Do fairway woods perform differently when hitting a ball off a tee versus off the turf? For one low-handicap golfer with a high swing speed who tested every fairway wood at this year's Hot List Summit, TrackMan says yes.
On average, teed-up shots flew 10 yards farther with no discernible loss of accuracy. Initial ball speed barely fluctuated. The vertical launch angle also didn't change, proving wrong the hypothesis that the extra distance came from hitting the ball higher because of a sweeping, upward blow off the tee.
The reason the teed-up balls flew farther was spin rate. Even in shallow-face fairway woods, the center of gravity rests slightly higher than the CG of a golf ball sitting on turf. However, once a ball is teed, the two CGs align (or even reverse positions if the ball is teed very high). This decreases the spin rate. The average reduction enjoyed by our low-handicapper was 705 revolutions per minute for balls off a tee. A result of less spin was his shots had a more shallow landing angle, which increased carry and roll distances.
The lesson? Choose your fairway woods wisely. Models with larger clubheads are less likely to perform as well when hitting balls off the turf.