Another "Either/Or" For You
Thanks for the good input, readers. It seems that you fall into two general groups, in some very unscientific way: Those who genuinely feel like they are distance-challenged, and those who don't. That makes a lot of sense to me.

In our own research with thousands of golfers who follow SCOR Golf, either as owners or fans (or both), we found that the vast majority report that they hit 6-10 approach shots — or more with lower handicap players — with an 8-iron or less to the green. That number is consistent with what Dr. Bob Rotella told me that the PGA Tour players average 10.5-to-12.5 approaches per round with an 8-iron or less.

But in my regular group, where we have players who carry handicaps from low-single digits to over 25, I see many of them play several par-4s where they cannot get home in two shots, as well as many others whose best drives leave them outside realistic GIR range. Why would anyone want to do that? How can this game be fun when the idea of a birdie putt isn't remotely realistic on most holes, no matter how good you hit your drive?

The very idea of golf (and par) is that you should be able to reach the green in two shots on a par-4, three on a par-5, and allow two putts to make par. So, if you take that possibility out of the equation on half or more of the holes, what game are you really playing?

The "powers that be" are trying to get us to "Tee It Forward" — and I think that is a stellar idea — but almost all courses have the forward tees reserved for "Over 65." Well, I'm going to be there in three years, and those tees are too short for me. But our regular white tees are too *&#$ long for lots of golfers who are a far cry from 65 years old.

If you are hitting hybrids and long- or mid-irons to most greens, or hitting fairway woods and still not getting there, you are simply making the game overly difficult.

I'm on a soap box here a bit this morning, so let me just get on with my question for you today:

Which is more important:
  1. To play a set of tees that matches your distance (not handicap) profile, or

  2. To not appear a 'wimp' to your buddies and stay back on a set of tees that really does NOT fit your game?

And what do we, as the golfing public, do about it?
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[ comments ]
Nojdemo2 says:
I'm a 6'1" slightly overweight 40+ year old. I hit the ball well, but my 7 iron averages about 140 yards and I rarely hit my driver longer than 220. Yes, a good proportion of the par 4's on my local course are too long for me to hit in regulation - anything over 400 yards is a stretch to be honest. I'm a 20 handicapper.

However, the plain fact of the matter is my technique isn't up to snuff. If I hit the ball properly I should be able to put 20-30 yards on all my clubs - then those long par 4's would be well in range. There are 14 year olds at my club who can hit longer than me and believe me, it's not because they're stronger.

So, should I tee it forward? I don't think so. There are a couple of shorter 9-hole courses I sometimes play and my scores on those are markedly better (10+ shots over 18 holes!). I enjoy playing those courses bit it doesn't mean I'm a better golfer, it means I'm playing and easier course.

And I don't want the game to be easier - I want to be better at it!
Nojdemo2 says:
As a post script I would add that until my swing improves, I need to learn to play the long par 4's better. If I can't reach in two, lay up and try and get up and down. Short game is where the scores are made!
bkuehn1952 says:
I often play a set of tees that matches my distance (not handicap) profile. I will, however, also play from tees where the vast majority of approach shots are well more than an 8 iron for me. Some golfers I know rarely play a course that severely challenges their length. When faced with a long course or a short course that is playing long (i.e. soggy), they invariably crumble. I don't hit the ball very far and need real life experience hitting 3 woods and hybrids to the green.
GBogey says:
I have no problem playing the right tees for me even if others are playing longer. This is easy at my normal courses, more difficult when playing at new places, but I've never left a round saying, "gee, I wish that I had played longer tees" and I have regretted being talked into longer tees many times.

The solution would be best driven by course operators, merely suggesting tees based upon your club distances or skill level. A big issue I see is that too many courses have a wide disparity in their tees. I visit courses all the time with a set of tees at 6600 and the next at 6000. I'm about average in my distances and 6600 is way too long but 6000 can seem short. Why not present a combo at 6200-6300 which is where I feel (and Tom Watson) most players can be comfortable?
TRad says:
I don't care what other people think about me. I play tees I feel comfortable with. And of they think I'm a wimp, so be it.

That said if I have to play from farther tees that I like I'm playing them for one shot more. Then four shots on par 4 is a birdie for me.
cvargo says:
My regular group always wants to play the back tees, I play much better on the white tees. I am not ashamed of that fact.
jrbizzle says:
Whenever in doubt of which tees to play, multiply your 5 iron distance by 36 and play those tees.
joe jones says:
Many courses offer a composite set of tees for those that don't want to move up completely. I make my own composite yardage. If I can get home in regulation from the white (members ) tees I play white. If I can't I play it forward to the gold ( senior) tees. This usually presents me with a yardage of 6000-6200 yards. Even at that yardage some holes are at my limit on approach shots.Golf is about being practical. Playing to a correct yardage should never be a matter of ego. I have played with golfers that insist on playing from the tips when they are double digit handicappers. Then they complain about that rotten course when they shoot 120.They are only depriving themselves of having an enjoyable day on the course.
brianmk24 says:
That's an interesting stat about approach shots. I counted 8 8-irons or less on the par 4s last weekend and thought that was too many so I wish I had moved back a set last weekend (re: GBogey's comment!).

I had a round last year with a threesome at a new course at their tees which were slightly longer than what I usually play. I started off playing terribly from trying to hit it too far and changed tees after 4 holes. I didn't care, they didn't care..nobody cares if you're playing a "short" set of tees.
jasonfish11 says:
I usually look at length and slope. I like playing from around 6300 yards and a slope of 124ish. So if the slope goes to 130 I may go down to 6000 if available.
DougE says:
The white tees at my home course rate at 131 slope and are over 6300 yards. The blues are close to 6700 and rate 133. I play the blues at home only when the ground is hard, the wind is light and the temps are above 75. Maybe 15-20 rounds per year. When it's cold, windy and the ground is soft, even the whites here seem a bit long for me.

April in Connecticut is tough on my GIR stat. Last week I had only 4 approaches on par 4s of 8i or less, two rounds in a row. I also had three plugged drives one of those days. Drives that normally would have gone another 30 yards with good roll. Even during optimal, mid-season conditions at my home course, I am typically able to hit 8i or less on only 7 of the par 4s from the whites. The next set of tees up is a touch too short at 5800, though in these tough April conditions, I'm sure would be a lot more gratifying, that is, if no one could see me tee off from there. I admit, my ego would interfere. Maybe I'll consider it in 10 years when I'm actually a bonafide senior.
onedollarwed says:
I want to echo JFISH with respect to slope. I think it's the best way to select tee boxes. Slope seems to take into account hazards, narrowness, and the difficulty of the greens. A course design can also take driver out of play. In other words, if on one par 4 (345yds) you have to come over a hill and around a sharp dogleg, then over a pond to steeply sloped green (bunker right and long, OB left, pond in front); and another par 4 (385yds) is straight forward with a stream cutting across the fairway at 225yds out that you can't clear (so you're left with over 160 to the green); then moving up will help you on both holes, but the first hole is easier because of control and a better angle to get around the corner, and the other purely because of distance. The longer hitter will breeze through the second hole without a thought of the stream, but would have to shape a longer iron or hybrid on the first - where both players would be trying to reach the same ideal landing area.
onedollarwed says:
Of course if you're stuck at the same course then your only option is to tee it forward. Courses can be creative and offer more than one green/hole/flag that matches your tee box color. So that depending on the rationale, a forward tee box would have a tougher pin placement (distance leveling method). Or one tee box for all, with increasingly difficult pin placements (handicap leveling method).
And to answer the question dammit; I currently prefer what would typically be called blue tees (to avoid Driver-Wedge monotony). Often, others will play blue because I am, and sometime I'll move up to white to be more social, or if I'm feeling wimpy!
joe jones says:
Positioning and availability of the tee boxes has a great deal to do with how long a course can play.
Example: We have two courses that play to a similar length from the white tees but the yardage advantage for moving up to the yellow tees is totally different. On course A you can gain a maximum of 600 yards . On course B you gain only 230 yards. Course A has longer par threes but course B has long par fours. Course B is more difficult for short hitters. This was not designed with any intent, Each course was designed by the same group but A is 15 years older with smaller and fewer choices as to where the tees can be placed. The whole idea of playing it forward is to somewhat equalize the approach shots between blue, white and gold players. It doesn't always work out that way.On the other hand course B has much larger and faster greens with more undulation. As a good putter I sometimes can have a field day against longer hitters on those greens.
joe jones says:
Correction . I should have said "Course B is 15 years older" Course A is the newer course
kayagum says:
Tees are not geared for the average distance drive of 2014.

They're either set for the 190 yard drive (which I would guess would have been a decent drive in the persimmon era) or the 250 yard drive (which was and still is a yardage I rarely see for most amateurs then and now). Courses need to rethink their distances based on the current technology and distance, not from 1995 and prior, particularly on the par 4s. The distance they should measure the standard tees should be 200-210 yards.

Also on the par 5, the PGA tour events do a disservice on people's expectation of going for the green in two. Certainly Bubba's drive on 15 yesterday won't help this. They're supposed to be 3 shots to the green, not 2.

And, of course, the distances have to be straight for it to really count. :)
joe jones says:
kayagum. Your perception about the persimmon era is partially correct.Average drives for a PGA player was about 250-260 yards. There were exceptions however. Nicklaus could drive a ball 300+ if he needed it. The difference was that those earlier players were taught to hit drives at about 75% in order to control their shots. The old balata ball would and could curve on demand but could also create monster hooks and slices. Today,s players can bomb drives with impunity because the new ball does not spin as much.Tho I never played to any better than a 5 index I could hit a drive 270 and occasionally crack out a 300 yarder. A Titleist DT would only last 4 or 5 holes before it went out of round even if you hit it square. Somehow at my age the new equipment doesn't translate into greater distance. On the other hand I am straighter now then ever.
onedollarwed says:
I first started playing golf in the 1980s. I remember the crappiness of the balls. I didn't buy a single ball until 2002 - only played balls I found, which were many as I was often off the course. Most of the good balls would be cut and smiling very quickly. The DTs were almost too tough to play. Every now and then we'd find a balata which felt like a superball by comparison. Back then we weren't spinning the ball much, so it was a real mystery. The first ball that seemed to fly straight, last a long time, and play OK was the topflite XL - I liked the 100s. Even that was a crappy ball by today's standards. Good point Joe!
e_c_poirier says:
In my opinion, the naming of the tee's needs to stop. At my home course, the scorecard suggests tee boxes based on a players Hdcp Index. Black = 0-5, Blue 6-11, White 12-25, and Green 26+. Notice that there is no mention of championship tees, men's tees, women's tees, junior tees, or senior tees.

Call me crazy, but I'm pretty sure Fred Couples doesn't need to tee it up from the Green Tees in order to shoot a good score.

Swallow your pride, carry an honest Hdcp Index, and play from the appropriate tees. You'll enjoy your round more, and so will the people following your 4-some.
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