It seems curious how golfers decide which tee box to hit from. There really is no standard other than go to the tee box you feel like playing from, and surprisingly most high handicappers march right a tee box where they don’t really belong. It could be argued that it is nobody else’s business where a golfer decides to play from, and it is true that if any golfer wishes to play a course that they can’t compete on, that is certainly their prerogative. But when that person is hindering everyone else’s play because they’re shooting ten on every hole, then it does make a difference.
So why do mid and high handicap golfers want to play a course that is to long for their game? Probably it is because the ego of most golfers knows no bounds. Many assume their standard shot is that one memorable drive they hit five years ago, but that obviously isn’t their standard. A golfer cannot properly manage the course without clear understanding of his capabilities, and this realistic approach will make him more able to make better decisions.
Based on research that I’ve done with a few golf experts, I’ve devised a very rough standard as to where a golfer should play from based on the average a player hits the ball. To get the most enjoyment (and real challenge) for a round of golf, play from tees that allow you to use all your clubs wisegolfers. Look at the par fours alone, and the average par four should be played with a well-placed drive and a seven iron.
Chances are you haven’t had your club speed measured lately, but if your average drive is 230 yards your club speed is probably about 90 miles an hour. Keep in mind that the average tour professional’s club speed is about 115 miles per hour. With that, you’ll hit your seven iron about 140 yards. That’s 370 yards, provided everything is straight to the target, which of course it isn’t always.
This means that all of your par fours should be in the neighborhood of 350-360 yards. Golf courses are usually set up so the par threes and fives are about in line distance-wise to the par fours, so if my math is correct you should play from the markers that measure about 6300 yards. If the greens are especially difficult or the layout more difficult than normal, the yardage you are playing should go down from there. The point is, it just isn’t a great deal of fun if the par fours average 400 yards and you’re constantly hitting driver, fairway wood and wedge. With a two-putt the best you’ll probably do is bogey, and if you get into any trouble double bogey or worse. That doesn’t make for a very pleasurable round of golf.
Innovative golf equipment such as hybrid clubs will definitely help you bring down your scores. Other equipment can help you navigate the course, and knowing your distance to obstacles or your objective can make you approach your shot with a lot more confidence. Sean O’Kelly is a writer and avid golfer living in Chicago.