Do You Play From the Right Set of Tees? – part 3

The Play It Forward movement began in spring 2011. The idea was to encourage golfers to play from tees suited to the length they hit the ball, which would make the game more fun, and speed up play. All fine by me.

I have always thought someone read my blog post on the subject, which came out about two months earlier, and stole my idea. But because I am an idea guy, and not a self-promoter, c’est la vie.

You might want to read that post, and this one too, before you continue here.

My idea in the original post was to divide total course length by 25. That is the length of drive suited for that set of tees. I got that figure by finding the average length of courses on the PGA Tour and dividing by the average length of drive on the Tour.

However, it occurred to me that dividing total course length by 25 isn’t quite right. That’s takes into account par 3s, on which you don’t use a driver, and par 5s, on which you do, but having three shots to get to the green puts less of a premium on driving distance.

That leaves par 4s. Judy Rankin once said, “If you can’t hit a 7-iron into some par 4s, you’re playing the wrong tees.” I turned that advice into this test: if there are more than two par 4s per side 400 yards or over, those tees are too long for me. That worked for a good number of years.

But my mind never gives up on these things (drives my wife crazy) and a few days ago I came up with this more accurate way of determining which tees to play from.

Add the length of your average drive to the carry distance of your 7-iron. Let’s call that your cut-off distance. For example, my drives go 235 yards, and my 7-iron goes ~140 yards. My cut-off distance is 375 yards.

Now look at the scorecard for the particular set of tees you want to play. There should be between four and six par-4 holes at your cut-off distance or shorter. If there are fewer than four, those tees are too long for you. More than six, and those tees are too short.

I took out the scorecard for the course I play most often with the tees I play from and arrayed the length of the par-4 holes from shortest to longest: 325, 335, 366, 372, 375, 380, 395, 400, 423, 431. You can see that 375 gives me five par 4s that are short enough. I’m playing the right tees on that course.

If I had divided overall course length, 6,402 yards, by 25, I would have come up with a driving distance of 256 yards which makes it look like those tees are way too long for me. But they’re really not.

On this course from the blue tees, one tee box back, the par 4s look like this: 358, 371, 390, 407, 420, 421, 423, 438, 439. Those are definitely too long. I would get only two 7-irons all day if I played from there. I actually did that once, just too see. I survived, and said, never again.

Now once you have figured it out, play from the right tees! Really! You’re out there to have FUN and pars and occasional birdies are more FUN than bogies or doubles. At least I think so.

My Spring Golfing Tuneups

We are starting to have sunny days in western Oregon now. It might even get warm enough to let the overnight dew dry off the course before a 10:00 a.m. tee time so we don’t have to play on a wet golf course.

I’m putting the finishing touches on my winter practice to be ready to go from the very start. Here’s what I’m doing.

As usual, I’m practicing rhythm–three beats up, one beat down. I don’t care how sound your swing is otherwise, if this part is off it’s usually three parts up and a half beat down, nothing else will save you. And rhythm is never something you can say you have once and for all. It takes continual practice.

To avoid letting my right hand take over in the forward swing, both when starting the club forward, and as it comes through th ball, I’ve taken to starting the forward swing with the left arm. More specifically, the left upper arm. The left forearm and left hand are not included. That arm stays in control through the ball.

This is something the Manuel De La Torre taught. I’m finding to be very effective, once I figured out how to do it.

This doesn’t mean I’m taking my right hand out of the swing. This move merely prevents it from making a premature contribution. The instant before impact I have a strong hitting feeling with the right hand, but it is something that is generated naturally by the momentum of the swing, not by anything I’m deliberately doing with that hand.

My right elbow has a habit of flying out instead of staying tucked in where it should be in the forward swing. This causes me to swipe across the ball and hit really bad-looking hooks. To fix that, I concentrate on keeping my elbows close together. That is, I maintain the feeling of closeness they have at address throughout the swing. Though they might not be that close all the time, as long as they feel like they are, everything is fine.

Lastly, my hand-eye coordination is pretty good. Not outstanding, but I generally hit what I aim for. This is a big problem if I aim for the back of the ball when I swing. If I am just a little bit off, I’ll hit the ground just a tiny bit behind of the ball, or just underneath it. You don’t get much out of either one of those.

The fix, I have found, is to look at a spot on the ground about an inch ahead of the ball and aim for that. Works like a charm with my irons. Even with my driver. If I look at the ball with my driver I want to HIT IT (and you know what that leads to), but looking at a spot ahead of the ball slows me to SWING THROUGH it, giving me much better results.

And, of course, there’s putting. I practiced 2-footers every night in my back room, and I never missed. Now I think putting is easy. A lot of putting is about confidence.