This is a classic first tee scene that you’ve probably seen or heard countless times, or maybe you’ve been part of it yourself: four players with medium handicaps head towards the tee box , place a few bets, then review the scorecard.
“What tees are we playing on? someone says. “Blues are 6,611, Whites are 6,232.”
“I’m easy,” said another member of the group.
Silence for a few beats.
A third golfer breaks the silence: “Let’s go blues. The fairways seem firm. I think we can handle 6,600.”
Nobody opposes it.
Too bad, because they would have been happier playing with shorter tees.
It’s not speculative. That’s a real finding in the latest Golf Facility Market Trend Watch report, commissioned by the American Society of Golf Course Architects. Among the questions the online survey posed to more than 35,000 respondents – a group that included golf course architects, superintendents, general managers, facility owners/operators and golf professionals – was this one:
If you’ve added more tees before in recent years, which of the following statements describes your experience so far?
There have been all kinds of positive results. Around 20% of respondents said the new tees resulted in more games being played; around a third said tees have led to a more diverse player base, with the same percentage saying tees have also helped disperse wear on tee surfaces in general; and nearly 40% said the shorter tee options helped pick up the pace of play.
But it was this response that caught my attention the most: around 3 out of 4 respondents said that adding new front tees “increases player satisfaction and enjoyment” (with a 69% approval rating out of public courses and a whopping 78% on private courses). ).
Imagine that! Just hitting a set (or two) of tees can make you a happier, more satisfied golfer.
This makes sense, because (1) most amateurs don’t hit the ball as far as they think they will, leading to many hybrids and par-4 fairway woods, and (2) most courses don’t offer enough teeing options for shorter hitters. Among the many telling findings of the R&A and USGA’s 2020 Distance Insights report are its findings on recreational golfers, starting with their average driving distance: 216 yards. Yes, just 216.
And when you distinguish people with medium and high disabilities, the distances become even shorter. According to the report, male golfers with handicaps between 13 and 20 average about 200 yards from the tee, while male players north of that handicap range average 176 yards. Try to play the middle tees on most courses with a driving average of 176 yards, or even 200 yards for that matter. It’s not very fun.
Meanwhile, most courts are not doing their part to help the cause.
According to the report, only around 18% of US courses offer an appropriate playing length for average runs of 175 yards, while only around 60% offer an appropriate length for average runs of 200 yards.
A little personal parenthesis: last October, I played a game on this can be a brute of a course, a fire-breathing US Open venue with sloping fairways and unforgiving greens. My playing partners and I – all of whom have an average handicap – had two starting distances to realistically choose from: 6506 or 6122. We debated the merits of each, listened to advice from our caddies and decided on the shortest option. Best golf decision I’ve made all year. About four and a quarter hours later, I had shot the best score of my life.
No surprise, it was also one of the most fun parts of my life.