The principle behind TEE IT FORWARD – that playing the tees more suited to you abilities will make the game more enjoyable – seems reasonable on the surface but are the assumptions behind it valid? The TEE IT FORWARD program is the brainchild of Barney Adams, the founder of Adams Golf and supported by the PGA of America and the United States Golf Association. They argue that by playing from forward tees, amateur golfers will experience the same relative golf challenge as the pros do playing 7500+-yard monsters. The emphasis here is on playing faster and having more fun, with the hope that people will want to play more,” said USGA President Jim Hyler.
Now wait a second, is the agenda “fun” or is it faster rounds leading to more rounds per day and more money for the course? According to the PGA: “With many more golfers hitting approach shots with 6- and 7-irons instead of hybrids and long irons, their chances for enjoyment increase.” I am sure PGA editors agonized over that wording – How can we imply that golfers will score lower without actually saying it because we know that it really is not true. So they came up with “enjoyment.”
Is there a problem?
My beef is not about wording though, it is the implicit blaming of male golfers who overestimate their abilities, play the wrong tees, slow play and detract from everyone’s “enjoyment.” But are golfers really the bad guys? Might they be the architects who design courses that we can’t play well in the first place and course officials or maintenance crews who position tees in the wrong places? The tips/golds/ blacks etc. are wherever they are placed for the day. No need to have us move up to the “high handicap” tees – just move our tees to a different box. That way the 7200 – yard course could play 6700 yards from the “tips” most days of the year making it more manageable for us mortals.
What about the results of TEEING IT FORWARD on your golfing enjoyment? A USGA survey seemed to indicate that golfers like the concept but the stats are pretty loose so my golf buddies conducted our own highly scientific analysis….
The Real Data
First, did we score better?
Some days yes and some days no – conclusion: shorter holes don’t make us better putters.
Second, are our drives better positioned off the tee?
A good drive is a good drive from any tee, bad drives from forward tees are often deeper in the rough/bush/water – conclusion: when we mess up off the tee we don’t do it straight, we do it way right or left and forward tees don’t help that. We did agree that we were less likely to overswing from the forward tees and ironically some of our longest drives were the product of smooth, relaxed swings from there, not the bombs we felt we needed to hit from the tips.
Third, do you get rewarded when you hit a big drive from a forward tee?
Sure, sometimes, but on other occasions, you drive it through the fairway into the rough especially on dog legs – that wouldn’t have happened from further back.
Fourth, what about par 5s?
From the forward tees your ego starts thinking you can get on in two. Guess what behavior that leads to on the tee? Not what the TEE IT FORWARD folks had in mind – conclusion, some par 5s should be reachable from any tees, others should be classic three-shot holes.
Fifth, as for par 3’s, more of them should be shorter anyway to give a variety of one-shot challenges. More than one 200+ yard par 3 on a course is just dumb – conclusion, we like a mixture of short and long par 3’s so position the tee boxes accordingly.
It’s a game!
Our overall conclusion is that we are not going to always play forward tees because the USGA wants us to. Pace of play problems will still exist but course marshalls/players’ assistants are out there to address these (whether they are doing a good job is another story). Beginners will always struggle on a big course unless they have spent lots of prep time at the range and on executive-length courses. It is fun to play familiar holes from different distances. It is also fun to groove your swing and test yourself from the tips. The game is intrinsically fun, especially if golfers and golfing organizations would lighten up a bit about scoring, handicaps, course ratings and yes, rules – but those are topics for other posts.
Update: If you caught the October issue of Golf Digest, USGA Executive Director David Fay echos my opinions in this post.
What is your experience with PLAYING IT FORWARD? We would love to hear your thoughts.