When we were young, we played baseball; now we play softball. We used to ski the expert slopes, but now we ski cross country. Our pickup basketball games against all comers have morphed into scheduled games in our 50-and-over leagues.
Why have things changed?
Because despite all the advances in medical technology, it is an undeniable fact that human beings age. And when we age, no matter how healthy our lifestyles, we simply cannot do the things we once did. There was a time when i could hit my driver more than 260 yards with a wooden club head and a balata golf ball. Now I can’t even hit it that far despite all the technological advances and improved turf conditions.
I’m 67 years young, and well into the back nine of my playing days. So what do I do? Should I quit playing because I can’t reach the par-4 holes or get near the par 5’s in two shots? To those of us born to this breed, that’s not an option. I still really love to play golf, so I have moved to golf’s version of the 50-and-over league. I play from the front tee, or in my case the white tees at most courses.
I don’t care that I’m a club professional; I’m going to play golf for maximum enjoyment of the game. For me, that amounts to perhaps 6,300-6,500 yards at the most. Hitting woods and hybrids into greens designed for 7-iron approach shots is not my idea of having fun. And I would urge all of you to consider the same.
My colleague and friend Tom Stickney and I have done some research, via Trackman stats, showing how far golfers carry their driver (and other clubs in their bag). We equated that to the proper length of golf course that golfer should play. If you might know, Tom Stickney is a Trackman Master Professional, and works with golfers of all levels.
The Stats (60-140 mph swing speeds)
As you look at the chart above, you can see that club head speed is listed at the top along with the averages for each of the Tours. The average male amateur has a club head speed of 92 mph and carries the ball 191 yards with the driver. Now why is this SO much lower than the LPGA Tour Players’ average distance of 220? Because LPGA Tour players hit the ball in the correct part of the driver face in order to garner the most ball speed out of their club head speed. The average smash factor of the LPGA is 1.48 while the amateur golfers’ smash is down to 1.41, explaining the loss of distance for amateurs.
Related: Figure out your smash factor here.
It’s because of this fact that I cannot say enough good things about the idea of moving up a set of tees (or even two) for all levels of golfers. I know it hurts some players’ ego, but it’s really not that big of a deal if you stop to think about it. Seriously, why would you force yourself to play a longer course, relative to your ability level, than the professionals on the PGA Tour play? If you play tees too long for your distance, you’ll end up hitting longer clubs into the greens than the professionals. Does that make any sense? Or do you just enjoy aggravating yourself?
Sadly, we are all guilty of letting our ego determine where we play, myself included. But I want you to take this simple test for me. This weekend when you play, step up one set of tees for the first round, then step up two sets of tees for your second round of the weekend. Keep your stats on driving accuracy, greens hit, and clubs used and see how you do.
I bet you hit more greens, had closer approach shots, maybe even reached a par five in two for the first time in ages. Not to mention, your scores might even drop!
Also, ask yourself: Did you have more fun? Did you want to play an emergency nine? Did you feel less aggravated? If so, you have found the tees for you! The last time I checked golf IS recreation and something that you should enjoy. If not, you should find another hobby you enjoy more.
So, based on our research, every par-4 over 350-360 yards is a “long” par for the average golfer, since those holes require a drive and a mid-to-long iron approach. Now, there are ways the scorecard may not reflect actual length. For example, let’s say the par 5’s average 550 yards, as opposed to 500 yards. Those additional 200 yards are somewhat meaningless, simply because they requires an third shot with a mid- or short-iron instead of a wedge, which isn’t relevant to our discussion here. We are talking about par 4s and par 3s that force you to hit long irons, hybrids or fairway metals all day. And we’re suggesting that, if that’s the case, play it forward!