Move Up (Leave Your Egos on the Back Tee)

 Nearing 70 years of age, I believe there’s no shame in moving to the forward mens or senior tees around 6,000 yards where I still have a chance to shoot in the 70s. Despite advancements in equipment, we do tend to lose club head speed and distance as we age. Courses are more lush and that reduces roll, too. However, it’s not just us seniors who should consider this advice. Based on observations of playing this game for more than 50 years, many stronger and younger golfers currently elect to play from the wrong set of tees because of their golfing ability.

If golfers really want to enjoy the game more, they should move up to the appropriate set of tees that allows them to have a chance to reach a majority of the greens in regulation and not just every once in a while–usually then only with fairway woods.

Why don’t they?

Well, their egos get in the way or they let their golfing buddies talk them into accepting the challenges from the back tees with words like, “Let’s play the course like the professionals do.” Of course, these golfers find that they hit drives followed by fairway woods or hybrids and pitches to most par 4s when they do this. That’s not the same game that the professionals play at all. These elite golfers play a completely different game

I recall hearing legendary golfer Byron Nelson tell everyone that he even ventured up to the red or forward tees (4,800 to 5,000 yards) when playing with his wife Peggy when he was in his 80s. “It’s more fun up there,” he said.

Just what tees should the average male golfer, one who shoots in the high 80s, use? I noticed where Frank Thomas, formerly with the United States Golf Association, recommended they use tees in the 6,000 to 6,200 yards range on courses with a course rating of 70 and a slope rating of 125.

I also recall hearing about a formula that appears to work. Take the distance you hit your 5-iron. Be realistic. Most golfers tend to think of only their best shots. That’s the reason you will find most never get their approach shots even to the greens. If it’s a comfortable 165 yards, multiply that by 36 to get the magic number—5,940 yards in this case. Many courses have sets of tees close to that number.

I find it hard to see how beginning women can enjoy the game when they hit driver, fairway wood and an iron to reach most par 4s or drivers on a lot of pare 3s. Using the above formula, if a woman hits her 5-iron 120 yards, she should be playing at 4,320 yards. Most sets of ladies tees are closer to 5,000 yards. So maybe courses need to think about adding forward tees that these ladies and even juniors could use.Another advantage of golfers playing from the appropriate tees for their skill levels is that it will certainly help them get around the course faster, too.

One other thought, another advantage to getting older is that most courses offer rates for us seniors, many like me who rely on our Social Security benefits as the main source of income.

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ABOUT: James McAfee

James McAfee is a freelance writer now living in Plano, TX after recently retiring as the editor of the Knox County News-Courier for eight years, He is currently writing for, Divot Magazine in Colorado, Hometown Living as well as this site. He had worked previously for newspapers in Texas and Oklahoma for 30 years as sports writer and sports editor. He was an editor of Golf Shop Operations and Golf Digest in the 1970s. He then served as the executive director of the Northern Texas PGA and the Dallas District Golf Association for 24 years, In addition, he spent three years in Costa Rica as director of golf and marketing at Playa Conchal.

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