There are a lot of factors that go into where you should tee it up from on the course side and on your own talent side. Most players should move up a tee box or two. I think one of the worst things the golf industry has done is name the forward tees the lady’s tees. I’m as un-politically correct as the next guy so the political correctness isn’t what bothers me here, instead the fact that younger players, and seniors of all genders should readily accept that they may need to move up to that forward tee to keep their enjoyment of the game. It's a problem in golf that we stigmatize the front tees to be for ladies only and it's pretty well accepted. There are even tons of jokes about it and while most are funny, we need to make sure that we don’t take it too far and actually make fun of people that play from the front tee box.
Tee it Forward
The PGA of America and the USGA have a great program called Tee it forward. My Grandpa always thought it was genius and constantly referred to it when I was younger. He thought I should play from closer tees than I was when I was a junior and we argued about it a few times. Truth be told, I only played from the back tees because I had to qualify for tournaments from the tips, not because I wanted to play from the tips. He disagreed vehemently that I should move forward until I could play better golf. The Tee it forward program was about having more fun and playing faster golf. In a move to make golf more fun, the golf entities in America claimed you should move up a set of tees and hit more lofted irons into greens so you can putt for birdies and par more often so you can play faster and score better. They also give a list of where you should play from based on how far you hit it. While the list is a helpful guide, if you can only hit it 250 but you shoot 72 every time, you could probably consider moving back a set of tees if you wanted. Also, if you can hit the ball 300 but can’t break 90, you should probably move up a tee box or two so that you can have more fun.
The PGA and USGA give a great guide on distance and which tee box you should play from. See below for the PGA’s guide. I don’t agree with this guide that you should play from these tees only based on your distance off the tee, but here it is. I’ll make my argument why not to take this as gospel later on.
PGA Tour Pros should play from 7,600 yards to 7,900 yards.
If you hit the ball 300 yards off the tee you should play from 7,150 yards to 7,400 yards.
If you hit the ball 275 yards off the tee you should play from 6,700 yards to 6,900 yards.
If you hit the ball 250 yards off the tee you should play from 6,200 yards to 6,400 yards.
If you hit the ball 225 yards off the tee you should play from 5,800 yards to 6,000 yards.
If you hit the ball 200 yards off the tee you should play from 5,200 yards to 5,400 yards.
If you hit the ball 175 yards off the tee you should play from 4,400 yards to 4,600 yards.
If you hit the ball 150 yards off the tee you should play from 3,500 yards to 3,700 yards.
If you hit the ball 125 yards off the tee you should play from 2,800 yards to 3,000 yards.
If you hit the ball 100 yards off the tee you should play from 2,100 yards to 2,300 yards.
As you can see, the yardage you should play from decreases drastically as you go down in distance off of the tee, which makes sense because if you hit driver shorter, you will also hit your other clubs shorter, so you move even closer. The goal is to have you hitting wedges into short par fours and mid irons or long irons into really long par fours. It’s all about making the game a little easier, and thus a little more fun. Of course there are flaws here. If I can hit the ball 300 yards but can’t break 90, why would playing from 7100 yards be fun for me?
You’ll probably notice another flaw right away. What if I hit the ball 300 yards and my local course doesn’t offer a 7,100 yard course? Well then, I guess you just play up? I think this is an excellent system, but it is flawed.
I think that skill level should play a huge part in what tees you should play from. I’ll tell no one they need to move back to further tees, but if you do like the challenge and you are a single digit, definitely try moving to the back tees once in a while to test yourself. If you are a higher handicap, move up to a closer tee. Most big time courses, like a course that is played on the PGA Tour, usually will give recommendations based on your Handicap, which I think is a much better way to do it. Usually this way reserves the tips for scratch or better players, the 1 ups for 6 handicaps or less, the 2 ups for 10 and under. Then, keep moving up like that. Never be afraid to move forward a tee box to have more fun.
If you are playing competitively, always feel free to step back and try a harder tee box. If you are a junior playing aiming to make your high-school junior varsity team, you need to step back and be ready to play from 6,500 yards or more. If you are trying to make your high-school varsity team that is competitive, you need to be ready to step back and play from 7,000 yards or more. The competitive landscape is full of players that can only hit it 250 yards off the tee, but go very low. A good iron game can make up a lot of distance. Players that can hit hybrids close are going to be good from longer distances. If you are like me and trying to push your game, go back a tee or two, challenge yourself when you are ready.
I don’t care what anyone else says. If you aren’t playing well and you want to move up a tee box or two, do it. Never be ashamed to move up and play from a forward tee box. They designed the back tee boxes for talented players looking for a challenge when they tee it up. If you won’t enjoy yourself, don’t move back. It’s meant to generate harder shots for better players. Don’t feel you need to go play from the tips when you go play a great golf course. It just isn’t needed.