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.

4 thoughts on “Do You Play From the Right Set of Tees? – part 3”

    1. Driver x 28 would give a course of over 8,000 yards for the PGA pros, as Mr. Mile points out, which makes me think that his factor is too high. He also bases his numbers on the length of your well-hit drives. Most recreational golfers are inconsistent with a driver and don’t hit those very often, though I don’t really know what he means by “well-hit.”

      Try his method and mine and see which one you like. They both have their good points.

      1. If the pros played 28 x 300 = 8400 yd courses, we wouldn’t have to see them continually hitting driver-PW or driver-9iron into most par 4s or driver-4iron into a lot of par 5s; instead, they would be forced to hit a variety of longer approaches into the par 4s and wouldn’t be able to reach virtually any par 5 in two shots, as the original design of golf courses was intended. Although I realize that golf courses aren’t going to be modified/designed to stretch beyond ~7500 yards, that doesn’t mean 28 x driver distance isn’t a reasonable distance for recreational golfers.

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