Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Play It Forward, Fellas: They Aren’t Called Ladies Tees Anymore

how to golfMost golf courses have for many decades had three different tee boxes, we’ll call them forward, middle and back.

The middle tees were the ones most commonly used by your average golfer, the back tees – sometimes referred to as “playing from the tips” – were designed for advanced players who drove the ball particularly well and were looking for a suitable challenge.

The forward tees were intended to be used by new golfers or any other that, for whatever reason, were more challenged when it came to driving.

Sometimes our efforts to simplify language end up being counterproductive.  A term or phrase is coined with an aim towards simplicity, but in the long run it ends up complicating matters.  And this is the case here, as these forward tees soon became known as the “ladies tees”.

Soon the idea that the front tees were for women and women alone became ingrained into the culture of the sport to the point where male golfers who otherwise would be good candidates to use the closer tees would avoid them for fear that their pride would be wounded by doing so.

In large respects, this stigma still exists, though most courses have gone away with formally calling the forward boxes “Ladies Tees”.

This is rather unfortunate.  Not only is it a misnomer that female golfers use those front tees exclusively, it is a gravely inaccurate to insinuate that it is a negative reflection of a male’s “manhood” to tee off from the closer tees.  In reality, there are a bevy of reasons why golfers of all stripes might want to vary their tee boxes, with an emphasis towards “playing it forward”.

Casual golfers or new players are unfortunately the most likely to not understand how the tee structures actually work, and sadly many golf courses do little to help educate them.  The common train of thought is that the front tees are ladies, the middle tees are for seniors and the back tees are for men.

This is simply not true, and the result of this misinformation is a lot of below average golfers playing from the most difficult tee boxes on the course.  Not only does this decrease the enjoyment of the game for the participants, but it also slows down the process for everyone on the entire course.

The truth is that golfers should be playing the tees that best suit their game.  I’ve been playing for many years and carry a single digit handicap, but I don’t always play from the furthest tees out.  Mostly I play from one of the mid-range tee boxes, and occasionally I will play from the very forward tees.

An experience I had on the course last week is instructive.  I was golfing with some of my more casual golfing friends; these two don’t golf enough to even have their handicap calculated, but on their best days they would be lucky to break 100.

Despite this, they were insistent that we play from the tips.  It made for a long, less enjoyable afternoon for all of us, as they regularly drove the ball only 150 yards (or whiffed completely trying to drive further than they can realistically play) leaving themselves 200 yards out on their second shot.

When we discussed it afterwards, both of my friends admitted that ego and a misunderstanding of the purpose of the tee boxes led them to want to play from back.  They thought it was less of a challenge to play forward and even though both would have probably benefitted from playing the front tees, the thought of that was anathema – “those are for ladies,” they both said.

So in an attempt to save face, they ended up shooting horribly and had a less enjoyable golfing experience.  Does this make any sense?  Of course not.

The truth is golf was intended to be played as a game where you make the greens in regulation.  If that is not something you can reasonably do from the back tees, it behooves you to move up to the front tees.  You aren’t gaining anything by “challenging yourself” at tee lengths that are inappropriate for your skill level.  It’s more fun to have some birdie chances and feel good about your game – when that is happening you are more likely to improve in the long run and may be able to play from further back.

It should also be noted that each tee box has its own rating and slope for handicapping purposes.   As someone that faithfully posts all scores to keep an accurate handicap, it makes no difference what tee box I use, I can still get an accurate score for that particular course.

The truth of matter is that the front tee boxes have little to do with gender and everything to do with golfing skill and experience.  I know many, many women who play from the same mid-range tees that I do, and most of my male golfing friends would benefit from moving up, perhaps even to the forward-most tees.

It has nothing to do with ego, gender or a challenge.  It has everything to do with playing golf the way it was meant to be played.

So, gentleman, play it forward!

And don’t call them “ladies tees.”

Scott McCormick sometimes forgets to use gender-neutral language.  He also sometimes sleeps on the couch.  When not getting scolded by his wife, Scott is a freelance writer whose work appears courtesy of <a href=”http://www.golfnow.com/phoenix“>Phoenix Golf Now</a> and <a href=”http://www.golfnow.com/sandiego“>San Diego Golf Now</a>.  For more of Scott’s golf commentary, see his recent post on the annoyance of <a href=”http://community.golficity.com/profiles/blogs/golfing-pet-peeve-scramble-and-match-play-sandbagging“>golf sandbaggers</a>.

By <a href=”https://plus.google.com/u/1/114513503769957245707/rel=author“>Scott McCormick</a>

Play It Forward, Fellas: They Aren’t Called Ladies Tees Anymore

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