Tee It Forward


Tee It Forward for Better Golf

By John Ehle

When my dad was approaching 90 years old, it was a great gift and source of pride to me that we could still get out and play 9 holes together. Sometimes my brother and sister would fill out our family foursome and these were memorable outings.....always memorialized with a photo taken by a kind but unsuspecting "volunteer" at the Evansville Golf Club.

Dad had been one of the founders in 1963 and he was always treated with respect as he was one of two remaining men who had the vision and tenacity to start the club.

One afternoon we were playing and dad told me that he was going to quit the game that he'd been playing since age 8, when he began his career as a caddy at Stoughton CC in 1923. Incredulous, I asked why. He said that he could no longer muster the energy to play 9 holes. But he then revealed the true reason. The majority of his buddies had passed away and as he moved to younger and younger groups, he couldn't compete as he had continued to play from the middle tees. I suggested that he move to the forward (yup, women's) tees. By doing so he could avoid what was really galling him; taking strokes! He nodded in his predictably quiet way and we played on.

The next week he called me one night. He had proposed the idea to his foursome. The next time we played he made it a point to call them the "forward" tees and rolled his old powder blue Par Boy up to the red markers. Game on!

That decision energized him and added several years to his golfing days. He played well into his 90s.

Playing inappropriate tees produces a number of negative consequences. First, and presently the most pervasive, is the added time spent playing a round of golf. Searching for errant shots, having to re-tee and added distances all take time which confound the goal; to get around the golf course. No, it's not a race but why play for 5+ hours when you can finish in 4 hours and spend the remainder of a summer afternoon with your family?

Family dynamics are affected when golf cuts into family activities as well. Golf widows with small children have opinions about dad's absences for 6-7 hours which are best not further explored here.

Slow play is enemy #1 in golf. Sunday afternoons without dad turn golf club members into social members rapidly without adjusted schedules.

The "Tee It Forward" movement is an enlightened idea which can cure many of the pace-of-play issues which are driving thousands away from golf. I spoke to several golf pros this week and one of the metrics used to select a set of tees is the length of one's drive. Andy Podolak and his crew at Fire Ridge have added a set of tees and adjusted the distances of others. They now have five sets of tees(black, blue, green, white and red/forward tees). Lengths of course vary from 7031 to 4330 yards.

For example; a player who hits drives of 300 yards might be encouraged to play the black tees, 250 yards suggests the blue course, 225 would be green, or member's tees. A 200 yard drive would suggest white tees and the red (forward) tees are set at 4330 at Fire Ridge.

Another calculation can use the distance one hits her 5 iron multiplied by 36. One hundred fifty, for example, multiplied by 36 equates to 5400 yards or white/green.

I watched Jerry Kelly hit from the back tees at Erin Hills several years ago and when his ball bounced onto the beginning of the first fairway he wondered out loud; "What the (heck) am I doing back here?" I was always annoyed/amused when players walked back to the 8300 yard tees; especially since their rationale was that they wanted to "get their money's worth".

One intrepid guest stated that his intent was to get his "butt kicked". At 8300 yards his wish was granted but the process took 6+ hours.

I played the other afternoon and one of my partners, a walk-on, stated that he was a "10". Granted, it was very windy but when I left him he was on his way to shooting 100.

Go ahead....tee it forward. The occasional birdie will look good on your scorecard and the group behind you will be pleased, too.


Revised: 05/24/2014 - Article Viewed 20,860 Times

Written By: John Ehle

John Ehle John Ehle writes for, GolfTrips,com and other golf-related sites in the US. He has attended 6 Open Championships in the British Isles and many men's and women's US Opens and PGA Championships as well as Ryder Cups and President's Cups.

His primary international writing is golf course reviews and travel articles. He also writes about golf equipment and other golf-related products. Most recently he traveled to Cuba and will be in SE Asia for 6 weeks in February and March, 2012.

He writes a weekly column for a metropolitan newspaper in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin area. He is a 10 handicap golfer and has competed in many Wisconsin State Golf Association events.

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