Scott Michaux

Sports columnist for The Augusta Chronicle. | ScottMichaux.com

Idea to move up a tee box perfect for usual duffers

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Years ago while trapped on a stretch of South Carolina Interstate behind a infuriatingly slow driver blocking the left-hand lane, I conjured up a public service campaign to make our nation's highways a more efficient and happier place.

The proposed slogan was simple and easy to remember -- "Get it right!"

My daydream was to have this command plastered on vacant billboards and distributed in free bumper stickers. A corresponding television and radio ad campaign would explain the rules of the road on how the left lane is for passing and the right lane is for cruising along. It's a simple concept that works beautifully on the German Autobahn but is largely ignored by many American drivers.

Someone with the means to implement it is free to roll it out. My treat.

That long introduction is to hail a similar campaign just initiated by the powers that be in golf in an effort to make our nation's golf courses more efficient and happier places. For all of the criticism I've hurled at golf's governing bodies through the years for various failures in regulating the game, this is an instance that deserves praise.

Last week the USGA and the PGA of America jointly announced its "Tee It Forward" initiative. The plan is to encourage golfers to move up one set of tees from their usual box during the period from July 5-17.

What are we waiting for? Most recreational golfers need to start doing this right now. The upshot of this practice would be to hasten speed of play, reduce the number of lost balls and perhaps lower scores to the point where everybody just might have more fun playing golf.

"Simply put, 'Tee It Forward' can make golf much more fun for millions of people," said Allen Wronowski, the president of the PGA of America. "We believe that by moving up to another set of tees, golfers will experience an exciting, new approach to the game that will produce more enjoyment and elevate their desire to come back and play even more golf."

Really, what it will do is teach golfers how to play within their own limitations and by doing so achieve the most of our potential.

The problem, we all know, is with men and our egos. Women almost always play the appropriate set of tees designated for them. Playing from a longer set of tees is a foreign concept to them.

"Playing the tips" is purely a male, testosterone-driven concept. Most of the time, all it ends up doing is diminishing our machismo in a flood of humiliating defeat.

Listen, there are plenty of double-digit handicappers out there capable of busting a driver 300 yards. However, not a single one of us is capable of averaging anything close to that distance off the tee like tour pros can. If you measure yourself by the absolute best of your shots, you are destined for disappointment way more often than not.

There is a reason we are double-digit handicappers. We don't play our best consistently. And most of us don't hit the ball nearly as much as we think we do.

When you factor in all the drives that slice into the trees or get hung up in the rough, a 12-handicapper like me is lucky to be average close to 240-250 yards. At that average distance, the USGA and PGA have calculated we should be playing courses measuring between 6,200 and 6,400 yards max. That would allow us to hit comparable irons into greens that the pros do playing courses of 7,500 yards or longer.

It's a lot more fun to hit a 7- or 8-iron into a green than a hybrid or 3-wood, right? So why put yourself in position to do that repeatedly from the start?

I personally came to this realization on my own last summer. I had reasoned that since modern equipment allows me to hit the ball further than I used to when I was younger, it was only natural to keep playing from tees further back. Not the tips, of course, but the tees in front of that.

So on my home course -- which has six sets of tees ranging from 5,103 to 7,004 yards -- that meant playing the gold tees that stretched 6,690 yards. Seemed reasonable to me.

But after months of playing from those tees, it dawned on me that I had never come close to hitting the 458-yard, uphill par-4 15th hole in regulation. I even declared to the pro one day that I would probably never hit that green.

The light bulb came on -- move up to the blue tees. From there the course measures 6,270 yards and the 15th hole is often reachable for me with anything from a 9- to a 5-iron depending on how well I tag the drive.

It's really such a simple thing that would make golf so much more fun for more people. It's a maddening game. Why make it harder?

"All of us deeply involved in the game constantly encourage golfers of all skill levels to play the proper tees, but too often golfers want to bite off as much of the golf course as they can," said Jack Nicklaus, the greatest major champion of all time and a prolific course designer. "What ends up suffering is their scorecard and their overall enjoyment. This program should help stimulate people to play the proper tees and maximize the golf experience."

If you don't listen to me, listen to Jack.

Man up and move up. You'll be happier and it will help keep golf out of the slow lane.

Tee it forward

This chart, provided by the USGA and PGA of America, is a guideline to help golfers align their average driving distance with the length of a course best suited to their abilities:

DRIVING AVG 18-HOLE YDG

300 7,150-7,400

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


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