The newest campaign from the United States Golf Association is called, "While we're young!" It comes from the famous Rodney Dangerfield line in "Caddyshack," and is intended to get us to play faster.
Probably the best thing we can do to speed up our rounds, besides play "ready golf," is to make sure that we play from the set of tees intended for our skill level. Having to hit extra tee shots in a fruitless effort to fly a tee shot 250 yards or more across a hazard when we simply don't have that kind of length not only slows us down, it gets us down as well.
Have you ever struggled your way around the golf course, shooting high scores even while hitting the ball well? Perhaps you're playing from the wrong set of tees.
Many of us tend to think that we're better golfers than we really are. We dream of competing against pros and hitting long drives, sticking irons near the flag and making birdies or pars without breaking a sweat. Truth be told, most of us are nowhere near as good at this game as we think.
I have a buddy who believes that he must play from the tips. "This way you see the entire golf course. Some holes set up completely different from back here," he tells me as I wait in the cart. He does get to see the entire golf course. It's just from the trees or hazards that he cannot hit the ball over.
I prefer to play a set of tees that measures around 6,300 to 6,600 yards on the scorecard. I don't have the game to hit long irons and fairway woods into most of the par-4s on the course. And with our fairways being soft or wet much of the time, I don't get the roll I'd like to cut a club or two off my approach.
How do you know which tees you should play from? At our home course, most of us know what set challenges us without ruining our day. It's when we play a new course that things can get confusing.
The best way to find out is to ask the staff at the course. Inquire in the pro shop or tell the starter what your handicap is and someone should be able to guide you to the proper tees.
Many of us forget to modify our handicap for a new course. You may carry a 15 handicap at your home course, but with a different slope and course rating, your handicap could be much higher or lower at a different course. If your adjusted handicap increases dramatically for the set of tees you are thinking of playing from that day, chances are you need to re-think playing from them.
There are a few guides to determining for yourself if you've teed up on the correct tee for your game. If you cannot get near the green in regulation on at least half the holes or you simply cannot get your tee shots over hazards in front of the tee or don't have a club in your bag that will reach the green on a par-3, you're too far back.
If you find your tee shots running through the fairway on doglegs or you find yourself bored and unchallenged hitting wedges and short irons into every green, you're too far forward.
I try to use the 150-yard marker as a guide. If that marker is unreachable more often than not for my average tee shot, then I'm probably too far back. Who wants to play six or eight par-5s over the course of a round?
One problem is that some courses tend to hide yardage on a few holes. The set of tees you're playing from may be perfect except for that one 430-yard par-4 or the 225-yard par-3. The USGA and its GHIN doesn't allow you to mix the tees when posting scores for handicap purposes. Personally, I'd rather not let one or two holes that are too difficult for my ability ruin my day. I'd move up for those holes.
I once heard a man remark as he finished his round, "This is one tough golf course. I was 10 shots higher. I've never hit so many long second shots in my life. The blue tees at my course aren't this hard."
Instead of playing the tees for his ability, he chose the color tee that matched what he was used to playing at home. He chose poorly.
Do yourself a favor the next time you play. Find the correct tee for your game, choose well and enjoy your round. You'll play better and finish while you're young.
James Stammer has been an avid golfer and golf enthusiast for nearly 40 years. He hosts the Thursday Night Golf Show on WSTU 1450-AM. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.