What Tee Box Is Right For You?
If you play golf just about anywhere in the United States, you know the groups of men playing from back tees that are way beyond their skill level. They’re called the tournament tees. Employees at golf courses call them the testosterone tees.
“I want to see the whole course.”
“I want my money’s worth.”
“Playing from the back is the only way to compare myself to pro golfers.”
“It’s the only way to get better.”
Now these could be well-intentioned excuses or selfish ones depending on the golfer. The real reason people keep playing from the wrong tees is a charming little golfers self-defense mechanism that keeps some of us out there. Most golfers think they are far better than they actually are. It’s the only way to survive the truth of this amazing game we call golf.
In the golf world we may acknowledge that the average male golfer hits his drive about 205 yards. That is the true average, but thank goodness most of us aren’t THAT average. A standard drive by a woman, depending on the study you look at, measures in the 125- to 140-yard range. Women, some of those same studies will confirm, are less likely to overestimate that distance when asked. This shouldn’t be a huge shock to anyone honestly.
So it is some combination of ego, peer pressure and self-manipulation that keeps men marching farther and farther away to start each hole. There are other factors of course. Many of the newer and remodeled courses are adding tees that make the course play 7,000 or 8,000 yards. Course developers know they probably won’t receive acclaim in the state and national magazine rankings without some highly challenging length. But putting wild yardage totals like that on a scorecard is like offering toys in kids meals at fast food places. You know they can’t resist it.
New technology does make the ball go farther, and that gets in people’s heads. But if you go to the back tees and try to play at a level you are not at it could really hurt your scores. Imagine a baseball player going up to the plate and trying to hit a home run every single time he went up there.
For most golfers it just doesn’t make sense to play from those yardages. Even if you do hit the ball straight, imagine having to pull out a fairway wood or hybrid on almost every hole. Doesn’t sound very fun does it? If you don’t hit it straight and long, you’ll be chipping out of the rough in front of the fairway or from the woods on the left or right, and then you’ll still have a hybrid or a long iron at best to the green.
Come on people it’s a pretty simple thought that scores will go up as holes get longer. More strokes means more time on each hole, backing up the entire course. None of us want to be that guy or that group on the course that everyone is behind wondering what is going on.
Golf course designers have battled this predicament by putting in five or six sets of tees, with lengths beginning at 3,500 yards. Often, they have cleverly eliminated the traditional blue-white-red/back-center-front tee designations and substituted colors and shades that are not easily identified. If the tees are black, oak, granite, orange and green, the only reasonable way to choose what tees to play is to ask for help in the pro shop, or from the starter. Women aren’t automatically sent to the red “ladies” tees, and men might be persuaded to move forward a bit.
Some golfers and pro shops attempt to come up with a formula based on your golf handicap to match the yardage or tee boxes you play. 24–30 = Yellow Tees 17-23 = White Tees 11-16 = Blue Tees and 1-15 Black Tees for instance.
One problem with using handicaps to choose the appropriate tee is that less than a quarter of all golfers have one. So golfers, and instructors have proposed formulas to find the correct yardage for a golfer instead. They work, but will golfers accept the number they’re assigned and go to that tee box?
One very popular formula that is easy for all golfers to apply is to have a golfer estimate the average distance that his or her 5-iron shot will travel. The honest average, not the ultimate 5-iron shot. Then multiply that number by 36. If golfers were realistic, that would put most in the 5,300 to 6,300-yard range. Beginners, younger players, some seniors and some women would play from tees more forward, and be challenged. And the rare golfer, the one that usually has a handicap in the low single digits, would be venturing back to the back.
The only real problem with that formula is that there is more to golf than how far you hit the ball of course. So another general rule of thumb is simpler for anyone to fully understand. If you aren’t consistently breaking 90, move up one tee box until you are.