Tee it forward? Tee it up wherever you want
MIAMI – When golf’s governing bodies introduced the Tee it Forward program a couple of years ago, it took me a little while to warm up to it. My initial thought was I could hit it sideways from any tee, so I wasn’t sure how moving up would help me enjoy the game more.
But in the last year, as I’ve played with more with players who play the forward tees, I don’t think the concept has gone far enough. In other words, how can you tee it forward when you play the forward tees?
For those of us who never get near the forwards (except when we duff a tee shot from the back tees), it’s hard to understand how the red tees aren’t forward enough. But if you’re playing with someone who only hits the ball 175 or so with her best drive, you start to gain appreciation for it.
There was a recent study that found when the average woman plays a course that’s 5,600 yards long, it would be like the average man playing a course that’s 8,400 yards. It certainly made sense to me, but I never got a real sense for that until I started playing regularly with my girlfriend. She’s a terrific athlete and tennis player who will absolutely hit a winner off your mistake, but in golf generally only hits the ball about 170 yards or so off the tee. And that’s actually 30 yards better than the average woman’s tee shot. I noticed how often she would hit a good drive on a par 4 and still have more than 200 yards left to the green, a green that was often guarded by bunkers in front.
Now you don’t have to be Jack Nicklaus to figure out that the hole is basically a par 5 for her. How often does this happen at the typical course? About half the time, it seems.
For example, yesterday, we were playing the East Course at the Country Club of Miami. It’s a course that was built in 1962 and has a lot of cool history. But I can pretty much guarantee that there wasn’t a whole lot of strategical planning put into the placement forward tees in golf course design 50 years ago.
For example, the par 4 sixth hole is just 381 yards from the tips, a short par 4 from the championship tees for skilled players. But from the red tees, it’s still 338 yards. If a woman hits a 170-yard tee shot, she has almost that much left for the green.
On par 5s it can be even worse. The 16th is 464 yards from the forward tee. The chances of an average woman hitting that green in three shots are almost nil. So essentially most holes, except for par 3s, are not reachable in regulation for the average woman.
So seeing this firsthand, I suggested something to make the game more enjoyable for my playing partner. We shortened the course even more. In some cases, we put the tee in the ground where the fairway started, sometimes 50-75 yards in front of the forward tee. That way she had a chance to hit a reasonable club to the green, much like their men counterparts often get to do.
“Shortening the course makes it so much more enjoyable,” my playing partner told me. “I get less tired and less frustrated.”
The key to her statement is “enjoyable,” which is what golf is supposed to be.
This concept applies to juniors, beginners or anyone who struggles with the game. In fact, today one golf pro told me that he takes his beginner students to about 150 yards from the green to tee it up on par 4s. As they get better, he moves them back. I’m guessing they’re enjoying the game more, too.
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