On a late fall outing to The Orchards Golf Course in Washington, Michigan, I was intrigued to find that the course had designated its tees as Championship, Tournament, Invitational and Competition instead of the usual Blacks, Blues, Whites and Reds. It is a great idea. Giving dignified names to the tees could encourage players to “tee it forward” by removing some of the age-old stigma associated with playing the old man’s tees as opposed to the “back tees.”
I’ve seen other courses do similar things. One local club has named its tees for various bird species. I’ve also seen tees with animal names, “different” colors (green, silver, gold), numbered tees, and some labeled according to which handicap you should have (the 0-10 handicap tees, 11-18 handicap tees, etc).
None of these names, however, have the same panache as the ones at the Orchards. No one should be embarrassed to play the Invitational instead of the Tournament tees.
The “Tee It Forward” campaign should latch onto the Orchard’s idea and encourage a standardization of tees with non-stigmatizing names. I’d make just a couple of small changes to create six possible tee names. At the top of the list, I’d add the “Professional” tees. At the bottom, I’d add Amateur.
That would make a standard set of tee names as follows: Professional, Championship, Tournament, Invitational, Competition and Amateur. Six names should accommodate as many tees as I’ve ever seen on a course.
In addition to making changes on their scorecards, courses would need to change the physical tee markers to complete the transformation. The black, blue, white and red balls are ubiquitous, and as long as they’re set up in that fashion the mind set will never change. The best way to deal with that is to paint them all black and stencil on the names. On-course signage also presents a problem.
All of that could be overcome in the long run. If the USGA and PGA of America threw their weight at standardization of tee names, the idea would catch on eventually. As tee markers and signs wore out, courses would think about using the new vocabulary.
I’m of the opinion that “teeing it forward” is the single best solution to many of the problems that beset the game for the average golfer: slow play, poor play and the difficulty of the game. De-stigmatizing the tees is an important step in this program.