A Rose By Any Other Name
I found myself in a conversation with another golfer the other day about which set of tees "amateur" golfers should play. And it hit us that the whole "Tee It Forward" idea is a great one, but how can you choose a set of tees objectively when they are named "Championship", "Mens", "Seniors", "Ladies", etc. That is so completely meaningless. How many guys under 65 do you know that would allow themselves to play "Seniors" tees? Or even worse, "Ladies"? Even though their distance profile would indicate that's where they should be.

And why should a solid lady golfer who can hit tee shots 230-260 be moved up to the "Ladies" tees that might not measure 5200 yards or so? She won't be challenged.

And I'm only 3-1/2 years from 65, but I find our regular "Mens" tees my preferred challenge, but like to go to the back tees often as well. I certainly don't want to turn our country club into a driver/wedge course.

To this argument my friend suggested that the tees be marked by handicap. But to that I replied that there are a dozen or more golfers at our club alone who are longer than me, but can't stay within ten strokes of my scores.

I'm a firm believer that the tees that will give you the most enjoyment could be "coded" by your distance profile and drop all the sexist designations. After all, there are laws against discrimination by age or sex, right? What if we launched a movement to code the tees by your distance profile? Each course's scorecard could offer a guide to "How to get the most enjoyment out of your round at "Rolling Hills". Then it could offer this: "Select the right set of tees to match your distance profile".

Your five iron distance Tees
185 or more Black
165-185 White
150-165 Gold
135-150 Red
Under 135 ???

Something like this should go hand in hand with the "Tee It Forward" initiative.

What do you guys think? Would you move up a set of tees ... or back ... if the names were different?
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[ comments ]
bducharm says:
Terry, I agree that most golfers do not play the tees that best suit their games. That is for a variety of reasons, not the least of which they have NO CLUE how far the REALISTICALLY hit each club. I don't think that a specific distance is the key. If that is so, then Guan Tianling should have been moved up a set of tees at Augusta National so he could hit the same clubs that the professionals were hitting. I think men are so ego driven that the names of tees do have an impact. Calling them just by color is a good thing - naming them by gender is not!
jasonfish11 says:
Based on that I'd be moving back (during the summer). I'm not good enough to play the tips of most courses. I generally play the white tees unless I want a change of pace.

Yes if I pulled driver off every tee I'd probably be hitting a ton of wedges into greens (or I'd be punching out of trees). But if the course is designed well then I shouldn't be pulling driver off every tee box. If it's a short par 4 maybe I should pull 4i or 5i.

If the course is wide open then what you say makes since. But if it's designed properly (to have specific landing areas for drives with less room for error long, and short of those areas) then I think handicap is the best gauge as to what tee boxes to hit from.
jasonfish11 says:
Actually I think slope rating is the best way to judge what tee boxes should play. But it's clear the USGA doesn't really want to explain slope rating to the average golfer.

Unfortunatly slope is kind of the black sheep of course ratings now.
Jattruia says:
I agree, handicap makes the most sense to set the tees by, especially if the course is designed correctly. To me, this argument doesn't make sense and actually sounds like more evidence to the handicap system:

To this argument my friend suggested that the tees be marked by handicap. But to that I replied that there are a dozen or more golfers at our club alone who are longer than me, but can't stay within ten strokes of my scores.
GBogey says:
I don't think distance works at all. I see people all the time at my main course, which is very tight, who have back tee distance but can't come close to breaking 95 due to wildness. Of course, moving up wouldn't really help them because they would still want to hit driver on every hole.
GBogey says:
I think that it is really a combination of handicap and distance, which unfortunately is too complex. So for example at my main course using Terry's categories, 185+ would be back tee. 165-185 could be back or middle, but should be middle unless your handicap is 15 or less. 150-165 would be middle. 135-150 could be middle or forward, but would be middle only if your handicap was below 22-25? Like I said, too complex. I believe strongly that all courses should suggested tees on the scorecard - I know that it helps me pick the right ones.
mustang6560 says:
I was always told to pick a set of tees to play based on the par-3 distances. You want to be able to realistically reach the par-3s.
mjaber says:
@mustang... that's what I do.

I've mentioned "renaming" the tees in the past in the forums. Another thing the USGA needs to do is either rate ALL the tees for men and women, or come up with a single, universal, gender-neutral rating and handicap system. Right now, a woman cannot play the back tees and use the round for her handicap because it is only rated for men. By the same token, a man (young, unskilled, bored or older) cannot play from the forward-most tees, because they are typically only given a rating for women.
bkuehn1952 says:
@mjaber - totally agree with the rating of all tees for both genders. And get rid of red tee markers. Adopt a series of colors that American society considers gender neutral like black, gold, silver, green, white.
sjduffers says:
@mjaber, the USGA has formulas to extrapolate ratings from rated tees to unrated ones, based on the distance differential, so in theory all that is needed is one set of tees per gender. Granted, it's not the most obvious or easy thing to do, but it is certainly possible, and done fairly frequently. Similarly, mixed gender competitions from different set of tees for men and women are done routinely, with the adjustements suggested by the USGA.
bkuehn1952 says:
"Would you move up a set of tees ... or back ... if the names were different?"

I generally don't go by names. I joked with my caddie at Carnoustie that I should probably be playing the ladies tee. At 6,144 yards it was really more in my wheelhouse than the shortest men's tee. Unless the conditions are unusual (very wet, very windy, very dry/firm) I play a set of tees that fall within the range of 6,000 to 6,500. If the only set of tees that meets those parameters is called the Senior Tee, so be it.
Matt McGee says:
I have to wonder what the purpose of this discussion is. Is it about pace of play, or about encouraging people to use the correct tees to get the most out of the game? If it's the first, I don't think tee box choice is one of the top reasons for slow play (although I'm sure it contributes). If it's the second, then the "tee it forward" campaign is already moving things in the right direction by encouraging people to play tees that make the game more enjoyable for themselves.
golfingbumunderpar64 says:
I do agree with mustang. But... Jason I don't completely agree with the hcp. To me golf is about accuracy not distance. I'm a scratch golfer. If I played most courses based off hcp, I would be playing from pro distances. If I have to hit driver on a par three or hit driver 3 wood into a par 4 and still come up short because I'm playing my "recommended " tees, that's not fun golf. But if I have an option of driver off the tee to a tight fairway and hit wedge in or an iron off the tee and mid low iron in. I have to weigh how I'm playing. Risk vs reward baby. That's fun golf. We used to play the dice game. Roll a die, landed on 1 or 2, tee up from the reds, 3or 4, whites and 5or 6, blue tees. In a money match it's awesome when you hit from reds and opponent tees from blues on a par 5. All about the luck of the roll
jasonfish11 says:
Bum I think most scratch golfers should be playing from 6500-7000 yards (excluding really good seniors or juniors that can't hit a driver past 215).

If the course has a tee box at 7500 for the "pros" good for them but I dont think anyone other than a top level amature or pro should ever play from there.
mjaber says:
@sjduffers... that's great, in theory, but I don't think it can be truly accurate without a true rating. Factoring in just distance is not, at least to me, a true adjustment. Changes in the location of the tee boxes, left or right, can have a profound effect on the difficulty of the course, and may not change the distance of the hole as much.
Shallowface says:
Brad Klein of Golfweek has a good idea if you make a fair number of birdies.
Figure out the average length of the holes on which you made birdie, an average for the Par 3s, the Par 4s and the Par 5s.
Multiply the Par 3 and Par 5 average each by 4 (the typical number of those types of holes on most courses) and the Par 4 average by 10.
Add it up and the total is the yardage you should play.
Last year I made 144 birdies in 108 rounds, and my yardage was 5,920.
This year so far I've made 88 birdies in 85 rounds, and my yardage is 5,928. I play a wide variety of courses, so the numbers aren't from always playing the same course..
This seems about right for me as I average about 230 off the tee and hit a 5 iron about 160.
I do like the idea of picking tees based on the Par 3s.
I don't like the idea of suggesting tees based on handicap as the few places I've seen this my yardage is suggested for higher handicappers and I'm currently a 6. They want me to play from 7000 and that ain't happenin'.
bkuehn1952 says:
@Shallowface makes a good point. Developing a handicap on courses measuring 6,000+ yards does not always translate well when playing a 7,000 yard course. Yes, rating & slope partially adjust for the difference but many of us with single digit handicaps earned on shorter courses can't come close to shooting our handicap when placed on a set of very long tees. I truly believe if I played Torrey Pines South and Beth Page Black from the tips for several months, my handicap would be closer to 15 than 7.
GolfSmith7 says:
I usually pick my distances based on the length of the par 4's I want a good mix. long one's short ones etc. If I don't like the mix of the par 4 distances I pick the next tee. The longest course I played was memorial park in Houston measuring at 7305. Shot an 87 with 2 birds, one on a 223 par 3.
frankteo714 says:
I always look at the scorecard of the course I'm going to play. If I have to hit more than iron on a par 3, the set of tees is too long for me. Sometimes courses will go by handicap which is nice.
onedollarwed says:
The only thing that would really work is one tee box and five different greens of varying distance/difficulty... but seriously... I have said this so many times I feel like a broken record: The average recreational golfer is not out there to improve their game!

Sure, they'd like to play better, but have no idea what that is, or how to do it. Men in general consistently overestimate their abilities and skills, and put themselves in a position to have fun (extrinsic rewards) no matter how they score.

In large part, the recreation of the golfer is in opposition to the improvement of the golfer. The Golf Industrial Complex is as well. There are segments of the golf community who compete, teach, learn, and thrive, yet as we've said loads of times, average courses can't hire more staff, rangers, starters, teachers, or coaches. We're left with Big Brother Golf to inform and supply our misguided needs.
onedollarwed says:
The first point above is that almost anyone would play to the closest/easiest of 5 greens if given a choice, but rarely give themselves that chance to tee it forward on the front end.. for all of the silly egotistical reasons.
Personally I play blue - or one back from white - because I get tired of driver-wedge golf. If there is a box beyond blue, I find myself over-swinging from the tee, which is stupid.
onedollarwed says:
This course does a nice job of laying out tee box information: yardage, rating, slope, etc. While the forward tees are still red, and the tips still black, I appreciate the ambiguity with gold and green: there is no white.
AS you can see, the green comes in at 6017 and a slope of 125. Red is a robust 119 slope rating - where most golfers fall who are breaking 90 regularly.
If I'm traveling and need to select a course blindly, I'll look for a course where White tees are around 120 slope, and then play the Blue tees.
What's great about this course is that there is a lot of space, and the difficulty is either wind, dog-legged fairways where shaping can add or subtract 100 yds of distance, intervening fescue, and sizable bunkerage.
If you're in New England, or RI this fall, make a point to play here: Fall walking rates are reasonable, and the foliage will be awesome in the coming month.
GBogey says:
So the problem with courses like the one you pointed to is that the main tees are 6553 and 6017. Most players of average distance, of which I think I qualify, should probably be around 6200-6300 for a par 72. I've met too many people whose tendency is to play long, not short and yet I find that people enjoy the game more with more reasonable distances.
The other thing is that too often people don't combine distance and par. I heard a guy say one time that it's only 6300 yds, without looking that it was a par 70, so it was in effect at least 6600.
hp says:
Yes, I agree that courses should never name their tee boxes Men's, Senior's, Women's. Too many golfers will play the 'wrong' tees and lessen the enjoyment for everyone else, let alone themselves.

No, I don't agree with distance profiling the tees. Too many long and wayward hitters would be guided to the 'wrong' tee box.

I like a large lawn sign at the 1st and 10th tee box (not just on the scorecard) where everyone can see suggested tee boxes based on handicaps, factoring in the difficulty of the course, with the tag line "for the enjoyment of you and everyone else on the course". AND, the tee boxes can absolutely have handicap overlap.

For example, due to the extreme difficulty, maybe something like this for TORREY PINES SOUTH:

BLACK (78.2 / 144): +3 or better
BLUE (75.3 / 137): +3 to 4
WHITE (73.1 / 133): 0 to 10
GOLD (70.7 / 129): 7 to 18
RED - 15 and over
TRad says:
Not all high HCP are caused by bad long game. I know looong golfers who could putt/chip to save their lives. They shouldn't play short tees and it wouldn't help them.

I like par 3 criterium: choose tee from which you have realistic chance to reach the green. Or similar criteria: 28 * average driver distance; or 35 * average 5I distance.

But getting rid with ladies/senior/amateur/pro etiquettes are essential.
mrcgamble says:
I was just talking about this with my playing partners about moving back a set of tees. I play to a hdc. of around 5 to 7 depending on how much I get out and play. My normal course I usually play from the "mens" (white) tees. The problem with moving back a set to the tips is that 3 of the 4 par 3's play over 200 yards. 2 of them are not too much over 200 but one plays 242 from the tips, while all three of them would be hybrid plus clubs, I don't feel like I would enjoy playing the tips. I have played the tips a handful of times just much more enjoy myself playing from the whites.
BentSwing says:
It's a pointless discussion. The PGA and it's good ol boys aren't going to change or rename anything. Just mind your own business and play from wherever you want.
hp says:
@ bentswing

Your business is my business if you are the reason why I'm playing a 5 1/2 hour round cause you are playing from the wrong tees. But hey, if I'm in the group behind you and you can shoot a 110 from the tips in less than 4 1/2 hours, I'm fine with that. Play from wherever you want.
DougE says:
Agree with hp. A large sign at the 1st and 10th, with wording strong enough to encourage everyone to hit from the "best" tee for the "best" challenge, and to keep you within the specified time expected to finish your round without slowing down anyone behind you. Eg.

Black: 6990 Yards/Slope Rating 147 (Men)/157 (Women)=EXTREMELY DIFFICULT
Recommended Hdcp: 0-4/Ave. Driver Distance: 275+
Blue: 6595 Yards/Slope Rating 140 (M)/149 (W)=VERY DIFFICULT
Recommended Hdcp: 0-16/Ave. Driver Distance: 230+
White: 6280 Yards/Slope Rating 136 (M)/148 (W)=VERY CHALLENGING
Recommended Hdcp: 5-25/Ave. Driver Distance: 200+
Green: 5920 Yards/Slope Rating 126 (M)/138 (W)= CHALLENGING
Recommended Hdcp: 9-30/Ave. Driver Distance: 175+
Gold: 5130 Yards/Slope Rating 113 (M)/124 (W)= Moderately CHALLENGING
Recommended Hdcp: 15-35/Ave. Driver Distance: 135+
jasonfish11 says:
"White: 6280 Yards/Slope Rating 136 (M)/148 (W)=VERY CHALLENGING
Recommended Hdcp: 5-25/Ave. Driver Distance: 200+"

lol a 20 handicap who hits the ball 215 should NOT be playing a 136 slope rating.

I get your concept but it's data overload for 99% of the sheeple on the golf course. They will look at something that has more than 2 sentences and 2 sets of numbers and they will ignore it.
jasonfish11 says:
I think the best option is to just teach people nicely when you get paired with randoms.

For example. I played a course for the first time last year. 2 brothers and their dad. The white tees were where I felt most comfortable (specially being the first time on the course). They were like 6200 yrds 71/128 or something.

When shaking hands I found out these people hadn't ever played the course before either.

The 2 brothers said they were going to play the blues (dad playing the yellow) so I said "oh I'm going to get crushed today. I'm going to play the whites, I've never played here and am not good enough to take on the blues the first time." After that they decided to play the whites as well so we didn't have to drive to multiple tee boxes.

I shot 87 and probably beat their better ball score by 5 shots. About 5 holes in the one brother in the cart with me says "I'm sure glad we decided to play the whites."
Dusty23 says:
Here is a system I read several years back and has translated well with my game when choosing tees to play from. Using the system below I usually look for a set of tees around 6000 to 6200 yds

"Take your average 5-iron distance (be honest!), multiply by 36, and choose the tees that most closely match that yardage. Example: You hit your 5-iron 150 yards. So 150 times 36 equals 5,400. Choose the tees closest to 5,400 yards in length"
onedollarwed says:
If anyone can answer why we have 2, 3, or 4 tee boxes then they can probably explain why/when you would use them... crickets?

Obviously tee boxes aren't just graded by distance, but also left/right. This issue should be no more sensitive than pin placement. Would you rather have the most difficult pin placement or an extra 20 yards of distance?

Plus, if distance vs. handicap is the issue - or distance vs. accuracy - in terms of selecting a tee box, then why not use distance and accuracy?

1. Average long drive distance, minus 10 yards for every fairway/par 3 greens missed per round average (ALD-FPCTx10) = adjusted distance. Add that number by the reciprocal of putts after GIR(PAGIR) times your 5-iron distance (which nobody knows anyway) and subtract the tangent of its trajectory adjusted for MOI and shaft flex. The final formula: ((ALD-FPCTx10)+(1/PAGIRx5IYDS)-TANVectorY(.0125MOIcc/flextorquesquared)). Oh yeah, what are differentiated tee boxes for again?
jasonfish11 says:

That tells me I should be playing from 575 yards. I think something is wrong. Maybe I misjudged my 5i distance.
elliottgaryusa says:
Wow, lively topic. No easy answers. Here's more to muddy the discussion.

I have seen some scorecards suggest a tee based on handicap and just used colors for the tees. (Tullymore and Forest Dunes in MI) Somehow I think it needs to tie total course length with slope and rating. I can play a 6500y course reasonably well (not great) on an easy course but may need to drop down to 5800y on a difficult course.

Ultimately, it's the players responsibility to educate themselves and be honest about their ability. There are so many factors it's tough to dum it down to a simple chart. Perhaps handicap, ave GIR & ave FIR need to factor in there too.

Reduce the number of tees and increase par based on handicap.
Hole 1 - 350y
Par 4 Hcp 0-18
Par 5 Hcp 19-25
Par 6 Hcp 26>

Yea I said par 6. They're likely to make 6 or greater anyway so why "penalize" them.
Torleif Sorenson says:
As oobgolf's resident research nerd, I have just a few thoughts on this:

(1) It really "chaps my hide" to see people refer to the so-called "ladies" tees. I'd love to see courses do away with the red tees and banish the stigma.

One of my financial advisers played on the women's golf team at the University of Minnesota and there is NO way on God's green earth that she should ever be artificially restricted to playing the forward tees. On most days, she could beat most guys.

(2) @elliotgaryusa, your idea has some real merit, but it would require an extraordinary amount of reprogramming for the USGA as well as for sites like ours.

In lieu of that, I think @shallowface noting Brad Klein's idea has some merit.
Torleif Sorenson says:
COURSE RATINGS: More and more state/regional golf associations in the U.S., Canada, New Zealand, and some European countries are now rating the front tees for men. They're also now providing slope-and-ratings for women from the middle sets of tees - not just from the front. In Australia, they are supposedly getting ready to deploy the USGA system as well.

Unfortunately, Great Britain and Ireland are way behind the curve, still using the antiquated SSS system and only providing women's numbers from the front tees. Sheesh.
Jake Bogardus says:
Wedge Guy,

I think this article is very much against what you are always preaching...accuracy over distance. Results over machismo. Score, score, score. Tees should be based on handicap plain and simple. Plenty of men can hit a 5 iron 185. I have friends that hit 5 iron about that distance and hit it all over the lot with bad short games and play to a handicap of 30. They can't be playing from the tips.

Also, the USGA defines a woman bogey golfer as follows: "A female bogey golfer is a player who has a Course Handicap of approximately 24 on a course of standard difficulty. She can hit tee shots an average of 150 yards and can reach a 280-yard hole in two shots." With a drive of 150 that leaves 130 to a 280 hole. So a woman bogey golfer should be playing from in front of the reds in your scenario...kind of ridiculous
Jake Bogardus says:
Also, I do agree with getting rid of the names of the tees. I'd name them after great players. Nicklaus tees, Palmer tees, Player tees, etc
johnnymac2201 says:
I like the way it is at most clubs here in Europe. On any given day, there are only 2 sets of tees open, Mens and Ladies. The secret to playing from longer, or shorter sets of tees is adjusting the par of the hole according to your handicap. If your scratch, you play the holes as designed, and if your a 36, add 2 strokes to the par of every hole, and play to par it. Would also save money on course design and upkeep.
joe jones says:
A Rose by any other name is still a Rose. The yellow tees on one course plays to 6100 yards while another course plays to 5600 yards.I try to play to a composite distance of 6000 yards.I still have to hit fairway woods on some of the long par fours but if I can't reach in regulation I can often scramble for pars. As I stated in my article "Is age just a state of mind" my distance off the tee rapidly declined when I reached 65 and had a number of operations and illnesses that caused a problem with turning.Many Super Seniors retain power and distance well into their later years and can still play the power game. Others like myself depend upon a good short game and course management to keep playing this marvelous game. My one wish is that I hope all players play from the correct tee's for them. There is nothing worse than seeing a player insist on playing the back tee's and complain when they shoot 120.
Iko15 says:
I've often commented when a playing partner puts their drive into the fairway bunker, "that's why the course designer put it there." What that also means is that we are probably playing from the correct set of tees, because the bunker should be in play on your drive. If you always find yourself way short of the bunkers, you should move up a set, and vice versa.
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