It’s not too late to make a New Year’s Resolution, so why not Tee It Forward in 2013?
by Rob Lundgren
Tee It Forward is a national initiative supported through the partnership of The PGA of America and the United States Golf Association. The program was introduced in 2011 and it promotes the idea that golfers will have more fun by playing from tees that better align with their ability.
“Simply put, Tee It Forward can make golf much more fun for millions of people,” said former PGA of America President Allen Wronowski. “We believe that by moving up to another set of tees, golfers will experience an exciting new approach to the game that will produce more enjoyment and elevate their desire to come back and play even more golf.”
Last year over 2,400 registered facilities around the country actively promoted playing from new tees and hosted special events designed to encourage golfers to play from shorter distances.
As part of this special focus, leaders from some of golf’s most influential organizations played a round at Augustine Golf Club in Stafford, Virginia using the program’s yardage guidelines. The men’s yardage was moved up to 6,000 yards from the typical 6,700 at Augustine, while women’s yardage was moved up to the 4,000 yard range. The results were very positive.
“I find golf more enjoyable when I play from distances that match my ability,” said Linda Rogers, President of the National Golf Course Owners Association.
Skip Avery, President of the Club Managers Association of America, commented: “Golf can be a difficult game without making it harder by playing from tees that are too far back. There’s nothing wrong with golfers hitting a 9-iron into a green where they used to hit a 5-iron. Happy golfers make happy members.”
Tee It Forward is also gaining support from everyday golfers. In July 2012 the National Golf Foundation surveyed golfers about their familiarity and perceptions regarding the initiative.
Approximately two-thirds of the golfers surveyed were aware of the program and of those who had tried it, well over half said they had more fun. They also said they played faster and were likely to play more often. Significantly, over 90 percent said they would Tee It Forward again.
So how is Tee It Forward doing out here in the Pacific Northwest? Pretty well, according to Monte Koch, Player Development, Regional Manager for PGA of America.
“Courses in this area are creating events to get people to try it,” he explained. One course in the Seattle area combined Patriot Golf Day last September with the initiative. “It’s not just about creating more tees,” Koch noted. “We need to remember that playing golf is all about fun and fellowship.”
With that in mind, Koch believes the initiative could be a big bonus for older golfers. “It could easily become part of their health and wellness program,” he said.
Michael Kastner, program administrator for the PGA’s Rocky Mountain Section which includes Idaho and parts of four other states, is also stoked about Tee It Forward.
“I think the response has been very, very positive. It’s an agreeable idea with a lot of players,” he said. “We want to encourage players to move as forward as they reasonably can. Wouldn’t it be nice to have maybe six or seven birdie putts a round instead of maybe just one?”
Kastner does admit that it’s up to the individual golfer to embrace it. “It’s all about the local player,” he said. “What we’d like them to do is say, ‘Let’s play up today and see what we shoot.’ I think they’d find out that it’s better to shoot an 85 instead of a 95 or 100. Of course, you might never change the mind of someone who wants to play from the tips, but I never thought the object of golf was to shoot as high as you can.”
John Wallace, head pro at Lakeview Golf Club in Meridian, Idaho, thinks the initiative is great. “It speeds up play and makes golf more fun,” he says. “You need to have fun playing and this promotes fun and relaxation.”
As a club pro, Wallace has a vested interest in his members having a good time on the golf course. That’s why he believes Tee It Forward will help achieve that goal. “We want you to play from a set of tees that fits your game,” he explained. “We want you to hit the greens in regulation, but don’t forget you still have to hit the shots to get you on the green.”
Longtime golfer Bill Precht has tried Tee It Forward and liked it. “It fits my skill level better,” said Precht, a 20-plus handicapper. “It put me in areas I’ve never played before. I had a chance to score better.” The bottom line for Precht is simple. “That’s where I’m playing from now on,” he said.
While visiting my wife’s hometown in Minnesota last summer, I discovered that many courses there have embraced the movement.
Kevin Ross, head pro at Whitetail Run in Wadena, Minn. had this to say about the program, now in its third season at the course. “It’s more fun,” he noted. “Some of those guys wouldn’t even be playing if it wasn’t for the forward tees.”
If you’re interested in trying it for yourself, check out the Play Golf America website (playgolfamerica.com) and go to their “Club Calculator” link. Follow the directions for your own self-assessment, and play it forward!
Rob Lundgren is a freelance writer living in Meridian, Idaho. He plays a little golf, from various sets of tees.