What Set of Tees Should I Play?

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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."

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In this article, we offer some guidelines that can help golfers select the best set of tees to play.

The Basics
PGA of America Guidelines
Tee it Forward
By Driving Distance
Mens vs. Ladies 
Three Tee Options
Driving Distance x 28
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 .

Gender Title Theme
Mens Champion
Ladies Member Opal
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

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PGA of America Guidelines

The PGA of America offers a number of guidelines to help golfers of all skill levels determine the best set of tees to to play.

Tee It Forward

For most golfers, the sport is largely recreational, and while we all want to challenge ourselves, it is also important to set yourself up for the most enjoyable round of golf possible. 

One recent initiative, created by the PGA of America to address this and improve pace of play, is Tee It Forward.

"TEE IT FORWARD is not necessarily about creating a new set of tees -- many facilities already have multiple tees in use every day. It is about changing the mindset of golfers in a positive way -- encouraging people to consider setting aside playing from 6,500-6,700 yards and moving up to a length of 6,000-6,200 yards or moving from 6,000-6,200 yards to 5,700-5,800 yards.

The 6,700-yard course that many amateur golfers play today is proportionally equivalent to a PGA Tour player competing on a course measuring 8,100 yards -- 700 yards or more longer than a typical PGA Tour layout."

Source: PGA and USGA: Tee It Forward

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By Driving Distance
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

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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!

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Driving Distance x 28

A great method, developed by Chris Mile at Miles of Golf, is to take your average Driver distance, multiplied by 28, to determine a potential tee-distance range that could work with your playing style. This method can get a little misleading, as driving distance does not necessarily equate to playing ability, but this may be something else for you to consider for your next round.

For example, your average drive is 250 yards.
250 yards x 28 = 7,000 yards potential tee playing range

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. 18Birdies users can easily find their club distances by tracking shots during a round and the Golf Bag will calculate your average distance! Tap the button below to open your golf bag and get started!

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