Play From The Tees That Are Right For You

Before you get started please watch this short video.  It may help to put you in the right frame of mind what is to come

Every golf club has a few of these: guys that can’t break 90 but refuse to play any tees other than the back tees.  If you ask them about their tee selection they will say things like, “I paid the full price so why would I play only half the course”;  “I only play from where the pros play”; or “That’s the only way I can compare my game to the  pros”.

Well, the fact is, if you can’t break 90 you have no business comparing your game to the game pros play, it’s an entirely different game and all you will do if you persist is clog up the entire course and rob yourself of any enjoyment the damn game has to give.  Golf is frustrating enough when played off the correct tees, never mind when it is played off tees that far outreach one’s ability.

So why do golfers end up picking the wrong tees?  I think it’s a combination of things:  Ego plays a part in it.  For younger macho players with high levels of testosterone, playing off the whites or the blues would be unthinkable if there are blacks to be had, especially if they are playing with their peers.  No one wants to be the ‘pussy’ that suggests anything other than the blacks.  For older men it may be simply a matter of raging against father time.  They started out playing a particular set of tees as younger men and to change would be to admit their abilities and talents are on the decline.

Women for the most part don’t seem to have this problem.  They tend  as a matter of course to play off tees that match their ability.

Playing off  wrong tees causes two major problems:

  1.  It robs golfers of enjoyment and adds to their frustration with the game. Who wants to play 3-woods or hybrids into par 4’s and 5’s all day, or hybrids or even woods into long, well protected par 3’s?
  2. It slows down the game and affects the enjoyment for all players on the course.

The USGA and the PGA have come up with a program to address this issue, it is called ‘tee it forward’.  The program is designed to ensure that golfers play courses from a length compatible with their abilities, and thereby add to the enjoyment of the game and at the same time speed up play.

Picking the Right Tees

Golf courses provide both general and specific guidance on tee selection for golfers.  It comes in the form of overall distance, course rating and slope.  Distance is pretty self-explanatory.  If you are a bogie golfer on your home course which plays at 6200 yards, don’t be eyeing the 7300 yard tees.

The next hint is the course rating.  Courses that are less difficult to play have a course rating that is below par, e.g.  a rating of 69 on a par 72 course.  Difficult courses have a course rating that is at par or in some cases well over par, e.g.  par 72  course rating 74.5.

The slope rating is also helpful.  In terms of slope, a course rated at 113 is considered middle of the road in terms of difficulty.  A slope rating lower than 113 means it is a relatively easy course, and the higher the rating is above 113 means its more difficult.

Some courses take it a step further and actually suggest the tee you should play based on your handicap factor,   e.g.  0-4  blacks, 4-8 blues,  etc.

Formulas and Tables

Some suggest that a good approach is to take the  average distance (not your best, your average) you hit your 5 iron and multiply it by 36.  The product is the length of course you should play,  eg 36 x 180 = 6480 yards

Another approach is to take your average driving distance and  multiply it by 28, e.g. 240 x 28 = 6720

These two formulas seem reasonable as the numbers used in the examples are my average distances and I’m confident that playing tees up to around 6700 yards I can on average, play to my handicap.

Another easier approach suggested by the USGA is the following chart:


Avg. drive Recommended Tees
300 yards 7,150-7,400 yards
275 yards 6,700-6,900 yards
250 yards 6,200-6,400 yards
225 yards 5,800-6,000 yards
200 yards 5,200-5,400 yards
175 yards 4,400-4,600 yards
150 yards 3,500-3,700 yards
125 yards 2,800-3,000 yards
100 yards 2,100-2,300 yards

In my view the numbers on this chart are perhaps a bit conservative as my experience has been that a golfer who drives the ball around 250 yards can quite comfortably play a course significantly longer than 6400 yards.

A recent survey of golfers who participated in the Tee It Forwards  program showed that:

  • 56 percent played faster
  • 56 percent are likely to play golf more often
  • 83 percent hit more-lofted clubs into greens
  • 85 percent had more fun
  • 93 percent will TEE IT FORWARD again

So, unless you still harbor aspirations of playing on the tour,  for goodness sake play the tees that are right for you, so that the rest of us can play in fours hours and be home in time for supper.  And you don’t have to go home and kick the dog.

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