Growing the game: A realistic solution for slow play

Unveiled in 2011, Tee it Forward, the joint USGA, PGA of America initiative is designed to get players to play from the appropriate tees for their driving distance, rather than allowing pride or delusion to dictate where they’re teeing from.

Like seemingly every initiative in the world of golf, Tee it Forward has lost steam. But it’s merit remains as illustrated by Joyce Bassett of the Albany Times Union’s story about Pinehaven Country Club.

The course adjusted the yardage from the red tees, reducing it from 5,461 yards to 4,839 yards from the red tees. And the shorter course has been a big hit with the female membership.

“Let’s face it — we are all getting older,” said Anne Van Buren, a member of the club’s board who has been a member for 29 years. “All clubs struggle to attract younger members. And in reality, the average age of the golfer is getting older, and we need to make golf friendlier for those people.”

“It became fun again when I could make par and have a shot at birdies,” she said a 17-year member of the club. “I just love it.”

Not only is the game more fun when played from the appropriate tees, but golfers play much more quickly. Regardless of skill level, if a player is hitting a 7-iron into a green instead of a hybrid, that approach shot will necessarily end up closer to the hole, resulting in more enjoyment and fewer shots to finish the hole.

It’s an important concept for pace of play and overall enjoyment that’s somehow gotten lost in the shuffle. Certainly, the pride of playing from the back tees or the refusal of most men to move up to the “ladies” tees doesn’t help. And perhaps golf courses haven’t pushed the concept the way they should by not effectively requiring players to tee it up at the appropriate tees for their driving distance.

This chart is a guideline to help golfers align their average driving distance with the course length best suited to their abilities.

Driver Distance-Recommended 18-Hole Yardages

275: 6,700-6,900
250: 6,200-6,400
225: 5,800-6,000
200: 5,200-5,400
175: 4,400-4,600
150: 3,500-3,700
125: 2,800-3,000
100: 2,100-2,300

And the concept works, not only as illustrated by the members at Pinehaven’s experience, but by this survey data from the USGA.

  • 56 percent played faster
  • 56 percent are likely to play golf more often
  • 83 percent hit more-lofted clubs into greens
  • 85 percent had more fun
  • 93 percent will tee it forward again

There are a multitude of ways to grow the game. Certainly, it’s something we collectively need to continue thinking about it. But, at very least, everyone should be playing from the appropriate tees as dictated by the Tee it Forward program. Pride and stupidity shouldn’t stand in the way of something so sensible.