6 Expert Tips: How to Choose What Tees To Play From and Why It Matters

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How To Choose What Tees To Play From

When beginning a round of golf, one of the first decisions you make is how to choose what tees to play from, considering factors like your consistent use of a 5 iron or your average driver distance. This initial right tee box selection sets the tone and difficulty for the entire golf course, and should not be taken lightly. The tees you elect to play often dictate everything from your scoring potential to the pace of play. Making the right choice based on your skill level and drive distance is crucial.

When deciding which tees to play from, consider your skill level and distance capabilities to ensure an enjoyable round of golf. Choose tees that match your abilities to enhance your overall experience on the course.


Key Takeaways

  • Choosing the right tees to play from is crucial for maximizing performance, enjoyment, and pace of play. Factors to consider include driving distance, skill level, handicap, age, and course layout.
  • The USGA and PGA of America provide guidelines for selecting appropriate tees based on handicap and driving distance. Following these recommendations can lead to a more enjoyable golfing experience.
  • The “Tee It Forward” initiative encourages golfers to play from shorter tees that match their driving distance, promoting faster play and increased enjoyment for golfers of all skill levels.
  • Methods like multiplying average driving distance by 28 or using the “5 Iron” method (multiplying 5-iron distance by 36) can help determine the optimal tee box yardage for an individual golfer.
  • Tee height and placement impact performance. Tees should be placed no deeper than half an inch into the ground to minimize resistance, and golfers should experiment with different tee heights to find the optimal position for their swing.
  • While there are various tee materials available (wood, plastic, bamboo), choosing durable, eco-friendly options like bamboo tees can enhance performance while minimizing environmental impact.

Understanding Tee Box Options

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Most golf courses offer multiple tee boxes, typically designated by colour. The standard tee box colours and their corresponding yardages are:

  • Red tees: Front tees, usually under 5,000 yards
  • White tees (yellow tees in UK): Middle tees, around 5,800-6,200 yards
  • Blue tees (White tees in UK): Back tees, approximately 6,400-6,800 yards
  • Black tees: Championship tees, over 7,000 yards

However, some courses may use different naming conventions or colours. It’s essential to check the scorecard or course guide to understand the specific tee options available.

Assessing Your Game: Key Factors in Tee Selection

To choose the right tees, you must honestly assess your game. Consider the following factors:

Average Driving Distance200-220 yards: White tees
220-250 yards: Blue tees
Over 250 yards: Black tees
Handicap or Skill LevelAbove 20: Forward tees
10-20: Middle tees
Below 10: Back tees
Age, Gender, Physical LimitationsSeniors, women, and players with physical constraints should prioritize enjoyment and playability over ego

Keep Things Moving: Essential Tips for Improving Pace of Play on the Course

Pace of play remains one of the most pressing issues in the game of golf today. Countless minutes are lost each round from groups failing to keep up with the groups ahead of them, or playing painfully slowly. For useful tips and strategies to help keep play moving and maximize enjoyment by finishing your round in under 4 hours, check out this helpful guide on pace of play. Simple measures like being ready to hit your next shot when it’s your turn, not taking too long to search for lost balls, and keeping pre-shot routines brisk can go a long way towards keeping things moving.

Impact on Handicap and Scoring

Posting inaccurate scores by playing the incorrect tees also wreaks havoc on your USGA Handicap Index. By constantly playing yards that are too tough relative to your game, you risk handicap inflation from elevated differentials that overstate your abilities. Such bloated handicaps produce frustration when you cannot replicate those scoring levels on properly aligned courses.

Conversely, exclusively picking forward tee boxes below your competency artificially lowers differentials. Such handicaps then do not represent your true potential, producing anger when you fail to achieve expected scores on appropriately longer layouts.

In both cases, inconsistencies are created between ability and handicap by choosing improper yardages. Aligning your set of tees with skills yields realistic scores and reliable handicapping.

Course-Specific Considerations

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When selecting tees, consider the course layout and design:

  1. Course architecture: Assess the placement of hazards, bunkers, and forced carries from each tee box. Choose tees that give you a fair chance to navigate these challenges.
  2. Scorecard recommendations: Most scorecards provide recommendations based on handicap or driving distance. Use this information to guide your decision.
  3. Slope ratings: Slope ratings indicate the difficulty of a course from each tee box. A higher slope rating means a more challenging course. Consider your skill level when choosing tees with high slope ratings.

Practical Methods for Determining Ideal Tees

Here are two simple methods to help you determine the best tees for your game:

  1. The “36 Multiplier” method: Multiply your average 5-iron distance by 36 to determine the optimal tee yardage. For example, if you hit your 5-iron 150 yards, your ideal tee yardage would be 5,400 yards (150 x 36).
  2. The “Approach Shot” method: Select tees that leave you with approach shots of 170 yards or less. This will improve your chances of hitting greens in regulation and lower your scores.

Additionally, the “Tee it Forward” initiative encourages golfers to play from tees that match their driving distance. This program promotes faster play and more enjoyment for golfers of all skill levels.

Adapting Tee Selection to Changing Conditions

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Your tee selection should also account for changing weather and course conditions:

  1. Weather: In windy conditions, consider moving up a tee box to compensate for the added difficulty. Wet fairways may also necessitate playing from shorter tees.
  2. Course conditions: If the course is playing longer due to soft fairways or firm greens, adjust your tee selection accordingly.
  3. Personal factors: Consider your physical and mental state when choosing tees. If you’re fatigued or struggling with your game, don’t hesitate to move up a tee box.

Common Mistakes Golfers Make When Choosing Tees

Despite guidance to select tees using objective data, many golfers make these recurring missteps instead:

Playing Tees That Are Too Long: The Ego Trap

By using the tips traditionally held for professionals or very low handicappers, average players place themselves at a dramatic and needless scoring disadvantage. Spiked egos write checks driving distances simply cannot cash.

The stubborn refusal to play reasonable yardages matching skills helps no one while damaging pace severely. Park the ego and pick tees based on reality.

Ignoring the “Tee It Forward” Initiative

For many male players, playing the blue tees represents some triumphant badge of honour – regardless of actual distances they hit the golf ball. By ignoring the “Tee it Forward” guidance, they slow play, inflate scoring averages and misrepresent handicaps.

Senior golfers also frequently fail to properly transition to shorter tee boxes aligning with age-impacted swing speeds. Again, stubbornness damages their enjoyment while hurting peers. Swallow pride and follow wisdom.

The Dangers of Always Playing the Back Tees

Confusing the Black or Gold tees as defining a course’s championship yardage tempts golfers to tee back excessively. Yet playing 7000+ yards poorly suits most members’ capabilities regardless of handicap or gender.

Routinely selecting those tees ignores the intent of a “combo” or multi-tee system – to provide options catering to all skills. Consistently picking yards too tough damages morale while slowing play dramatically.

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My Personal Experience

When I first started playing many years ago I always played from the white tees (Yellow in UK), it would be so frustrating trying to keep up with others as I was just young and didn’t know what tees to play from, after speaking with a few members they advised I should be playing from the reds because of my age and driving distance. After changing i started to enjoy playing golf more.


Choosing the right tees is essential for maximizing your performance and enjoyment on the golf course. By assessing your game, considering course-specific factors, and using practical methods to determine your ideal tee box, you can ensure that you’re playing from the most appropriate tees for your skill level.

Remember to experiment with different tee boxes and adapt your selection based on changing conditions. By playing from the right tees, you’ll not only improve your scores but also contribute to a better pace of play for everyone on the course.

FAQ For How To Choose What Tees To Play From

Q: How do golfers determine which tees to play from on a golf course?

A: Golfers choose a tee box to play from based on several factors, including their average driving distance, experience, and the challenge they seek. A helpful guideline is the 7 iron rule; if your 7 iron distance aligns with the course’s recommendations for a particular set of tees, that’s a good indicator. Additionally, many courses offer charts or signs indicating which tees are suitable for different skill levels.

Q: What are the benefits of playing from the correct golf tees?

A: Playing from the correct golf tees for your skill level can greatly enhance your enjoyment and performance on the course. It ensures the course plays as intended, with reachable hazards and achievable pars, which can help improve your pace of play and reduce frustrations. Moreover, it can prevent injuries from overexerting on long shots and enhance your overall experience by playing a game that’s suited to your abilities.

Q: Can senior golfers play from any tees?

A: Senior golfers, like any other players, should choose their tees based on their current driving distance and playing ability, rather than age alone. Many senior players may find the senior tees or forward tees more enjoyable and better matched to their game, but if a senior golfer has maintained a long driving distance, moving back a set of tees might offer the right challenge.

Q: Is it okay to try to play from the back tees?

A: Attempting to play from the back tees, or “play the tips,” is something golfers should do cautiously. These tees are typically intended for very low handicap or professional players and offer the longest and most difficult route through the course. If your game matches this level, it can be an exciting challenge; however, if not, it might lead to an overly difficult and less enjoyable game. It’s always crucial to realistically assess your skill level.

Q: Should beginners always start from the front tees?

A: While it’s a common recommendation for beginners to start from the front tees (or forward tees), it’s not a hard rule. Beginners should focus on enjoying the game and developing their skills. Starting from the front tees can make the game more accessible and enjoyable by presenting a shorter course. However, as confidence and skills develop, beginners should feel encouraged to try playing from further back tees to find new challenges.

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