Tee The Ball Higher On A Par 3

February 12, 2012

Sweep It: I tee the ball up a bit with an iron for a more level swing, as shown in this 1977 photograph.

JACK NICKLAUS: I've hit some memorable shots on par-3 holes during my career. Two that are special to me are the 1-iron on 17 in the 1972 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach that hit the pin, dropping to within tap-in distance, and the 5-iron on 16 at the '86 Masters that spun down the slope, just missing the cup, finishing three feet away.

Both of those shots contributed to major-championship victories, and each time I was proud of my execution. Before the shot, I spot-lined at my target (using intermediate targets to set my aim) and stuck to my routine. That includes finding a level place on the teeing ground so my stance is comfortable--I don't want to stand on the edge of a divot or even a gradual sideslope. And I tee the ball a little higher than most players do.

I always felt that air had less resistance than dirt. What puzzles me is when players take a tee, jam it all the way in the ground and then put the ball on top of it. Why is the tee there? You have the opportunity on a par 3 to tee it up, so why not take advantage of that and give yourself the best lie possible. In the fairway, when the ball sits on the ground, you might hit it thin or fat. But if you tee the ball a little higher on a par 3, you can make more of a sweeping swing, and you've just eliminated the two things you don't want to happen.

JIM FLICK: Jack's comments show once again how the mind of a great player works. He leaves no detail to chance. You should adopt the same mind-set on par 3s, where you can choose how and where to tee the ball.

For example, depending on your intended ball flight, one side of the teeing ground is better than the other. Players who draw the ball should tee up on the left of the teeing area and aim at the right side of the green, especially if the hole is cut on the left. That gives you the entire green to work with. Billy Casper, who played a hook later in his career, almost always did this. Lee Trevino did just the opposite because of his left-to-right ball flight. He teed his ball near the right tee marker and aimed at the left side of the green.

Study the wind as well. With an iron approach, you usually want to curve the ball into the wind so it serves as a buffer, helping the ball drop softly onto the putting surface. If the wind is blowing right to left, a fade is usually your better option, and vice versa.

Finally, if you're hitting a hybrid, experiment with your tee height. Hybrids are designed with sole weighting and shallow faces to make it easier to get the ball in the air. Therefore, you might not want to tee the ball as high as you would for an iron.

NICKLAUS writes articles only for Golf Digest.

FLICK, a longtime Golf Digest Teaching Professional and PGA Golf Professional Hall of Famer, worked with hundreds of amateurs and tour players including Jack Nicklaus.