There have been a several occasions in my golfing career when I realized that the course I was playing was just “too much.” Whether it was the length, the hazards, or a “bad swing” day (or all of the above), I knew that if I was going to have any chance to enjoy myself, I needed to move up a tee. I’ve also alternated between tees, depending on the hole.
My primary goal on the course is to have fun. And I’m not going to let my ego get in the way.
This past week, I played at The Gailes, behind a group of guys who clearly were overwhelmed by the course—even from the white tees. And ahead of them were a couple of foursomes who had bitten off too much from the blues.
As a result, the round took an inexcusable five hours. There was simply no way I could play through all three groups.
The Gailes is a links golf re-creation, with knee high rough, pot bunkers, fescue mounds, bumpy fairways, double greens and fairways, and trouble everywhere you look. A hole or two will make you realize that its not one of those easy resort courses.
The foursome immediately ahead was composed of four retired guys, playing from the whites. None of them hit the ball more than a buck eighty. As a group, I think they spent more time in the weeds than on the fairway. One of them, with a David Ledbetter hat, never did hit the fairway from the tee. The foursome probably shot a collective five hundred. They could not have been having fun.
A great deal of the problem was that they were swinging with all their might just to get that 180 yards off the tee, and with those out-of-their-shoes swings came exaggerated slices and hooks. Then, having put themselves at a disadvantage in distance and lie, they had to make another uncontrolled swing with a long iron or wood—compounding the problem.
Playing from the forward tees, they would have had much more fun. Not only is the course shorter; the easier angles help keep players out of the rough. Par fours comprise a controlled drive to the fairway and a mid or short iron to the green.
Egos, however, likely kept them at the whites. The red tees, after all, are the “ladies tees.”
I couldn’t observe the groups further ahead as closely, but they also spent an incredible amount of time wandering in the weeds looking for their balls. To get the distance they needed from the blues, they sacrificed any chance of control.
But the blues are the “real men’s” tees, and they surely were determined to play them.
I played the whites, hitting fairways, laying up when faced with a long shot that could get me in trouble, and working to keep the ball in the fairway. I had a lot of fun thinking up creative shots, and shot an 86 in the process. That doesn’t leave me with bragging rights, but I don’t care to brag.
Courses need to do more to encourage players to use appropriate tees. One solution is to add more tees. Many courses have just three: blue, white and red. Having additional tees lets players save face while playing at appropriate distances and angles.
Another suggestion: Courses should get away from the traditional colors and number their tees. The scorecards could then specify that single digit handicappers play from the number one tees; ten to eighteen handicappers from the “two” and high handicappers from “three.” With more tees, there could be more granularity.
When I played Arcadia Bluffs, the starter told my group—in no uncertain terms—that only single digit handicappers would be allowed to play from the back tees. He asked our handicaps and advised which tees to play. We all followed instructions and I had a great time. Had I played further back, it would have been miserable.
In the end, players just need to manage their egos and expectations. Sometimes a course is “just too much.”