Tee it high and let it fly! Right? But how high? What is the correct tee height for driver? And how come when we watch TV we see so many professional players that don’t seem to tee it very high at all, and still hit it super high and super far?
Like many things in golf, there are a lot of one-liners that get passed around as just generally accepted golf logic when it comes to how to play the game, but for almost any piece of advice or instruction, we can find many players who have been super successful doing something entirely different.
The question of what the correct tee height is for your driver doesn’t have a one-sentence answer. Instead let’s educate ourselves on what the implications are of various tee heights, and learn how to pick out our perfect “stock” tee height and then look at how we can manipulate our tee height in an educated way to encourage the ball flight we want based on our swing tendencies that day or the type of shot we want to play.
What Is Golf Tee Height?
Golf tee height can refer to the nominal length of your golf tees out of the bag, or to exactly how high the tee is after it has been pushed into the ground.
2.75” is probably the most recognizable size golf tee and is widely considered standard or normal, although 3.25” tees have become very popular as well with the advent of larger and larger driver heads as well as radar launch data that has some golfers chasing a more “uppercut” strike to maximize distance (but more on that later).
Ultimately you can make the tee as high or low as you like, provided it is long enough to begin with, ranging from barely sticking the tee in the ground far enough that it won’t fall over, to having it almost completely flush with the ground perfectly perching the ball on the top of the tee box grass. The height at which you tee up the golf ball is a big factor in your overall driving performance. People learning to play golf often find it helpful to tee the golf ball higher!
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Different Tee Heights For Driver
There is not one cookie cutter tee height that works best for everyone. You can modify your tee height to hit different golf shots, as well as to change your trajectory and control. Because of this, understanding the proper tee height for you is an essential skill to playing better golf. Let's dive into the different commonly used tee heights.
Normal Tee Height
A good rule of thumb for determining a normal tee height for your driver is to tee it up so exactly half of the ball sits above the top of your driver face and half below when the driver is resting on the ground at address.
Obviously this is not where you want to contact it during your swing. Many players make the adjustment dynamically and are unaffected, while many other players “hover” the driver behind the ball throughout their waggle and address after briefly checking the height of the tee against the grounded club.
It should be noted that many would criticize this tee height as “too high” up until fairly recent times, because driver heads were smaller all the way up through the early 2000s and the trend of hitting “up” on the ball didn’t become more understood and mainstream until Trackmans became prevalent over the past decade or less.
It should also be noted that this is by no means “correct” and other tee heights are “wrong” it is simply a reference point to understand where on the spectrum works best for what you are trying to achieve.
When To Use Normal Tee Height For Driver?
Ideally your normal tee height is the one that is going to give you the best combination of distance and control for your swing and ball flight tendencies. Until you start getting close to scratch or better, you should try to use your same normal tee height - even if it’s a little bit higher or lower than others - on the vast vast majority of your driver tee shots.
Driving the ball consistently well is a challenge even for the best golfers, and trying to play a “go-to” trajectory and shape (and therefore ball position and tee height) should be the approach on 90 to 99% of your drives, deviating only when you absolutely have to with the driver.
Lower Tee Height
A lower tee height for the driver would be anything that has less than half the ball above the crown of the driver at address. You can achieve this by using a different sized tee, or preferably by driving any longer tee slightly farther into the ground.
When To Use Lower Tee Height For Driver?
Using a lower tee height with your driver can come in handy in a few situations. If you listen to golfers, they will often reference teeing it down for “control.” What they mean is this: a ball teed lower will usually hit slightly lower on the face, spin a little more, and come out flighted lower. All of these things reduce the dispersion or unpredictability of the outcome, but they may or may not produce the maximum possible distance on a perfect strike.
Higher Tee Height
If you have more than half of the ball above the crown of the driver head at address, it is safe to say you are using a higher tee height than normal.
When teeing it high make sure you have a long enough tee that you put enough of it into the ground so everything is stable while you go through your shot routine.
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When To Use Higher Tee Height For Driver?
Very generally speaking, teeing the ball higher can promote a higher and potentially longer drive. The ball can hit higher on the driver face, which can give more of a piercing or even knuckleball type effect that produces an extremely long drive, but can be prone to flying dramatically off line. If you have absolutely no trouble and especially if you have the wind at your back, teeing the ball up an extra ¼ or 1/3rd of a golf ball can help sneak a few extra yards out of your driver, but at the risk of a potentially wilder outcome.
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How Does Tee Height Affect Driving Distance?
Like with most things in golf, there is usually a sweet spot with tee height that will optimize your distance. While higher generally gives more potential for farther (it’s definitely not a guarantee) there are diminishing returns and definitely an area where teeing it too high can make things very difficult.
It all depends on the exact matchup between your equipment (flex and loft), your release style/timing, and the setup and ball position that you use to go along with your tee height. Let’s take a look at some of the many parameters to educate yourself on in order to be able to self-diagnose and make your own tee height adjustments to fit your swing or situation.
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To be clear, you can still hit down on a ball that’s teed up. However, teeing the ball higher gives you a chance to “catch it on the upswing” which is how many players are creating maximum distance, including some of the longest and best drivers on the PGA TOUR who could hit as far as 3 to 5 degrees up on some drives.
However, if you look at the total of all of the golfers on TOUR, many of them still hit very very slightly down or almost level with their drivers. And many of them still hit it very far. This is generally considered a tradeoff between distance and dispersion that comes down to a personal strategy choice, comfort level, or matches the particular skill set or athletic ability of that golfer.
“High launch, low spin” is the oft-repeated formula for the modern tour driver and especially the long driver. If you achieve a high launch by simply adding loft to the club face, you will also add spin. If you take a low-loft club face and launch it high with a positive angle of attack you create a very low “spin loft” number which produces the high, penetrating ball flight that just seems to sail forever down range.
Again, this comes with a potential for a lack of control or even a two-way miss, and the shots are also more susceptible to wind and just carrying off line more because the shot goes so far.
Ideally a golfer will find their preferred sweet spot, depending on how hard they hit it and how much roll out is optimal for them. If you swing slow, you might optimize distance by lowering launch angle by playing more roll out, but if you swing fast you might hold more fairways and increase distance by launching it higher.
This is where it gets a little bit tricky. Generally the trend in the “radar era” of golf is to take the spin off the driver to produce longer drives. Nobody wants to hit a “spinny” drive that comes off weak, high, and tails off too much.
However, many PGA TOUR pros can run into problems with too little spin on their drives. They want a little bit of spin to ensure predictability and see their ball move a little bit one way or the other reliably rather than having it “knuckleball” or get their intended spin totally overridden by gear effect, producing very frustrating two-way misses.
Often this little bit of spin is achieved simply by teeing the ball slightly down, but the mileage may vary on this depending on other factors in your swing. Simply teeing it down, for a slicer, might produce even more spin and the fear of not being able to get “under” the ball might produce an even more down-and-across pattern that is not useful at all for the driver.
PGA TOUR pros can tee the ball down and still have enough precision in their swing to get under the ball and hit it very close to level or even slightly on the up, find the sweet spot with little margin for error, and not over-spin it.
Teeing the ball higher or lower is a good shortcut to hitting a higher or lower shot. A big part of this is it changes the chances of catching the ball high or low on the face, and accordingly produces higher or lower shots. You can also combine this with ball position changes to really produce a different look, but be wary that this can also affect your path and start to change the left/right or draw/cut tendencies of your shot pattern.
Quality Of Contact
As mentioned before, teeing the ball too low can make contact difficult. However teeing it too high can also cause problems.
If the ball is teed too low, the margin for error is reduced where you can successfully get the sweet spot on the ball without bottoming out too early and either chunking or drop-kicking your drive. Having the ball teed up at least a sufficient amount, if not on the high side, promotes a hovering of the club and plenty of room to have the low point of your arc immediately before contact and uppercut your driver.
Teeing it too high can, however, cause a complete popup, or even put dreaded skymarks on your driver head.
Remember that even when playing around with tee heights with the driver, most players are adjusting the ball up or down a maximum of about a half-golfball in either direction. More than that and you start making good contact too difficult.
Cutting The Ball
One thing to understand about ball flight laws and the geometry of a golf swing: for a right-handed golfer, because the swing arc is tilted, once the club head is on the way UP from the bottom of its arc, it will start to go left. Conversely, while it is on the way down, it is moving more to the right.
This is useful to keep in mind because the more you hit up on the ball the more you need to either swing right or set your stance up to the right in order to “offset” the amount you are hitting up. Conversely, if you change nothing, teeing it high and hitting up on a driver can promote a fade or cut spin.
Very roughly, many players will try to match these factors up by hitting, for example, 3 degrees up and have swing direction 3 degrees right to produce a very neutral path at impact. The 3 degrees right is measured by radar systems at the bottom of the arc, and a split-second later at impact, it will be neutral.
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Drawing The Ball
Also because of this dynamic of how the swing direction relates to angle of attack, you want to tee it high and hit a draw, you need to feel like or set up like you are hitting more of a draw than you normally would.
Another “hack” is for hitting a draw on command without changing your swing is teeing the ball down slightly and putting it slightly farther back in their stance. Again this is a fine adjustment as we don’t want to hit too far down with our driver, but the lower the tee height the more a downward or level blow will be promoted and the easier it will be to have your path going right at impact to promote a draw.
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What Is The Proper Tee Height For Driver?
There really isn’t a “right or wrong” tee height for a driver, but it is one of several factors that combine to determine the launch conditions of your ball and therefore the result of your shot.
Because of this, the “proper” tee height for the driver depends on what matches up best with your driver loft, shaft flex, release pattern, ball position, and swing path tendencies, as well as your athleticism and swing speed, as well as the situation and what you are trying to achieve on that particular shot.
A good starting reference point is to try teeing the ball up so that half the ball is visible above the crown of the driver face and half is below it, and then make small adjustments from there. Many PGA TOUR pros tee the ball down because they have enough speed and want slightly more control, while many LPGA TOUR pros tee the ball high because they have plenty of control at their speeds and want to maximize carry distance to the fullest.
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Common Mistakes Golfers Make With Driver Tee Height
Teeing the driver up the wrong height will lead to all kinds of problems that can be solved simply by correcting that one simple thing. Here's what can go wrong with different common tee based mistakes so that you can identify what you do and how to fix it.
Driver Tee Height Too Low
While it is definitely possible to even hit a driver off the deck without using a tee it is an extremely difficult shot, and requires a lot of speed and a precision strike to get enough height to make the shot playable. Using a tee is a big advantage for a reason.
Ideally, even if teeing it down, you want to make sure there is enough clearance below the ball that you can put your desired strike location on the ball without hitting the grass, and preferably even a little more room for error than that.
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Driver Tee Height Too High
At some point, hitting it higher and higher results in diminishing returns, and also becomes harder to make contact. Even if teeing it up, you don’t want the whole ball above the drive head when it is grounded most likely. If you are getting any shots that are reasonably straight but balloon too much or even worse catch the top corner or crown of your driver, a lot of times the easiest thing to do is keep everything the same but don’t tee your ball up quite as high.
Inconsistent Driver Tee Height
More than anything else, beginners and poor players are very haphazard with their tee height placement. There are many brands of tees that have markings you can use to achieve a consistent height and start to have a sane basis on which you can make adjustments and tune your approach.
After doing this thousands of times, most golfers can hit the exact same tee height or go slightly higher or lower just by sight or feel and eventually without thinking at all.
Until you get dialed in, it never hurts to briefly place your driver head next to the ball, check your tee height, and make a quick adjustment, if needed.
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Frequently Asked Questions
How high should I tee up my driver?
One starting point is to tee the ball up where half of the ball is above the top line of the driver and half of the ball is below it. From here, you can start to play with small adjustments:
- 1/4th of a golf ball or 1/3rd of a golf ball usually, and usually no more than half of a golf ball
- up and down in order to play with strike locations and see the effect that different heights have on your path, start lines, and ball flight.
Many golfers will find a ball flight that is ideal for them that is somewhere other than this starting point, based on how hard they hit it, their desired ball flight or a certain swing tendency or miss they want to eliminate, or a given situation on the course like needing to hit a draw or needing to try to sneak one under the wind.
What happens if you tee the ball too high?
Teeing the ball too high can cause a couple of major problems. First, you could get a strike location that is too high on the face resulting in a ballooned or even completely sky’d drive.
Second, even if you hit it relatively well, the ball could come off with such little spin that the result may be long - but unpredictable. The last danger is that the height of the tee could actually cause your swing path at impact to be more left than you’re used to and start flirting with slices or hooks, depending on where the face is pointed.
Does the ball go further off a tee?
Generally yes, the ball goes further when hit off a tee. Having a ball teed up allows a better chance to contact the ball on the sweet spot or even slightly high on the face.
This also promotes less spin, which can cause a ball to travel further. However, it can definitely be over-done by either losing the bare minimum amount of spin that is needed for reliability at high speeds, or simply hitting it higher than optimal and losing distance.
Can tee height cause slice?
Yes, tee height can cause a slice. The farther you tee the ball up, the more likely you are to have the club head swinging “UP” at impact which also means it is starting to come back around to the left, which can definitely lead to less of a draw or more of a cut.
Conversely, teeing it down is definitely not a slice-fixer, as many have the tendency to swing hard left in the classic “wood chopping” motion seen with many amateurs and slicers when they don’t feel like they have good clearance under the ball to make good contact without chunking it.
Can I tee my driver low?
You can absolutely tee your driver low, and some of the best players in the world do it! But be aware of what is “low” and what is “too low” by defining a spectrum for yourself.
Oftentimes when you hear somebody talking about teeing it “WAY” down it will be about a half of a golf ball lower than normal, just to give you an idea.
Will teeing the ball lower help with slice?
Teeing the ball lower could help with your slice, especially if you hit a high slice that starts left. Simply teeing it lower will promote a lower ball flight, a more neutral path (and spin), and help your ball potentially start more on-line. If you are hitting a low slice and/or a push slice that starts to the right and keeps going right, however, teeing it lower could potentially only make matters worse.
In reality, tee height adjustments are going to change things only a few degrees typically, and might need to be combined with lessons and drills to develop awareness of the face and path of the club through impact in order to truly revolutionize a shot pattern.
There are very few “non-negotiables” in golf. As we’ve seen, some players can forego a tee altogether and still hit competitive drives. And many competitive long drivers and LPGA pros tee the ball up pretty much as high as they can. You may hear many bold, universal statements regarding tee height, but the fact of the matter is it’s one factor that needs to be blended with several other factors - such as your swing speed, desired shot shape/trajectory, equipment specs, setup, release, and swing direction tendencies.
All else being equal, players generally tee it up to promote distance, and tee it down to promote control, and find their sweet spot on that spectrum depending on what they feel their game needs.
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However, both options need to happen within their limits, or you can start to really reduce your chances of making good contact. A neutral tee height could be defined as having half the ball above the top of your driver face and half below, when the club is grounded. From here most players will optimally match up by moving the ball no more than a half-ball up or down from there.
The key is understanding how the changes in tee height affect impact dynamics and therefore ball flights, and use these parameters to self-assess and self-adjust in meaningful ways without chasing your tail, while keeping your setup, swing direction, and release as steady as possible.
With the information presented in this article, you should be well on your way to being able to make informed and constructive changes during your practice sessions and while on the course!