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July 04, 2011

Point/Counterpoint: The USGA and PGA of America's Tee It Forward Program

Posted at 2:29 PM by Golf.com | Categories: PGA of America, Tee It Forward, USGA

The USGA and PGA of America's Tee It Forward program begins at courses around the country on July 5. The program encourages players to play from a more forward set of tees so they can shoot lower scores, play faster and have more fun. The Tee It Foward recommendations are that if you drive the ball 275 yards, you should play courses from 6,700 yards to 6,900 yard long. If you drive it 250 yards, then you should play from 6,200 yards to 6,400 yards and if you drive it 200 yards you should play from 5,200-5,400 yards. What do you think of the program?

CHARLIE HANGER, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, GOLF.COM: I like it. Any organized initiative that will help speed up play can’t be a bad thing. How many times have you marched to that back tee with your foursome out of sheer macho grandstanding, knowing full well that no one in the group, yourself included, should really be back there? Let’s admit it – most golf courses are already too damn hard for us, and we don’t need to work to make them any harder.

MIKE WALKER, SENIOR EDITOR, GOLF MAGAZINE: I don't like playing tees that put long par 4s out of reach either, but this program rubs me the wrong way. It comes across condescending, like the snooty private club member looking down his nose at the muni guy in cargo shots. People understand that playing from shorter tees would be easier, but they're choosing to challenge themselves. Do they think we're idiots?

HANGER: That’s a valid point, but I think that’s a harsh interpretation. They’re not saying you can never play the back tees, or that you don’t know what you’re doing. All they’re suggesting is that you try it for a couple of weeks. If you have more fun and speed up play at your home course, you might stick with it. If it doesn’t work, no harm done. I do think the idea has some intriguing angles. Making holes shorter has the obvious benefit of leaving players with shorter irons into greens -- an 8-iron is easier to get on the green than a 5-iron or hybrid. But shorter holes would also be liberating because you wouldn’t always have to hit driver. Maybe you love your 5-iron but spray your driver. Now you can get to 5-iron distance with a hybrid or 3-wood.

WALKER: OK, maybe the folks at the USGA and the PGA of America don't mean to be insulting, but look at the distances involved. According to the PGA Tour's ShotLink, the average driving distance for a 5-15 handicapper is 217 yards and Tee It Forward recommends playing a course at about 5,700 yards for that driving distance. C'mon, with today's equipment, that's not golf, it's pitch and putt.

HANGER: Averages can be misleading, and handicap seems beside the point. A 5-handicapper might hit driver 200 yards and play in yesterday’s divots, and a 15-handicapper might drive it 275 and skull every iron shot. These guys probably aren’t playing the same tees now, and they’d probably both benefit from moving up a tee box.

WALKER: We won't agree on the tees so let's get to the larger issue. Is this going to help grow the game? Or to put a finer point on it: are fewer people playing golf because it's too hard?

HANGER: I don’t think it will help grow the game, but this idea, and other creative ways to speed up play, might help keep golfers from quitting. I don’t think anyone’s going to start playing golf because everyone’s moving up a tee, but some frustrated golfers might stick around if pace improves and scores come down.

WALKER: OK, OK. I'll play you from 5,200 yards and pretend I'm Dustin Johnson. I still want 3 stokes a side though.

HANGER: At that distance, it might slow me down -- I'd have to wait for the greens to clear on par 4s before I could hit the driver!

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