Playing It Forward At Washtenaw Golf Club
In recent weeks, Washtenaw Golf Club has added new forward teeing grounds, making the course more accessible, shortening it by some 700 yards. New tee grounds will ultimately appear on 13 holes.
I call the new locations “teeing grounds,” rather than tee boxes because while they are located on flat, closely-mowed areas, they are not on the same sort of elevated tee boxes you find elsewhere in this traditional golf course design. The character of these boxes, however, reminds me of the teeing grounds at the acclaimed Forest Dunes course “The Loop.” That course also employs the idea of somewhat nebulous teeing grounds (which makes sense because with the reversible Loop, today’s teeing ground is a part of tomorrow’s fairway).
Washtenaw Golf Club owner Dave Kendall (a Michigan Golf Hall of Famer) said that the suggestion for the new grounds came from his wife. She had noted that while male players can move to more forward tees to compensate for distance loss, women typically don’t have that option. If you were playing the forward tees at age 25, you were still playing the same tees at age 55 thirty years later.
The new grounds make the course much more fair and accessible (every course should do this).
But it’s not just about women golfers. Seniors and juniors also will find that more forward tees make a course more enjoyable.
Some accomplished golfers I know will occasionally move to the forward tees to create a new challenge for themselves. Moving significantly up offers better players a chance to use a different mix of clubs and test novel strategies. Rather than driver, they hit irons or hybrids off the tee, which then presents fresh shots into the greens.
I have long thought that some of golf’s biggest problems as a sport — slow play, difficulty, high scores — could be solved if people would just play from the correct tees. If you play too far back for your skill set, tee shots will be less likely to find optimal locations; approach shots will be with longer clubs; longer approach shots means more missed greens. It all adds up to more strokes, more time and less enjoyment.
The new tees at Washtenaw offer a new set of options for people to find the tees that are right for them.