Playing From The Tips
By kickntrue on 2/16/10
By Matt Snyder, ClubSG contributer

Matt is an opinionated* golf enthusiast from Pennsylvania. He coaches at the high school level, molding the minds and swings of our next generation. His column will appear each Monday on ClubSG. Feel free to chime in with your thoughts and opinions of Matt in the comments. Don't hold back- because Matt won't.

You may not give it a lot of thought, but one of the most important decisions of your round and of your game as a whole is made on the first tee of each round. That decision that set of tees from which you will be playing your round that day. A lot of times, people make this choice for no reason or all the wrong reasons. "I don't hit the ball long enough to play 'back there'." "I may shoot 105 today, but everyone around the first tee will think I'm good because I'm playing the tips." Or how bout this, "I'm playing the front tees because I can't wait to brag about my score in the clubhouse at the end of the round." The nice guy says, "I'll play wherever you guys want to play." Those are all reasons we use to determine the answer to this important question, and they are all the wrong reasons.
Playing the back tees is a great way for a mediocre player (10 -20 handicapper) to make himself better. If you are playing the middle tees, you are lying to yourself.

First of all, I don't even want to hear about your score if you played the front tees. Keep it to yourself! You can tell me how you played, and I'll listen to you talk about your round, but don't tell me what you shot! If you are someone who likes to make your scores known to everyone you see, then you shouldn't be playing a watered down version of the course. You should be playing the course at its most difficult setting. If you're good enough to talk the talk, walk the walk. Now, that is not to say that no one should ever tee it up from the whites. There are several good reasons to play the front tees. For someone who is just starting to learn the game, the front tees are a good option... for a while. For someone who is older and just can't hit the ball far enough to have any fun at all playing the back tees, by all means, play the front tees. If you truly do not care about your score or your game in general, and you just want to have fun with your buddies, the whites are for you as well. But like I said, if you are going to play the white/front tees, understand what goes along with that decision.
Often times we go to play a 'nice' course and we are overwhelmed. Well, part of the reason is that we don't even challenge ourselves at our home course.

Now, to all of you 'middle tee' people, what is the point? If you hit the ball far enough to play the middle tees, you hit it far enough to play the back tees. Distance is not an issue for you. Perhaps you choose neither the front nor the back because you see it as a compromise. "Well, I'm a little embarrassed to play the front tees, but I'm not good enough to play the tips." NOT TRUE! Playing the back tees is a great way for a mediocre player (10 -20 handicapper) to make himself better. If you are playing the middle tees, you are lying to yourself. The challenge of the back tees will increase your skill level much more quickly than staying at the middle length tees. The course is designed to be played from the back tees. Anything else is a watered down version of that course. Playing an easier course does not make you a better player. Challenging yourself by playing the tips makes you better because it makes you hit every type of shot. You can't avoid the long irons or fairway woods. Sometimes you're going to have to lay up on a par 5. That one hole that is short enough for you to hit a fairway wood off the tee, you now must use a driver. Obviously, when you first make the switch to the back tees, your scores will probably inflate slightly. You will, however, watch them fall quickly as you learn to manage your game. At that point, you know that you are playing the course at it's best and that your score is not tainted; it's legit. This will also help you with the transition from your 'home' course to other 'nicer' courses. Often times we go to play a 'nice' course and we are overwhelmed. Well, part of the reason is that we don't even challenge ourselves at our home course. We avoid hitting shots we aren't good at by playing the middle or front tees. But at other courses, we may need to hit those shots despite the tee box we choose to play from. So make yourself better. Work for a more complete game and stop compromising at the middle tees. Come on back and join us at the tips!

Lastly, let's talk to you 'low handicappers' (0-9). There is absolutely no excuse for you to be playing anything but the back tees everywhere you go! You should be ashamed of yourselves for ever teeing it up from anything but the tips. It's obvious that you play enough golf and care enough about your game to be challenging yourself by playing the course as it is designed to be played. Your scores from any other tees should mean nothing to you or anyone you care to share them with. As previously stated, those tees have their place, but they are not for you. They are for those who do not have either the physical strength to enjoy a round from a longer distance or those who do not care about their score or their game and are just out to have a good time. You, my friend, fall into neither of those categories. Your handicap assures us of that. Hopefully, there aren't many of you out there to which this applies. But if you are one of the few, it's time to change! It's time to take a step back and play the game 'for real'. Come on back and experience the tips. Don't be scared, you'll be a better golfer for it.

* Matt's views and opinions are his own do not necessarily reflect those of SkyGolf.

photo source

[ comments ]
georgegla says:
Matt, what a bunch of nonesense. I see way too many players at the back tees that have no business being there. A player should choose what tees to play according to his handicap and the way a course is designed to be played. That is, it is ridiculous to play the back tees leaving a long iron or FW to the green when it is designed for a mid iron or less.
roncole4 says:
I strongly agree with georgegia, what a bunch of flawed logic. I am 67 years old and still play pretty good gold, hcp between 1 and 5 from "the back tees". Thanks to the ball and equipment plus a pretty good swing I can still be competitive. What you advocate will only frustrate the average golfer, not make him better. I think you need to go back and reread your article. Guys, play from where you feel comfortable.
cypher21 says:
Wow, this article is ridiculous. We should also play with hickory shafted niblicks and featheries because that is how the game was meant to be played. Is there documented proof that playing from the tips can make a mediocre player better? Show me the research, then I will believe this nonsense. Can we please have a different contributer post a counterpoint?
HMTrey says:
Personally it helped my game greatly. How? It made me learn long irons and the importance of position. It also let me swing easier instead of trying to smash it always. My old home course Played almost 7300 from the tips. This let me get great work in before tournaments. Had I played from the whites, I would have used driver small iron on most holes. I learned how to hit low stinger type shots and punch fades whereas using the other tees, I would not have worked on my all around game. The course played 7300 but the wind and hills made it feel like 7500. I can understand where Matt is coming from.
nbryden says:
I think that SOME of the points made are valid (others are not), but the entire article's tone leaves me with a bad taste. Personally, I play from the tips on almost all courses (not all; flat 525yd par 4s are simply ridiculous) because it gives me the best opportunity to post a low USGA differential. But I play with partners, whose round is completely ruined if they play off the tips. Golf is a game to be enjoyed, not punishment - choose the tees that suite you, potentially extend you, and you will have a more pleasureable experience.
nbryden says:
I have a further comment: I strongly disagree with the statement that the tips are how the course is MEANT to be played - I don't believe that many course architect's would agree. Frequently, the tips are added after the original design because the course wants to cater to professional tournaments and therefore needs additional length. Many of the most famous courses fall into this category - when Tillinghurst designed Bethpage Black, many of the current Tips tees didn't exist. I played on a course recently where a Tips tee was actually on the other side of a public road from the rest of the hole. Needless to say, it was closed on the day I played.
paddyhibernian says:
I think our author is being a little controversial just for the sake of it. Every year I see people with a similar attitude turning up on Scottish courses and demanding to play the 'Tiger Tees'. Within 3 holes they are taking 'Mulligans' and ruining the game for everyone playing behind them. Golf is not about booming it as far as you can. Played properly it is a game of strategy where you pit your wits and skill against the course, the conditions and your opponent(s). I see far too many courses nowadays at 7000+ yards and average players struggling to hit greens with a Driver and 3 wood or hybrid. Leave courses playable and enjoyable and we can all enjoy ourselves and get around in 4 hours or less. Play from the tees which best suit your ability. That's why there are four tees on most courses nowadays. If you need to take Mulligans, take up tennis and enjoy your 'second serve'.
Guernsey Donkey says:
We must be very old fashioned in Guernsey, for as long as I've played golf,40 years or so off and on, we have had friendly tees and competition tees for juniors, ladies and men. Only on competition days do we play off the back boxes, it can be intimidating when the competition season begins, but this just builds up the adrenalin and keeps competition golf special and totally different to friendly social rounds of golf.
Phraynck says:
Seen this article before. I think his main point is that you should be challenging yourself and most people should be doing that from the tips. I agree with the guys who said some courses add tourney level tips and should not always be played. For the most part I play the tips no matter what and it definitely helped my game when I first started to do so.
kreed says:
If I could hit 275 I'd consider it. I'm 67 and after 40 years of motorcycle riding, I have compressed discs in lower back. I started to play when I was 59 or 60. My pro tells me that I should play from the whites. I usually play blues, but have started to take his advice. I drive 220 to 240 on a good day but cold weather - forget it. I am unapologetic about playing from the whites. The tees are there for you to match to your swing and skills. Besides, my scores have a lot more to do with my chipping and putting than driving. Stupid article.
EL GATO says:
I am 67 years young and have been playing for 52 years. Used to be able to bang out 250+ drives and hit 7 irons into the green from 165 but not any longer. Love to play with the big hitters but the need to remain competetive is always in the forefront. Can't do it from the tips!!!!!!!!! I will compete with anyone from 160 in and usually stay up to speed. To me, the game is won and lost from the 150 yard marker in. Choose from the white, the blue, the gold, or from the tips, just play from where you will be competive with the others in your group and enjoy every shot you take.
GWRGolfer says:
I will always play off the tips whenever I can, I think it's a true test of a course. I particularly like to play that way when I play away from home, although not all clubs will allow it. Having said that I have been refused rarely, usually they are quite happy to allow it.
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