Playing From The Tips
By Bryan K on 11/9/10
We asked for readers to send in blog posts- and Bryan Kautzman didn't disappoint. These articles continue to keep coming in and I want to encourage you guys to keep writing! The feedback and new perspectives are fantastic. Bryan covers a subject I'm sure many of us mediocre golfers have faced before.
Peer pressure. It exists on the golf course. I know we’ve all been there. We want to play the tips. Our playing partners want us to play the tips. But is the frustration we will surely endure worth it?
I’ll be the first to say that it most often isn’t worth it, so don't let your buddies pressure you into something you don't feel you are ready for. I’m not a big hitter. I know going into a course that 7,000 yards is just too many for me to overcome. Even 6,500 is a challenge that I don’t think I’m up to every day. But for those courses that are within my range, how do I know before a round begins which tees are right for me? Especially when I go to one of those courses that have as many as five or six different tee boxes?
I have worked out a system that works pretty well for me, and I think others could benefit from it. Before I tee up on the first hole, I take a close look at the scorecard. In particular, I’m looking for the longest par 4 on the course. I’ll take my average drive distance and add it to the longest I can expect to hit a shot from the fairway, and I’ll compare that total to the longest hole. And then I’ll ask myself, how much margin for error do I have? For me, for a course to be fun, I have to have a realistic chance at hitting the green and two putting for par, right? I like having at least 10-20 yards to spare.
My drive typically goes about 250 if I hit it well, and my best fairway shot will go about 200. Therefore, if I have a 450 yard par four, that’s just too long for me. I can deal with a 430 yard par four because it gives me a chance to hit the green in regulation with 20 yards to spare.
It’s a system that works for me helping me to make the game more fun. And that’s the objective, right?
This was written by Bryan Kautzman, a reader/follower/fellow oober and the opinions are 100% his and do not reflect those of oobgolf in anyway. Enjoy! I'm sure he's ready for your feedback.
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Good post. I'd just like to let the tip players know that the "huff and puff" goes the other way as well. I should play the tips most everywhere I go. It's not that the course is easier if i don't, but it's not good practice for me. I have to take irons or a hybrid off most tees from the average whites and it just becomes not fun, so i end up blasting my driver over greens and through fairways, just to get the swings in and thusly shooting worse scores. Thing is, when I'm paired up with people that i don't know and they're playing the middle tees, they tend to get huffy and agitated if i go back to the tips. They feel that they have to wait for me before they can tee off and that it slows the game down, whereas we always wait more if i'm playing from their tees because i have to wait anyway for the guys in front of us. It's a no-win. Definitely worse though if you're not supposed to be there and force the issue. That can ruin golf mentally for some people. Good article!
I usually look at the par3's. If I'm going to need to hit driver, or a good hybird/fairway wood to reach half the par3's, I'm moving up a set of tees.
good article BK, thanks for contributing. Rating and slope on the scorecard are the figures intended to determine the tees we play. Club selection based on the shot is supposed to be the easy part. ;)
Playing from the tips takes alot of the trouble out of play for me....I don't do it often....and typically I score only a few strokes worse than I normally would have....
Bryan K says:
sepfeiff: The thing is, rating and slope only tell us so much. You know as well as I do that there are many other factors that go into making a course difficult to play. The one that comes to mind first is a very nice course in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota called the Detroit Country Club. It's a very short course, measuring about 6,100 yards, but the slope is 132. The course is short, but it's hard. There is no room to miss a fairway, and a few holes have greens that can oonly be reached from a specific angle. While the slope tells me that I should play up, the longest hole dictates that I should play back. And, yes, I feel like the course is more fun from the back tees.
I agree, i look at slope/rating to decide where to play, that's pretty much what they're there for. Also, going by the longest hole doesn't make much sense to me. It may be a hole you can't reach in two, but how about the other 17? No ones going to feel confident to hit every green in regulation, no matter how easy/hard the course it. Maybe that hole is just more difficult than the rest.
Also, BK. You say that the short course is a 132 and the slope says to play up, but the distance to play back. Which do you go with? Do you just go by distance and even though the slope is saying it's probably too hard from the tips? Or do you trust the slope and stay forward?
i agree with @themustacheride because i recently began playing the tips due to hitting drives in the 260-280 and hitting wedges into every green isn't the best way to help my game, and on each course there are par 4s i can't reach consistently but that shouldn't stop you from playing all the other holes
IMHO, Hcp should be the main factor...which means slope/rating dictates where I tee up. I have played some long yet very easy and short but very tough courses.
I have to admit it is a pet peeve of mine seeing "recreational golfers" insisting on playing from the tips...some sort of macho thing...then loose a half dozen balls trying to clear the forced carries.
Leave the tips to the single digit players.
I like the post and the thought put into it. However, I'm not sure in most cases it really makes that much of a difference. I play with 3 groups on a regular basis. One always plays the whites, one the tips and the third group varies from day to day. Except for a couple of holes on either of the courses we play mostly it only means maybe an extra club. And my scores still seem to stay about the same because my problem is putting and not getting to the green.
I just think everyone should try it and not be intimidated by it. I think they'll find out it not as bad as they think.
I use 2 factors almost exclusively when looking to play unfamiliar courses - like vacation or business. And no, I don't ask the advice of locals (never do that!). I use cost and slope.
I try to find a place that costs between $30-$50(weekday walking 18) and has a slope at the whites of about 120-125. Then I play from the blues. Sure I'm going to miss a few gems by this system, but it usually tells me all I need to know.
Courses like this tend to have the right blend of cousre care, interest, attitude, and size. If something sticks out in the golf guide - a high slope, a low price, really short yardage, you can start to fill in the details in your mind.
It seems the least popular courses are cheap and long. I wonder if OOB could do an analysis... are the most popular public courses cheap and easy? pricey and difficult?
In my experience most golfers try to take on way too much golf course. If you are a 10 handicap or higher, you have no business playing any tees longer than the white tees. You simply slow the game down and probably frustrate yourself at the same time. Swallow your pride and play from the appropriate tee box. You'll shoot lower scores, play faster, and will likely have a better time while you're out there as a result.
It's simple, when playing a course you are not familiar with ask the staff. Tell them your handicap and challenge level preference and follow their advice. To me Slope and Rating provide a better idea on what to expect than course length. Still they do not tell the full picture.
For example, a course may seem short judging by the length on the scorecard so you may decide to play from the back tees only to encounter forced carries that you simply can't play. What would you do then?
Most of the time playing from the wrong tees greatly reduces your golfing experience. If you play too far back (of too far front) you will probably take the strategy aspect out of play; especially off the tee. That fairway bunker or narrow part of the fairway will not force you to make a choice on what shot to hit; lay up with the 3 wood or go for it and try to hit the diver past it...
Kurt the Knife says:
When I started learning, my instructor recommended I start with the red tees. That way my wife and I could play from the same spot and we might stay with the game better if a little bump ahead helped reduce frustration in our early excursions.
Worked out pretty well for us. He even recommended to my wife she tee her ball wherever it landed because early on she made better contact that way.
I must admit tho' if I wasn't out with wifey, I was in the white boxes.
I'm a 5 handicap and once played Fighting Joe (part of the vastly underated, amazing Robert Trent Jones Alabama Golf Trail) under sopping wet conditions from the tips at 8,100 yards. As a point of comparison, the longest US Open ever played is about 7550 yards. My goal for the day was just to break 100. I didn't hit one green in regulation, but managed to shoot a 92 including a hole-out birdie from 50 yards out and making par on all 4 of the 250 yard+ par 3's. Two of the par 5 holes were over 715 yards. It was crazy long, but fun. I rarely play beyond the white or blue tees, but since the course was empty and I was playing by myself I thought it would be fun.
Bryan K says:
Mustache Ride: On the course in question, I've played both whites and blues. The slope dictated that I should play whites, and I did. The problem was, I found I could only hit my driver on four or five holes. When I played the blues, I still had to lay up on a few tee shots due to trouble, but the round was much more enjoyable all around. In fact, there were a few holes that were easier from the blues due to the fact that the fairway was much wider from back there. Of course, the course's signature hole (a 240 yard par 3) really made for some interesting commentary. I was made fun of because I laid up, but I walked off with bogey.
Bryan K says:
I played 25 different courses this year, and I've found that slope and rating simply do not do an adequate job in telling me which tees to play from. I almost always play from the whites still, but there have been a few times where I wish I'd have played back and a few others where I wish I hadn't. The distance formula works for me, and keep in mind it's not about consistently getting the GIR. It's about having a shot at getting the GIR.
What is the math here?
One big determining factor of slope has to be tee shot landing space and then the size (receptability) of the green. So... how much "bigger" is a green the closer you are to it?
I'm a long and accurate driver, so many courses are driver-wedge, driver-wedge, driver-wedge. But as courses demand better tee placement, the driver gets used less, and so does the wedge. For every club further away the green/ safe approach shrinks. Then you run into a course with small, domey, protected greens, and recovering from an errant tee shot is murder. If you play from the tips, you better get used to securing bogey and moving on.
@BK - I have no idea if anyone else shares this mindset... but course management dictates my club selection and I've started to try to put myself in position for the next shot no matter what club i'm pulling, or hole I'm playing. To me the most enjoyable factor in golf has become fairways and greens.
Great post. I definitely think it's a pride issue. I'll tend to play whatever tee box my playing partners are choosing. If it's the tips and the course isn't incredibly long, that's not a problem. I feel like it's just easier to play where everyone else is playing.
However, I would have put my foot down at Lake of Isles last week if anyone wanted to move back to the tips. There are a ton of forced carries, even from the silvers (comparable to whites), and I knew I wouldn't have a good day from back there.
@aglazier -- While I'm on board with that as a general rule of thumb (10-handicapper or better for blues+), I don't think it's quite that clear cut. I'm an 11-12, but I'm long with every club. I have a harder time and often cause more delays when I play from the white tees, and that’s been the case since I was an 18+.
Reminds me of a day at Pumpkin Ridge here in Portland where the starter tried to talk me out of playing from the blues because "only single digits can handle it." Well, I ignored him, left the driver in the bag and didn't have the slightest problem with distance, hitting short irons and wedges on most approaches. The tee box selection has zero impact on my struggles around the green and subsequent scoring woes. I know there are plenty of others out there like me.
My brother always use to say, "you don't make a true birdie until you do it from the tips!". Its true, it feels so much sweeter.
A local golf shop owner (Chris Mile of Miles of Golf) offered up this formula:
"Multiply the length of your average drive by 28 and that, in my estimation, is the length that will be challenging but enjoyable to play. So if you drive it 200 yards, your ideal course will be 5,600 yards long (200 x 28). The logic behind the concept of "Driver x 28" is that an ideal course will have a combination of easy, moderately difficult, and difficult holes. From the length of your drives, you can estimate how far you hit your other clubs. For example, most golfers will hit their 6 iron 64% of the distance of their driver. If a medium distance par 4 is a drive and #6 iron, you know the length of a good par four for you is 164% of the distance of your drive. Having this information plus definitions for short, medium, and long holes, you can compute the total distance for an ideal course for you based upon your driving distance.
The above formula seems a bit off. To play a 7200 yard course, you'd only need an average drive of 257? I knock it around 260-270 and 7200 is way too long.
I've also heard this one 5 iron distance x 36 = course yardage you should play.
So if you hit a 5 iron 180 = 6480 yards
One more thing, that 64% 6 iron seems interesting. I plugged in my 6 iron distance (170) and came up with 265! That one is pretty accurate for me.
i think your way of doing it is fine Bryan. That is all i want is the possibility to hit all 18 greens in regulation. I play to have fun and it is fun to hit fairways and even more fun to hit greens. I enjoy the challenge of the game but dont want to have to be hitting my long irons all day. the course i have been playing a lot lately is 121 slope and just over 6,000 yards and it is perfect there are some par 4's i hit 5 iron on, most driver, some hybrids, some 3W, it gives me the option to hit different clubs on the same hole for my tee shots which makes it more interesting. I can say last time i hit driver and got in a bad spot and the time before that i hit hybrid and par'd the hole. I say 450 yard par 4 is good distance for longest par 4 on the course and still have a shot at getting GIR.
are they paying you yet Bryan, you seem to be doing all the work these days! keep it up!
Bryan K says:
Ha...this is actually the first blog post I've submitted:)
@Banker85- As mentioned above- it's "another Brian" that has been more prolific- but I like what I'm seeing from this Bryan!
My friend and I tens to use overall yardage as a start (we usually play blue tees) on those courses with more options. If there are multiple options in our range (or none), we tend to look at the length of the par 4s next. Much like Bryan, we start with the long ones, and if there are too many outside our "comfort" zone, we go a tee lower. If it's still questionable, we look at the par 3s.
If all of this doesn't get us to a decision, we go for the further back tees. The extra distance is less of a cause of bad scores for us than errant shots (which we can hit from any distance). But then again, we like to think we are good, despite any evidence to the contrary.
Bryan K says:
cjgiant: You know, to be completely honest, the difference in distance is the number of strokes it takes me to recover from an errant shot.
@Bryan - true, but when I mean errant shots, I generally mean penalties. An errant shot on *most* par 4s that is simply wayward, I can usually get out and within a short iron shot (i.e. it becomes a par 5).
I guess my point is the difficulty of the course (again, mainly with respect to hazards) is more of a factor than distance, for me (and I'd say I am average hitter). So that brings in rating/slope (which we also look at). I might try a 7000 yard course (little high for me) with a rating of par and a slope of 120, but would probably avoid a 7000 rated over par with a 135 slope.
AS LONG AS THERE ARE NOT FORCED carries i couldn't handle really the distance isnot that big a factor as the biggest is obviously how im swingin em' that day.
Great post, Bryan.
As for rating/slope being your course guide, one thing that bothers me is that rating/slope seem to be strongly correlated with length, which really misses the point of golf. I've played a few courses that are a bit shorter, and so on paper (and the rating/slope), they are "easier", but they have all kinds of pitfalls, long rough, pin placement always on a slope, etc. In short, they are handicap wreckers!
Not to mention the fact that on some courses, the rating/slope seems to have been initially calculated by the USGA in 1957 and never updated since. Some of the ratings of the courses I play are just so out of whack with their true difficulty. In fact, OOB, I propose that you develop a new TrueSlope or OOBRating or something like that, based on your member's scoring data. Some survey from 40 years ago doesn't reflect the actual, dynamic scoring trends in real-life. Now that would be sweet!
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