Tee it Forward, Please!

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Recent talk locally and nationally has focused around ideas that would make wholesale changes to the game of golf.

It’s not as if people want to see change because they don’t like the game — just the opposite — they are sincerely trying to suggest ways to make it more playable so the average recreational golfer will stay in the game, and new ones will come alongside.

Some note reasons such as difficult rules, mammoth yardages, time constraints, impossible course designs and economics as killing the attractiveness of golf. No matter why, statistics show the numbers are definitely shrinking.

Salvation ideas have included increasing the cup size from the centuries’ old 4.25 inches, to 6 inches so more putts drop the first time. Crystal Mountain Resort in Thompsonville — which has always been known for being family-friendly and in more recent years a golf development hotbed — started offering 6 inch cups as a second putting option on each green of the Betsie Valley course.

Jack Nicklaus has recently touted courses with just 12 holes to ease the time commitment, specifically sighting that an 18-hole round of golf is the only sport that requires more than 3 hours to play.

Both of these ideas, among many other well-meaning suggestions, would negate equal comparisons from golfer to golfer and course to course. It could also open up an entirely new set of confusing records standards, negatively skew the handicap system, and ultimately, change the game too drastically in my opinion.

The most sensible solution is for macho men to get over themselves.

Stop trying to be the hero who thinks they must play from the tips, and instead play from the correct set of tees — even if they are, heaven forbid, painted red.

The USGA, PGA of America, golf equipment manufacturers (led by Adams Golf), and pros of all ages are combining forces in an unprecedented way to publicize the new Tee it Forward program, which officially runs from July 5-17 nationwide. The initiative is not about creating a new set of tees, it’s about positively changing the mindset of the majority of amateurs who frequently play from the wrong tees now.

In one example provided, the average amateur who tees it up from 6,700 yards is playing the proportional equivalent of a PGA Tour player’s challenge of an 8,100 yard course. The 2011 Masters was set up at 7,435 yards and the U.S. Open at 7,574. Get the picture?

“All of us deeply involved in the game consistently encourage golfers of all skill levels to play the proper tees,” Nicklaus said recently. “But too often golfers want to bite off as much of the golf course as they can. What ends up suffering are their scorecard and their overall enjoyment.”

A chart was created to give some guidance, based on a golfer’s average driving distance. Even those who drive the ball 250 yards (which in reality is a very small percentage of golfers) should be playing from 6,200-6,400 yards max. Those who average 225, about where my game is, should play 5,800-6,000 distances, and so on.

One advantage of playing the right set of tees, compared to other game-changing options, is it won’t mess up the handicap system. When scores go down by playing the proper, shorter length tees, a player’s handicap should remain relatively the same because course yardage and difficulty (slope rating) is a major part of the handicap calculation.

How can it truly be fun to play from too far back, struggling to even reach the fairway or clear the hazard on some holes — or coming into each green with a long iron or hybrid instead of the occasional 8 iron or wedge?

This Tee it Forward idea is not about backing down from a good challenge, it’s all about keeping the game entertaining, improving pace of play, and making it more playable for those who struggle but don’t care to admit. Is it really better for golf — and all the jobs it supports — if people quit the game?

Notebook: another way to improve golf skills is to bite the bullet and take a few lessons from a qualified instructor. Bob Krause is one of those. He moved his golf academy this year from Prestwick Village to The Majestic. He also gives lessons out of Fieldstone and Pure Impact.
Bob wrote a book called “Golf Tips that Won’t Hurt a Bit,” which is an easy read and very helpful. He is endorsed by PGA pro Vijay Singh. Give Bob or any other teaching pro a shot at helping your game.

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