Tee it Forward: Not for Everybody?

In 2011, the USGA and the PGA of America came together to promote the ‘Tee it Forward’ initiative. Most of us have seen advertisements, read articles and talked about the subject since that time. Essentially, the two organizations are looking to help golfers play shorter clubs into greens, shoot lower scores, and speed up pace of play. I’ve never taken it as a recommendation to play a set of tees that is too short for me, but rather as a reminder that the game is more fun when I’m not outmatched by the distance of a course.

Though some may disagree, I felt the Tee it Forward initiative was a great idea. I think we’ve all either seen somebody or been the person that is playing from too long of a distance. Everybody is certainly different, but I do enjoy the game more when I have a chance at hitting a green with a shorter club in my hand. Driver/hybrid golf just gets old after a while.

Recently, I had the opportunity to play a round of golf with GolferGal, one of THP’s owners, and we had interesting conversation about Tee it Forward
and its relevance for lady golfers.

A Few Observations

  • The forward tee boxes that day measured 5,039 yards.
  • GolferGal hits the ball farther on average than most amateur female golfers I’ve played with.
  • She rarely had less than a hybrid for most approach shots and many par 4 holes required her to either hit a fairway wood or layup.
  • While her drives were often even with or slightly farther than the male golfers in our group, she was still left with a similar distance to the green. This caused a disproportionate distance gap on approach shots. While we may have been hitting something in between a 7 and 9 iron from 140 yards, she was left with a hybrid from the same distance.

After our conversation, I did a little research and found that average distance from the forward tees at ten local courses in my area was 5,186 yards. The Tee it Forward initiative recommends the following course lengths based on driver distances:

From my personal observations, 200 yards is a pretty long distance for many amateur female golfers to hit a driver. Obviously there are exceptions, but it seems that most courses have tee boxes that are unfairly long for many of their lady customers. Worse yet, a female golfer doesn’t really have the choice to Tee it Forward like many of us do. I’m not sure I’d be happy being forced to play a course that was 500-600 yards out of my wheelhouse every time I teed it up.

Who’s to blame? I’m not really sure about that, but it does appear that forward tees are often an afterthought for many courses when it comes to placement, length, and conditioning. THP would love to hear your thoughts on the matter. You can leave a comment below or join in the conversation on our forums.

Thanks for reading and best of luck on the course this year.

Ryan H.

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  • I think it is fair for the Ladies and older golfers to have the choice to tee it up forward. At the amateur level it is all about having a good time and not putting additional pressure on yourself. When I get old, you can bet your booty I will be moving up!

  • Well done, never thought about that. The tee ut forward was not created with the ladies in mind. I hope this is forwarded to the proper people.

  • Tee it forward is a great idea that many golfers would find it would make their round alot more enjoyable .

    “While her drives were often even with or slightly farther than the male golfers in our group”…G.G you go girl ..ha,ha

  • Sounds like a great idea by the PGA of American and the USGA, but appears as though not everyone got the memo here. Hopefully this can be sorted out in the future so that way everyone can enjoy the game more.

  • Very good article Hawk and something that I never thought about until now. My wife is just starting to take up this great game and it seems like this will be another challenge in her enjoyment of golf.

  • Awesome stuff Ryan. It is one thing to discuss, and it is another to put it all into sensible data using numbers from “on course” experiences. I can relate this to playing with my son, there are no junior tees, so we have him play for the most forward tees but it is definitely not as proportionate as it should be given the Tee it Forward concept.

    As Freddie said, I hope that the right people hear this – a change could make the game more enjoyable for all.

  • Hawk,Great article. I wonder what the Tee it Forward Inititative people would think about this? I think you bring up a great point, and we may need to start considering new sets of tees.

  • Nice article Hawk. I like the thinking here, and many clubs could and should sit up and take notice.

    Only problem I can think of is finding a good place for a tee box on some holes. Long par 3s maybe, or par 4/5s where the forward tee might actually be in the landing area for some of the amateurs playing the back tees. Sure that could be worked around on 99% of courses though.

  • The other disservice that golf courses are doing by having their shortest tees set up at over 5000 yards is to junior golfers. I’m sure golf course owners are balancing the maintenance requirements for extra tee boxes over the use they get, but if they are limiting access (in a way) to customers, it seems like they would be losing customers that most places desparately need right now.

  • Great article Hawk. I think you bring up a really good point in regards to the female golfer and their driving distances and how the tee it forward program really has no benefit to them, most courses probably won’t go through the expense of building more tee boxes but it would be nice to see some discussion from the USGA and other organizations regarding this. I also hope the right set of eyes see’s this fantastic write up of yours and at least starts the ball rolling.

  • Interesting article i find the premise to be a great idea in principal as I live in the UK i had not heard of this idea as far as I am aware it has not reached these shores, but I am sure it would find favour with a lot of the seniors and ladies at the club I play in where the ladies course measure about 5,000 yards. however as a better golf playing at a course which has a fair number of dog legs and tactical holes when we occasionally play competitions open to ladies and seniors the tees are moved forward making it easier for them but no easier for the longer hitters with single figure handicaps as we just hit shorter tee shots and have the same clubs in for second shots only 2 of the par fives become slightly easier to eagle, but due to the standard scratch coming down 3 or even 4 shots in these competitions a birdie at these holes now becomes essential.

    I am not against golfers being able to enjoy the game more, but handicapping and competitions require a level playing field so that the best play can be rewarded, distance with any club is a by product of a good swing and ball striking this should not be negated because it is considered inconvenient to the growth of the game. it should not be forgotten that golf is a sport that requires an athletic movement and therefore some physical ability that can be trained for in the gym like any other sport football basketball etc… if you feel you lack distance try working out more and see a PGA pro to improve your swing. i play regularly with a friend and his father who is 61 years old he hits it at least 240 yards of the tee not because he has the best swing in the world or is a great golfer his hdcp is 15, but because he keeps very fit and flexible he cycles about 15 miles a day.

  • I agree that new tee boxes would solve most of those problems. Maintenance shuuld be a minor concern.

  • Gamb063 – I know that our handicapping systems are different, but in the US, each tee box is assigned a varying level of difficulty and competitions can be designed to account for that. Playing from a different tee box gives the player a different ‘course handicap’ to level the playing field.

  • Very interesting and revealing article Hawk. I always thought of myself or my group of guys that I play with when thinking about the Tee it Forward initiative. Seems like a great idea, but yeah where do the ladies or even younger or older golfers who usually play the forward tees to begin with go? Seems to be a big push to make the game quicker and easier, so in that case we almost need our courses to start putting in even more forward tees.

  • I noticed that as well during the round we played. GG would hit a great drive and be in a similar position we were to the green. Doesn’t seem fair at all.

    Hawk you did a great job with this article and brought up some valid points I wouldn’t have thought of or looked at that way. Great article!

  • I love playing shorter tees since I’m a short ball hitter. I’m used to playing 6600ish with 230yd drives. Hybrid into greens are common. I have to play that distance becasue that is where varsity golfs from. When I play shorter courses like 6000 I thoroughly enjoy it and shoot wayyyyyy lower. Sometimes I don’t even know where my ball is cause I’m expecting it to be halfway down the fairway (err rough) and its like 100yds out!

  • Excellent thoughts Ryan, so that’s what you two were discussing all day!!!

  • I had never thought about that before. I guess I just assumed that ladies played fine from the front tee boxes, but obviously I was probably wrong. Great article!

  • very good read Hawk. I think Tee it forward is a really good idea, but you are right, it just not work for everyone. A good test would be if courses would throw some tee markers at the beginning of some fairways. Shorten the course up 4500 yards or so and see how it effects everyone, Juniors, Seniors, Ladies.

  • You know I never really looked at it like that. There are two par 4’s on the back nine at my home course due to the length and elevation change are easily 3 shot holes into the greens for me. I hit the ball a decent distance for a woman off the tee but on these holes I am usually left with a 3 wood into the green. I usually choose to lay up and have a short iron or wedge into the green.

  • Our course is addressing this, and I am not sure it is on purpose. We’re in the middle of a course renovation and we are going from having three sets of tees normally, to at least four on every hole. Many will have five distinct tee boxes. Our course is not super long anyway, as it has six par 3’s, but it looks like on the longer holes, we’ll have tee boxes that will fit the long hitters down to juniors.

    This is a hot topic, and the point was made that GG would wind up close to or past where the guys were hitting their drives (I am assuming from the regular tees or back) but having to hit a longer club in. That’s something that needs to be taken into the equation when deciding where the forward tees are. Instead of 50 or 60 yards up, maybe the forward tees should be 100 yards up or more.

    My wife if a pretty long hitter and she will play the par 3’s and a lot of par 4’s with us (she actually likes her woods more than her shorter irons!), but on most par 5’s she will move up (some of our forward tees on our course and our sister courses are 100 yards up from the regular tees on par 5’s), crush a drive and be 50 to 60 yards past us easily, so she isn’t having to use more club than we are for our second shots.

    I mention my wife here, but a lot of us play with someone who is significantly shorter than the rest of the group. Sometimes I am that person when I play with a group of longknockers! My wife is actually longer than one of the guys we used to play with,but he would never move up. But having shorter tees does make the game better for people, if they are set up correctly.

  • I like the tee it forward program but most of the courses I play I don’t see an issue with people playing incorrect tees. I do see an issue though for those who significantly shorter that other players. Doesn’t really seem fair that one player is able to hit a 7 iron in while another player just because they are shorter is having to hit 3 iron or even hybrid in. I think the issue we run into is courses are designed with the idea of 3 tees, forward, middle, back and don’t have a place to or money to build another set of tees that are for a very small population of golfing world even though that is a very influential part of the golfing world. Maybe more new course designs will be designed this way.

  • Great read Hawk, I agree with the “forward” tees never being forward enough in general.

  • Good article Hawk, that makes a lot of sense. It really is unfair to the ladies if you look at it that way. I wonder if or when anything will change.

  • Very interesting thoughts man. Great article. My home course recently added a 4th set of tees three years go which play from quite a bit closer. It was nice to see a course add a set of tees closer than the standard, ” we added tiger tees” or ” we moved the tips back”.

  • Thanks Hawk, I see your point with the ladies tee box.

  • Good article Hawk. I know traditionally par is usually what 70, 72? What type of cost are you looking at to add and maintain new tee boxes? Do you think that might push green fees up and alienate another group of golfers? I’m not in any way saying its not a good idea and I’m for it, but do you think there might be other options in the meantime? Adding a few extra strokes and turning some par 4’s into 5’s?

  • Good article Ryan, I never really thought about what tee it forward meant to female golfers since they already play from the most forward set of tees.

    Really good thoughts.

  • I think that the problem is that courses don’t cater to the “average” female golfer because they don’t make up a significant & of the paid tee times. From the course’s perspective; why install and maintain another set of forward tees that may only get used a few times/day. From the golfer’s perspective; give the female golfer all the same options that a male player partner gets. I recently played a new course with a female friend of mine and we were shocked to find that the conditions of the ladies tees were so much worse that the other 3 sets of tees. Most of the ladies tees hadn’t been mowed in several days, were on outrageous slopes/contours as compared to the other tees, and were just in bad conditions when compared to the rest of the course. This sounds like an issue that the Golf Course Superintendents Association should address, (although I’m skeptical the issue would be addressed by most courses).

  • I think it’s definitely a fair move for women and older golfers. But I’m with Oregon Golfer, ladies should also get the chance to play by the “normal” standards too.

  • all good thoughts.
    i agree that it is fun, to tee it forward, ie…play from different tees from time to time. it can break up the monotony of always playing the same course or using the same clubs. i rarely have thought of it from an advantage/disadvantage standpoint…

  • Nice article. I golf almost exclusively with my wife (average tee shot 180y) and couldn’t agree more with the length of courses no matching that of ladies shots. USGA really needs a reality check when it comes to rate a course and so do architects when designing courses and placing tee boxes. Now I have a senior friend (75 yo), he goes pass the most forward box and tee is up at the beginning of the fairway, now THAT is teeing it forward! Golf should be enjoyable and sometime courses set up don’t allow that, too bad.

  • My rationale is: Tee it forward. Once you start making pars from the front tee, and start to shoot low from the front tee, move backward. The goal of the game is not only to have fun, but also to get as close as possible to par. Why would you start 30, 40, 70 yards back if you’re not capable of doing par regularly from a shorter distance? Also, from a shorter distance, greens get really reachable in two on par 4s, you can start really counting GIR and start shooting in the 90-80-70. I have no problem playing from women’s tees, but I understand the concern of these women who have little choice if they also want to tee it ever more forward. I’ll move back when I’ll reach 80 from the forward tees in all of my rounds.

  • Most courses allow or even encourage men golfers to use senior tees when they are 60 or 65 years old, but make no additional accomodations when they become 75 or 80. Every course has a women’s tee but I have never seen a course that has additional forward tees for senior women. The Tee it Forward program should make the game of golf more enjoyable for more people.

  • Tee it Forward does not work for competition at different Tees thanks to the USGA rule 3-5 that is written for Scratch Golfers(with drives in 250 yard range). Obviously the only reason to move forward is because of lose of distance but doing so requires that the course rating difference is added to the existing handicap to those playing from the back tees. Example: if I am playing from the forward tees rated 68 with an 11 handicap against an 8 handicap from the tees rated 71 than the 8 handicap receives the difference of rating(3) and becomes an 11. It matters not what our respective handicap actually is from those respect tees. In other words we are all treated as 250 yard drivers. I really do believe that the 250 yard driver with an 8 handicap from the back tees would soon have a 5 handicap if he(she) played from the forward tees if the course was properly rated from the respective tees.

  • I’m a guy and I like to play Tee it Forward as I Cannot drive much more than 200 yards as I am getting older. Also I like to shoot Par and this is impossible unless I can hit the greens in regulation. I think I am a good golfer,just not very long. However,I am an excellent putter ,maybe one of the best putters around bar none. When I play in team tournaments my golf team usually shoots in the mid 50’s from the White tees . I have a couple of young guys on my team that can bomb it out 300 yards. They can get me on the greens in regulation where I go to work with my magic putter. I sink everything inside 20 feet and rarely miss my birdies. I have shot 10 under on the back nine,with the help of my team mates–we play in Scramble Tournaments.Occasionally I will play a Pro on my Team and the comments I get are that they feel that I am the best putter they have ever seen. I learnt my technique from a top Professional instructor,PGA Pro, Darrell Klassen,the Internet Instructor. This guy is a genius at golf and I have been trying to get Tiger Woods to go to him and get his game back.

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