Raymond Hearn Published Article

Does your course’s teeing system make sense? (continued)

Page Two

The irony here is that they had contacted me in the face of difficulty in attracting new members, especially juniors and the families who had been the core of their membership and were now the object of a roster-building campaign.

Of course, the club’s target market is similar to that of the game generally. But as obtuse as the point may seem, novice golfers, like high-handicappers, need a realistic challenge. Personally, I like to see courses offer a forward tee that can be played between 4,800 and 5,300 yards, depending on other variables affecting the design decision; and favorable reaction from clients, both private and public, confirms that golfers welcome the practice. Player enjoyment, not some arbitrary concept of a “stern test,” ought to be the guiding principle.

Indeed, where possible and appropriate to the clientele, I also recommend that courses offer a “young junior” set of tees for beginning golfers, pre-teens, and super seniors that can be played at about 3,500 yards. Usually, it is unnecessary to build permanent tees for this golfing population, as moveable tee markers, placed along the edge of the fairway, with play limited to certain days and times, will suffice. The sense of making these tees “official” can be instilled by printing separate scorecard -- a nice touch.

Again, it sounds elementary but – take it from a guy whose job is to visit lots of golf courses – the scarcity of playable forward tees is a pervasive, industry-wide problem. And it is important enough to beginners and high-handicappers to represent a crucial impediment to expanding participation in golf.

2. Inadequate matching of teeing options with variety of regular players at the course, public or private, in question.

The existing teeing system of a public course at which I recently consulted exhibited another common flaw. In this case, the scorecard described the four-tee selection thus:
Blue tee = 6,950; White tee = 6,750; Gold tee = 5,950;
Red tee = 5,200

Plainly, what was needed was a middle teeing option measuring roughly 6,300 yards. This, despite the owner’s acknowledgement that complaints from patrons regularly had to do with the course playing either too long or too short; and that among these complaints, most came from golfers playing the white or gold tees, seldom from those playing the blues or the reds, that is, the longest and shortest sets of tees. The topography at the course in question will make the addition of a new set of tees easy – which begs the question of why it wasn’t done before. But ask yourself: How many courses have you played where the first review of the scorecard revealed the need for a “missing tee?”.

Similarly, the differentials between multiple tee placements can appear to have no rhyme or reason. Absolute, constant proportionality – 10 percent increments in yardage, say, between one tee and the next one farther back or forward – are seldom possible on every hole, due to pre-existing landforms that make such a rigid scheme implausible. Still, it’s surprisingly often the case that no semblance of proportionality exists, thereby negating the fundamental purpose – to equalize the golf experience for players at all levels of competence – of multiple tees.

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