What Tees Should I Play?

Making the jump from the driving range & practice area to the actual golf course can be an intimidating leap for many novice golfers. 

The anxiety typically starts well before the first shot is played. Part of this intimidation stems from not knowing which tees to play.

"Me: Does the USGA® have a recommendation on which set of tees to play? 

USGA: We do not recommend any particular set of tees."

In this article, we will talk about the freedom golfers have when it comes to which set of tees should be played.

The Basics
PGA of America Guidelines
Mens vs. Ladies
Combo Tees
Three Tee Options
5-Iron Method

The Basics

Golf courses tend to have 3 - 5 sets of tee options on the course.

Tee options generally follow a color system, gender suggestions or a play on words that relates back to the theme of the golf course.

To better explain this concept, please see some examples provided below .

Color
Gender Title Theme
Black
Mens Champion
Diamond
Blue
Ladies Member Opal
White
Senior Ruby
Red Forward

The USGA recommends that golfers choose a tee that best matches your playing ability as it will ultimately lead to a more enjoyable round. Using the Course Rating can be of great assistance when considering what tees should be played.

Find the USGA Course Rating and Slope Database™ here.

PGA of America Guidelines

Average Drive
Recommended Tees
300 yards 7,150 - 7,400 yards
275 yards
6,700 - 6,900 yards
250 yards
6,200 - 6,400 yards
225 yards
5,800 - 6,000 yards
200 yards
5,200 - 5,400 yards
175 yards
4,400 - 4,600 yards
150 yards
3,500 - 3,700 yards
125 yards
2,800 - 3,000 yards
100 yards
2,100 - 2,300 yards

Mens vs. Ladies

For many years, golfers have been boxed in by the myths about ‘Men’s’ tees and ‘Women’s’ tees. There is no gender to the teeing area, there is, however, a gender to Course/Slope Ratings. This has been more daunting than expected.

Many Men falsely believe that the Red tees are only for Women and then they won’t move forward; there is also no age differential to Course/Slope Ratings. You are considered a Man whether you are age 6 or 96.

Having the forward tees rated for Men is not only for those who are living longer, yet hitting shorter. The forward tee is where beginner and young golfers should start their playing.

Combo Tees

Combo tees serve multiple purposes. They can be used between any and all sets of tees.

It is a way for a golf course to update the course for their players without the added expense of constructing new tee boxes. It allows the player to move forward, or back, to allow for their change in abilities, without shocking their system. 

Combo tees will generally be indicated on the course scorecard, but if you see a White/Blue, Gold/Red or similar option on the course scorecard, this is likely an indicator of combo tees.

If a player decides to play a combo set of tees while they are golfing and it is not in the GHIN system, there is a way to post a score that is acceptable. The USGA Handicap System not only allows, but encourages this.

The player would find out the difference in the yardage for the combined set of tees that they played and adjust the Course Rating/Slope Rating up or down from the nearest set of tees.

In fact, if you are not comfortable with any sets of tees that the golf course has on their scorecard, the USGA allows golfers to essentially create their own set of tees and still have the ability to post the round to GHIN.

Here is a link to the USGA FAQ about “Posting a Score From an Unrated Set of Tees” on the USGA website: Click Here

Three Tee Boxes

Playing a course with only three tee set options (Black/White/Red; Champion/Member/Forward; etc) makes this decision much easier!

  • Championship/ Back tees are for lower handicapped golfers; most often men. 
  • Member/ Middle tees are for middle to higher handicapped male golfers, low-handicap or long hitting ladies, and low-handicap or long-hitting senior men.
  • Forward tees are for middle or high handicap ladies and seniors, and beginner golfers of all types!

5-Iron Distance

An interesting method of determining what set of tee's you should play is by factoring the average distance you hit your 5-iron as a metric to gauge where you should play from. 

Take your average 5-iron distance, multiply by 36, and choose the tees that most closely match that yardage.

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