The New Science Of High-Tech Golf Tees
Outsiders may think of golf as a traditional, bucolic throwback, barely changed from its earliest days on the moors of Scotland. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. More, perhaps, than any other sportspeople, golfers have embraced the march of technological progress, collecting modern space-age clubs, using complex computer models to analyze swing technique, and, recently, adopting new high-tech golf tees.
The past decade has seen a flood of new tees, in a dizzying array of styles and materials. In fact, the US Patent and Trademark Office has registered more than seven hundred separate golf tee patents. These high-tech tees are often priced significantly higher than their old-fashioned wooden cousins, but millions of golfers seem willing to make the investment if it means whittling down their handicaps.
One family of new designs are narrow and lightweight, designed to reduce the resistance the tee exerts against the force of the club. You might imagine that the resistance of a little wooden tee would be negligible in the face of a full-power drive, but in fact, some trials have shown new “low resistance” tees adding up to five yards to the average drive. Other low-resistance tees feature a multi-pronged top that allows the ball to rest on a tiny pocket of air, thus minimizing drag and improving lift.
In another popular—and very distinctive—model, the traditional “cup” at the top of the tee is replaced by an array of synthetic bristles, something like the head of an electronic toothbrush. Resting lightly on these bristles, and then smacked with a driver, a golf ball should experience significantly less sidespin, meaning fewer slices and hooks.
Other innovations are designed to revolutionize the golf tee’s lifecycle. Several manufacturers now claim to produce “indestructible” or even “eternal” golf tees. While these claims do need to be taken with a grain of salt, some new designs—and new composite materials—really do appear to extend the average life of a golf tee, perhaps indefinitely. (Whether this is good news for the manufacturers or not is an open question. How many boxes of indestructible golf tees does one player need?)
Another trend is the rise of “biodegradable” golf tees. Of course, traditional wooden tees biodegrade as well, but only over the course of years. New models, some made from corn polymers, promise to dissolve up to three times more quickly. They also splinter less than wooden golf tees, and stand up to about twice as many drives.