After a round of golf, most golfers remember a great green or cool bunkers, but we don’t often reflect on the teeing options and how well they fit our game. However, playing from a set of tees that matches our hitting distance, skill level, and challenge preference plays a big role in the variety of shots encountered, scoring, pace of play, and our overall satisfaction. As simple as it might seem, the teeing options a course offers and the one we choose has a substantial impact on our experience.
While tees have always been important – and somewhat overlooked – they have taken on new significance in recent years as more people are playing for the first time. According to National Golf Foundation (NGF) data, a record 3.3 million beginners entered the game in 2022, the third-straight year where that number was higher than 3 million and the ninth-straight year above 2 million. In addition, 3.4 million juniors played on a golf course in 2022, a jump of 36% in the last three years. Are all these new and young players finding tees that offer a reasonable challenge? Do they know how to choose the best set of tees for their game? What about experienced golfers?
Over the past several years, USGA researchers and our industry partners have studied the existing supply of tees on U.S. golf courses, how golfers use them, and golfer attitudes about tee selection. This research highlighted multiple opportunities for improvement – some involving physical changes to golf courses while others involve changing our attitudes and how we talk about tees. Using this research, we developed and started testing a new prototype system to help golfers choose a tee that matches their ability on any course they play.
Below are summaries of three key areas of our research with the most important findings.
Golf courses in the United States vary in total course length from under 1,500 yards to over 8,000 yards for 18 holes. The median back tee is 6,518 yards and the median forward tee is 4,952 yards. As front tees get shorter and back tees get longer, on average there are more teeing options available and more scores are posted by golfers per course. While adding teeing options on either end of the spectrum increased score posting, having shorter forward tees accommodates more golfers than having longer back tees at many golf courses because tees longer than 6,800 yards are rarely utilized.
Using a variety of existing tee…