What Set of Tees Should I Play?

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Making the leap from the driving range to the actual golf course can be intimidating for many novice golfers, who are just starting to grasp the various golf terms and meanings, as well as the basic golf terms for beginners. Developing essential golf skills is crucial for a smoother transition and to confidently navigate the golf course.

The anxiety associated with golf often emerges well before the first shot of a golf match play is taken. This sense of intimidation is partly due to the uncertainty surrounding the decision of what tees should i play, which is a fundamental aspect of golf terms for beginners that they must master.

"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 typically offer 3 - 5 sets of tee options, an important aspect of tees in golf that players should consider when selecting their starting point on the golf course tees. 

Golfers are often faced with the question: "Which tees should I play?"

Tee options usually adhere to a color system, which may include gender suggestions or a play on words that reflects the theme of the golf course, adding a bit of character to the golf tee colors and the tee colors golf terminology used.

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 usga recommended tee box that aligns with their playing ability, as this selection will contribute to a more enjoyable round. Utilizing the Course Rating is a helpful strategy when deciding which tees to play, a decision that's deeply rooted in understanding golf terms.

Find the USGA Course Rating and Slope Database™ here

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PGA of America Guidelines

The PGA of America offers several golf guidelines to assist golfers of all skill levels in selecting the most appropriate set of tees to play, ensuring they have a good grasp of the necessary golfing terms and golf terminology.

Tee It Forward

For the majority of recreational golfers, golf is a leisure activity. While seeking out challenges is natural, it's equally important to choose conditions on the golf course that will make for the most enjoyable round of golf, keeping in mind the relevant golf terms.

The PGA of America has introduced the 'Tee It Forward' initiative. This innovative effort incorporates proper tees into its mission to enhance the pace of play and encourage golfers to choose tees that match their skill level.

'TEE IT FORWARD' aims to revolutionize the golf mindset by not only adding new tees but also by recommending that golfers play from a more manageable yardage, adjusting the average golf course length from the traditional 6,500-6,700 yards to a shorter golf course length of 6,000-6,200 yards, or even down to 5,700-5,800 yards.

For amateur golfers, navigating a 6,700-yard course can be as intimidating as a PGA Tour professional taking on an 8,100-yard giant, which is considerably longer than the average length of a golf course, highlighting the necessity of employing the right golf terms and selecting the suitable course. Although no concrete data defines how long is the average golf course, you can still use your average driving distance to find the suitable golf course distance for your game.

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

Dispelling the myths that 'Men's tees' and 'Women's tees' are gender-specific has been a challenge in the lexicon of golf terms, as the different tee boxes in golf have no gender association, even though Course/Slope Ratings do consider gender differences.

Contrary to the common misconception among many men, the Red tees are not exclusively for Women, and similarly, Course/Slope Ratings do not account for age, being applicable to golfers of any age, which is an important aspect of understanding the different tees in golf.

Rating the forward tees for men not only benefits those who may have shorter drives due to age but also establishes a standard for beginner and young golfers who are just becoming familiar with golf terms, golf tee lengths, and the subtleties of the game.

Combo Tees

Combo tees, a versatile element within golf terms, are designed to be combined with any set of tees, providing a customized golfing experience that caters to various skill levels and golfers' preferences.

By implementing golf course update strategies, a golf course can rejuvenate the playing experience for golfers without the expenses tied to constructing new tee boxes. This approach, which incorporates familiar golf terms, allows players to adjust their tee-off position forward or backward to match their improving skills without feeling overwhelmed.

On the golf scorecard, combo tees are usually indicated, and when you encounter golf tee box colors like White/Blue or Gold/Red, it's a clear sign of the combo tees options available to you. These golf terms help players understand the layout and challenges posed by the course.

When a golfer selects a combo set of golf tee boxes during their game and it's not listed in the GHIN system, there is an official method to record a score. The USGA Handicap System not only permits but encourages the use of these golf terms and such flexibility.

To align their score with the golf terms, the player calculates the yardage difference for the combo tees played and adjusts the Course Rating/Slope Rating as necessary, using the nearest what tee box should i play from as a benchmark.

Moreover, the USGA allows golfers to create their custom set of different golf tees if those on the golf course's scorecard do not suit their preferences, while still maintaining the ability to record their round in GHIN, demonstrating the adaptable nature of golf terms.

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

he simplicity of choosing from just three tee set options, such as Black/White/Red or Champion/Member/Forward, makes the decision process easier for players familiar with golf terms, answering the question of what tees should i play from.

  • 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

A smart way to decide which set of tees to play is to consider your 5-iron distance as a benchmark. This golf term, when paired with the golf tee lengths, can help golfers pinpoint the most suitable tee-off spot on the course.

To select the ideal tees for your golf game, consider the distance of your average 5-iron shot, multiply it by 36, and choose the tees that match that yardage. The 18Birdies app, a leading golf GPS app and scorecard app, gives users an advantage by facilitating the tracking of shots throughout their round, which assists in determining accurate club distances. Simply tap the button to view your golf bag within the app and start calculating your average distances!

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