Long Equals Better?

A program encouraging golfers to use the tees appropriate to their games, such as the USGA “Tee it Forward” effort, makes sense. On the other hand, I wonder about some of its implications and effects.

I’ll say more in a few days, but the first thing I wonder about is the use of length off the tee as the sole determining factor in tee choice. Dustin Johnson’s play on number 14 today at the HP Byron Nelson Championship is a nice example of why length may not be the most important issue. He hit a really long drive, then missed the green with his wedge, chipped over the green in three, and then two putted for his bogey.

Johnson’s play around the green resembled the kind of play that most often slows my groups down. We end up waiting while somebody goes back and forth near the hole, not while a short knocker takes an extra shot to reach the green.

On the other hand, choosing the right tees is important, length does matter, and too many golfers don’t match the tee choice to their level of play. We recently instituted a policy in one of the regular tournaments I play in allowing older (over 80, and that’s years, not strokes) players to play from the forward tees. The guys who took advantage of this appreciated being competitive again.

I guess the real question is the point of the policy. If it’s solely to enhance enjoyment, then it’s hard to argue with it for those who like the idea. If it’s an attempt to speed up play – and it’s hard to argue that a reasonable pace of play doesn’t contribute to enjoyment – then maybe more than length off the tee should be considered.

I also worry some about how the program could end up being implemented at some of the more regimented courses. “Let’s see how good you are, sport. Our tee assignment area is over here.” Whack. “I don’t know if we’ve got tees that short, son. Try again when we’re not so crowded.”

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