As we move into reciprocal season for private club members in Southwest Florida, many golfers in the area will enjoy neighboring courses for a minimal fee. This is a great program, and I am proud to say one of my mentors, John Carroll, helped start the program years ago. At that time it was an agreement with a few local clubs. The agreement was so members at these clubs would have a place to play when their course was shut down for summer agriculture practices.
I bring up the topic of reciprocal season because this is also the time of year I see so many golfers playing a set of tees that makes golf torture, and tiresome for them.
In 2011, the USGA and the PGA of America started an initiative called “Tee it Forward.” This was part of many initiatives to get more people to play, and to keep playing those who already play. Tee it Forward was an idea that was originally proposed by long time club maker Barney Adams, of Adams golf clubs.
After playing a round of golf with his friends, Barney realized that no player in his group could reach the Par 4’s in regulation from the tee that they had played for decades. This led him to design an experiment. He took a Web.com tour player he knew at the local club out to play the golf course from certain areas he chose. The gentlemen, who could hit the ball over 300 yards, played many holes from a very long distance. The course they played equaled well over 8,000 yards. Most tour courses play between 7,100 to 7,500 yards. After the experiment Barney asked the player how he liked that experience. This avid, professional player said, “If I had to play golf like that, I would quit.”
After that experiment Barney went on to tell his story in the monthly PGA of America magazine that is published for all 28,000 member and apprentices. Some PGA professionals, like myself, read this and a light bulb turned on. I was hearing and seeing this same frustration on a daily basis, and because moving up a tee is a sensitive issue, I had not addressed the issue. However, Barney’s story created an initiative, and gave me a story that I could refer to when starting the Tee it Forward conversation with members.
The biggest hurdle getting golfers to play the appropriate tee is long developed beliefs on what are the ladies tees, member’s tees, etc. The Island Country Club on Marco Island had this issue, as all golf clubs do. They took the initiative to change all their tee colors around, yellow is not the back tees, whites move up a few tees, etc. Those who needed to move up, but would not for whatever reason, would not be deterred by something as simple as the color of the tee. I applaud the leadership of the club for thinking outside the box.
Golfers’ enjoyment of the game affects my livelihood. If golfers do not enjoy the game, they will leave the game, and my profession is at stake. This is why I am so determined to preach this message to my members, and golfers everywhere. The accompanying chart was made by Barney Adams, and is still published today by the USGA and the PGA of America. I believe this chart is eye opening for many golfers. I see many golfers who cannot hit their drive over 200 yards, yet they are playing 6,200 yard set of tees, almost 1,000 yards too long. It makes for a long and frustrating day.
Go out and try the tee that the chart recommends. If you decide to switch tees, and your whole group plays a different tee, ask your local professional how to adjust your handicap accordingly. I have found over my 10 years of adjusting handicaps for those who play different tee that the adjustment works quite well.
Todd Elliott is the PGA Head Golf Professional for Hideaway Beach. Todd is TPI (Titleist Performance Institute) Certified as a golf professional. This gives him the ability to give golf-specific physical screening to detect any physical limitation that might affect the golf swing. Todd is also a Coutour-certified putting fitter, a Titleist-certified fitter and a Titleist staff member. Follow Todd on Twitter @elliottgolfpro, or email him with any questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.