For years, golf courses quietly wished golfers would play the proper set of tees so they would enjoy the game more, not to mention pick up the pace of play.
Check your ego at the clubhouse door, they said.
It was often met by snickers and sneers as players made their way to the back tees, whether they belonged there or not.
The PGA of America and the United States Golf Association have gotten into the act with a new national initiative called “Tee It Forward,” an attempt to get golfers to play the proper set of tees to maximize their enjoyment of the game.
“I honestly think if more people would move up, they would have a lot more fun playing the game,” said Darren Howard, head professional at Blackthorn Club, who is on a national council charged with growing the game. “This is supposed to be fun. It’s not the way you make your living. Go out and have fun. That’s what we’re trying to change a little bit.”
The “Tee It Forward” initiative invites players to chose the length of the course best suited for them based on how far they hit their drivers. For example, a player who drives the ball 275 yards is supposed to play tees that measure between 6,700 and 6,900 yards. A player who hits it 200 should play tees that add up to between 5,200 and 5,400.
The PGA and USGA have issued a chart showing what length course to play.
“We kind of saw, even before the economy got bad, that golf was starting to slide a bit,” Howard said. “We heard ‘The game was tough. It took too long to play.’ That kind of stuff. This is a way of getting past that.”
The Blackthorn Club (formerly The Ridges) has a chart of its own, similar to the “Tee It Forward” chart, that suggests which tees golfers should play based on their average driver distance.
“When we opened this golf course, it was a little tougher than anything around here so it didn’t take long for me to convince some of the members,” Howard said.
Of course, all this assumes a golfer knows how far he or she hits their driver — and is honest about it.
“A lot of people in golf think they’re a lot better than they are,” Howard said. “It’s hard for people to admit that they’re not nearly as good as they think they are. It’s a reality check for some people.”
Making the game easier for many people is part of the idea.
“A lot of courses, especially in Florida, started making the courses shorter and the fairways wider with almost no rough,” Howard said. “It makes it more playable. Not everybody’s a Tour player. That’s the whole idea behind this.”
The initiative began July 5. The Tennessee PGA, the Tennessee Golf Association and the Tennessee Golf Foundation have all encouraged golf courses throughout the state to participate.
“The passion that golfers have for our game has the potential to be enhanced by ‘Tee It Forward,’ ” said Jim Hyler, president of the USGA. “This is an innovation that we think will appeal to golfers of all skill levels because it gives them a new challenge that better aligns with their abilities. We hope that ‘Tee It Forward’ will be embraced by players and golf facilities across the country.”
It’s an idea that will likely be met with some skepticism, but once golfers try it, it has chance to catch on.
“Tee It Forward should help people have a little bit more fun,” Howard said. “They won’t be on the golf course forever and they won’t feel like they’re holding anybody up. I think it’s a great idea.”
Joe Avento is a sports writer for the Johnson City Press. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.