush tees made golf so much easier, wouldn’t everyone play them?
This isn’t a piece of golf gear you need to start playing better golf.
Is there a rule on tee height?
Golf is a game of rules, sometimes too many for most of us to remember, but there is a tee height rule. According to the USGA, the maximum length of four inches. The rule also states that a tee cannot indicate the line of play or have any influence on the movement of your golf ball.
While the limit is four inches, I honestly don’t think 99.9% of players ever need one quite that high or need to flirt with the USGA limit. Teeing it too high can cause all sorts of problems and possibly even damage your driver head as well.
How do I hit a low driver?
To hit a lower ball flight with driver, you want to keep your ball speed up but need less spin. To do that, use a smaller tee (standard tees are fine) and make sure the top half isn’t above the face like normal. You might want to alter your swing plane too.
To learn more about hitting it low in windy conditions, check out our stinger article.
How should I tee the ball with a fairway wood?
A fairway wood is half the size (or less) of a driver and need to adjust your height accordingly. To start making better contact with fairway woods, tee the ball lower.
Too many golfers think they need to tee up woods high and hit up on it. But in reality, you still want to hit a downward blow, even if it’s on the tee shot. You only want to swing the driver face up since the top half of the ball is on the peg.
Pro golfers like Henrik Stenson are a great example of this as the PGA average is -2.9-degree attack angle. This is even more important if you’re hitting a three wood off the turf and not a tee.
If you want the ball higher you can tee it up slightly more but don’t overdo it or you might get less roll and not nearly as good of contact.
Do you have to use tees on the tee box?
No, you are not required to use tees on the tee box but it is highly recommended.
I remember Tiger Woods talking about this in a clinic once and said it’s vital to take every advantage you can get in this game. Whether you’re hitting a lob wedge on a short par 3 or a driver on a long par 5, you should use a tee.
Interestingly, in the past you did have to use a tee on the box. According to the original rules of golf, your ball most be teed from the ground.
Final Thoughts on Tee Height
Tee height for your driver plays a big role in getting the most out of your tee box game. You need to experiment with different tee heights to see which one works best for your swing and driver.
Then, stick with that tee height so it’s the same every single swing. If you find yourself having it too low or too high, buy a bag of tees with built-in markers. These make it easy to put your tee in the ground the exact amount so it’s the same height on each shot.
Also, tee your fairway woods lower to adjust for the smaller clubhead. Otherwise, you risk adding a scuff or skymark to your woods.
Finally, don’t forget to tee it at different heights if you’re trying to hit different types of shots like Tiger Woods suggested. Cut shots require a lower tee while draw shots require a higher tee. And if you want to hit straight bombs, tee it high and let it fly.