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Forget pace of play: “Tee it Forward” for fun

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It seems that courses are continuing to get longer, handicaps have not gone down and still many players have ignored the “Tee it Forward” program espoused by the USGA and PGA of America. Sadly, the disregard for moving up tee boxes leaves average golfers in a quandary, as they just don’t hit the ball far enough to enjoy most courses. So we as teachers are left to try and increase golfers’ club head speed through methods such as fitness, club fitting, lessons, etc.

In some cases teachers can help golfers hit the ball much farther, but for the majority of weekend golfers teachers simply cannot help them produce enough distance to make a real difference in their games. This can be due to poor flexibility, mechanical issues, the wrong driver, or just a lack of time to practice — whatever the reason, it can be INSTANTLY cured by teeing it forward.

I cannot say enough good things about the idea of moving up one set of tees (or even two) for all levels of golfers. I know it hurts some players’ ego, but really, it’s not that big of a deal. Why would golfers force themselves to play longer courses relative to their ability level than the professionals play? This means that Tour players are hitting shorter clubs into all the holes on average than average golfers are hitting. Does that make any sense at all? Do golfers enjoy aggravating themselves?

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. The next time you play, step up one set of tees for the first round, and then step up two sets of tees for your second round. 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 and maybe even reached a par five in two for the first time in ages! Your scores also might have even been lower, which is a nice problem to have. Did you have more fun? Did you want to play an emergency nine? If so, you have found the tees for you!

The last time I checked golf IS recreation and IS something that you should enjoy — if not, you better find another hobby. One that you can enjoy.

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Tom F. Stickney II, is a specialist in Biomechanics for Golf, Physiology, and 3d Motion Analysis. He has a degree in Exercise and Fitness and has been a Director of Instruction for almost 30 years at resorts and clubs such as- The Four Seasons Punta Mita, BIGHORN Golf Club, The Club at Cordillera, The Promontory Club, and the Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort. His past and present instructional awards include the following: Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher, Golf Digest Top 50 International Instructor, Golf Tips Top 25 Instructor, Best in State (Florida, Colorado, and California,) Top 20 Teachers Under 40, Best Young Teachers and many more. Tom is a Trackman University Master/Partner, a distinction held by less than 25 people in the world. Tom is TPI Certified- Level 1, Golf Level 2, Level 2- Power, and Level 2- Fitness and believes that you cannot reach your maximum potential as a player with out some focus on your physiology. You can reach him at [email protected] and he welcomes any questions you may have.

56 Comments

56 Comments

  1. bert

    Sep 6, 2015 at 9:52 am

    I have played it forward from the golds ahead of the reds have had a 79-84-37 for 9 holes shot par first 8 holes bogy#9 scrambled 12 putts THAT WAS FUN
    Played blended tees to my liking shot 86 played from senior tees shot 81 but also much higher you name it i am a 19 hcp come to realize i cann’t reach some of the par 4s in two.Just this week i set up my own blended tees 5520 so that i can reach the greens as the long hitters do getting some flack but having fun and my hcp should go down.

  2. Charlie

    Jan 15, 2014 at 10:59 am

    I am glad to see that the title says forget pace of play. My course thinks that because the tee boxes have been moved forward the pace will quicken. NOT!

    I am a high handicapper but play at a reasonable pace and whether I play the blue or white tees I finish in the same amount of time. Playing from the reads is just another round in itself and I find fun as course management really comes into play.

  3. LiveWire

    Jan 12, 2014 at 1:31 am

    A color coded score card that fits in your pocket should be given to you when you pay green fee’s. That way there is no confusion. Let the course dictate your tee box. It would serve them in the time management department as well.

  4. LiveWire

    Jan 12, 2014 at 12:20 am

    I would love to play it forward.I am typically 25 yards or my past my friends, I ask a lot if they would like to play it forward at the beginning of each round. They say no, and continue to post 90+ on the card. Is there anyway to make the courses move the tees forward and take the decision off the ego minded amateur? I guess I could always be pompous and play it forward right in front of them till they agree. Or a simple poster with the color tee matching your handicap at the first tee box would be cool.

  5. markb

    Jan 10, 2014 at 5:38 pm

    There is another very good reason why we should all play the forward tees — DOING SO WILL USUALLY PAD YOUR HANDICAP!

    Here’s my math and rationale. My par 71 course’s black tees are 6406 yards, rated at 70.1, and slope of 131. Our whites are 5820 with a rating of 67.1 and a slope of only 124. As you can probably tell by the difference between the two slopes, our course is a bit more difficult than an average 113 course from white and a bit more still from the blacks. Yet it’s rated THREE shots easier from whites compared to blacks. The consensus among the locals is that the difference between blacks to whites is only maybe a stroke. No holes change their par for men moving from white to black.

    So a sandbagger should want to play FORWARD at my course! If he’s a 9 hcp and plays from the black and shoots an 80, his differential will be((80-70.1)x113)/131 = only 8.54. But if he shoots a 79 from white, his differential is ((79-67.1)x113)/124 = 10.85. More than two strokes.

    It’s no surprise that playing it forward is exactly what all our sandbaggers do. You’ll never catch them at the tips. They’d play from the ladies’ tees if we had a red rating for men!

    • Mizzy

      Jan 15, 2014 at 11:09 am

      This thought relies heavily on the assumption that the black tees are only 1 shot easier despite the course rating mathematically quantifying the differential as 3. From my experience usually when the course says the black tees are 3 strokes harder it is generally conservative the other way, where they would actually be 3-5 strokes harder, rather than 1-3 strokes harder.

      • Mizzy

        Jan 15, 2014 at 11:21 am

        Meaning that if you play the Black tees and shoot a 80 you would shoot a 75 to 78 on the white tees

  6. Sean

    Jan 9, 2014 at 6:08 pm

    I could give you a couple of great examples of the efficacy of teeing it forward, but there isn’t enough space. On another note, Sam Snead once said that every golfer should play the forward tees until they shoot par or better.

    • Rod

      Jan 22, 2014 at 12:02 am

      While I agree playing shorter tees could help some people having trouble reaching greens in regulation because of distance. I can tell you more people I see hitting from shorter tees with their drivers still can’t hit the greens with their second shots. Other than par 5’s these guys can’t control their second shots, or for that matter their putts. So Sam Snead would probably tell these guys to take up Bridge, since no matter if they moved up 50 yards in front of the lady’s tee’s they will never, never break par!

  7. John

    Jan 9, 2014 at 5:44 pm

    Maybe to force the issue they should do like they do at St. Andrew’s and only put out one set of tee markers for the day – wouldn’t that be interesting.

  8. TJ Jackson

    Jan 9, 2014 at 12:18 pm

    Years ago I always played the blue tees. One day I played with a group that played from the white tees. They were the same age as me, and similar skill. I asked one why they played the ‘short’ tees. His answer made a lot of sense. “Why play from a longer tee if you can’t break 80?” The thinking was, you should play from tees that give you a mid-iron shot into a par-4, not hitting 3 woods on the majority of them. I moved up & played better golf, and plus I enjoyed my round more than from the longer tees.

    The point is this, unless you are shooting in 70’s consistently, why play longer tees? I have more enjoyment from having a few birdies during my round that a bunch of doubles. Sure, it isn’t as long as the pros, but let’s face facts, we play for fun, not for a living. The slope equates our skill even from shorter tees!
    2-cents

    • Eagle003

      Mar 30, 2014 at 3:09 am

      I couldn’t agree with you more. I’ve come of the opinion that most golfers feel they have something to prove rather than playing for enjoyment of the game. After all it still is a game….I hope.

      So much emphasis has been placed on raw power in recent years that all too many golfers have fallen into the “testosterone trap”. As a senior golfer I find much more enjoyment in the finesse aspects of the game. I experience far more enjoyment by hitting a crisp short or mid iron into the green as opposed to trying to roll a three wood on even though, I’d like to add, I can still hit it out there with a lot of the younger bucks.

      I, too, have often suggested playing it forward and surprisingly found golfers of far less competency than I cringing at the idea. Oh well…try as hard as we may….doubt it will ever change.

  9. rocketshankz

    Jan 8, 2014 at 11:55 pm

    Our college coach would make us play 9 holes from the ladies tees once a week. For every stroke we were away from -5, we had to run a mile after practice. Every stroke better than -5 he’d run 1/2 mile. Nothing like leaving the ego at the door and remembering to make golf fun.

  10. Hunterdog

    Jan 7, 2014 at 10:52 pm

    Absolutely! Play shorter courses! Many areas have fine “executive courses” that are shorter and far less expensive and the average golfer can save some further cash by not needing to purchase the new hot driver or, msybe, any driver!

  11. yo!

    Jan 7, 2014 at 3:51 pm

    Best article from Tom thus far which I fear will fall on deaf ears.

    • tom stickney

      Jan 7, 2014 at 3:52 pm

      Thank you

    • JJ

      Jan 22, 2014 at 6:20 pm

      yep. You couldnt have said it better Tom (unless maybe you were a bit tougher on the egomaniacs that insist on playing tees they dont belong at)

  12. markb

    Jan 7, 2014 at 3:18 pm

    “Tee it forward” is nice, but we’re ignoring the simplest solution of all, one that pros, greenskeepers, and marshals can put in place WITHOUT the cooperation of the paying public.

    We call it “kick it forward” at my course. On slow non-tournament days, or in front of clogs caused by duffers, drunken revellers, and over-serious mini-matches, we simply move the tee boxes forward ourselves. Black is moved to blue, blue is moved to white, and white is squeezed into red.

    It doesn’t help with “you’re away” crowd, the 6-practice-swings-per-shot duffers or the plumb-bob-everything putters, but it is the sneaky equivalent of tee it forward.

    • Double Mocha Man

      Jan 7, 2014 at 4:21 pm

      Mark… that is too funny. Sheesh, if I did that on my course the Greens Superintendent would come out and give me a noogie or ban me from the course for a week. I’ve seen the reverse where several lighthearted groups are playing one behind the other and the front group will, after hitting, move the tee blocks backwards to an impossible length.

      • markb

        Jan 10, 2014 at 4:32 pm

        By “we”, I mean it’s generally the marshals, pros, and greenskeepers who do it, not the paying public.

        What happens is a clog will occur, generally caused by one of three offenders: 1) a cluster of rank duffers who take 6 shots apiece thru every green, or 2) drunken party boys who don’t care while they whoop it up, or 3) the serious mini-matchers (often the men’s league) who are too cool for school.

        A marshal can chastize type 1, but types 2 & 3 often won’t listen. So they just sneak ahead in the gaps created in front of the clog and kick the tees forward to cut down a little bit on the time the cloggers will waste through the green. Really effective on tough 3’s over water and other holes where clogs frequently happen. No one knows the difference. Actually legal. After all, how many times have you started a hole only to see the GK set a new pin while you’re approaching?

        For TJ: Even on courses with semi-fixed blue, white and red spots, there’s no rule that says they have to stay there. You can still bump the non-fixed markers as far up as they’ll go. Plus Temp tees happen all the time. You are right about the unpredictability of the hacks, but most times the guys who play from their own preferred spots (like a group of buddies at my course who call themselves “The Tips”) are not the causes of the clogs.

        Kick it Forward is just one trick we use and it doesn’t eliminate all slow play. A bigger offender than backward tee box starting positions is a FAILURE TO PLAY READY GOLF instead of honors. IMO, EVERYONE SHOULD PLAY READY GOLF ALL THE TIME EXCEPT IN TOURNEYS!

        Another huge offender is what I call WAGON TRAIN GOLF — guys in 2 or more electric golf carts who swirl back and forth horizontally across the fairways in little clusters from one ball to the next. Like they need to circle all their wagons before any one person can hit a single shot. God forbid that they park a cart halfway between two balls, get out, each hit when ready and then jump back in and go to the green! That’s too efficient.

    • TJ Jackson

      Jan 9, 2014 at 12:23 pm

      Great suggestion!!
      Only drawback is our club has cement markers on boxes, so some hacks would play from those regardless of where the ‘box’ was.

  13. Philip

    Jan 7, 2014 at 12:32 pm

    Courses need to help out this effort too. For example, this morning I looked at the scorecard for a course I was thinking about playing on a trip later this month. Par 71, tee boxes of 5900, 6500, and 6800 yards. Quite frankly, 6500 for Par 71 is long for me as I think it is for most golfers, but 5900 is a little short. At times I’ve made up my own mix and match of holes to get to the ideal 6200-6300 yards for a par 72, but then I don’t have a slope and course rating. I’ve seen some courses provide mix and match of tees that are rated, but more need to do so.

  14. Double Mocha Man

    Jan 7, 2014 at 11:40 am

    When I played at Pebble Beach there was a sign on the first tee that the starter strictly enforced. If your handicap was 13+ you needed to drive from the white tees. 6 – 12 you were hitting from the gold tees. And if you could prove a 0 – 5 handicap you got to smack it from the blues.

    • JJ

      Jan 22, 2014 at 6:06 pm

      This is precisely how to fix this problem. My local courses have wisened up and done this as well. Most egomaniacs playing from the blues do not have a handicap to justify it and have no business being there, and this system exploits them.

  15. Ronald Montesano

    Jan 7, 2014 at 10:58 am

    Stick,

    My first thought when I saw the title for this article was, won’t playing up a deck or two invariably lead to quicker rounds? Less ground to cover, less hazards to find and delay play, more greens hit in regulation.

    You have great feedback from your readers, which is a reflection on the quality of your writing and (I would guess) your teaching.

    I may be confused, but I suspect that I can submit a handicap score from red, white, blue or black. Course and slope ratings will be adjusted, so your three to five strokes-lower score will not result in a fraudulent handicap.

    • tom stickney

      Jan 7, 2014 at 3:53 pm

      Thank you sir, you are correct your handicap will be adjusted per the tees you play.

  16. J C

    Jan 7, 2014 at 8:30 am

    Last year my gf decided to start golfing so wed have more to do together. I’m a decent golfer, high 70s low 80s, I have her pick up if we get slow and the group behind gets too close, she’s ok with that. She’s drives about 150 I drive about 280, the problem arose where the group in front of us would clear enough for her to hit but id have to wait until they’d hit at least their second shots usually to tee off. After about 12 holes I started teeing off from the forward tees, previously known as ladies tees, and just hitting hybrids and such down the center, 3 hybrid 220ish. My goal was to put the ball at my pw distance every time, 115yds. Needless to say I played the last 6 in 1 over. I was really happy with the way I was playing and had fun with it instead of sitting at the tee box waiting all day long to just bomb it out there. Now I understand that I hit the ball too far for the tee boxes I was playing and would not consider counting it toward a legitimate handicap but if just playing for fun, that’s what it was. I’m sure people that don’t hit the ball as far or as straight as I do could benefit, score and psychologically from moving up a tee box.

  17. tallPK

    Jan 7, 2014 at 6:36 am

    Check the ego at the door, play it forward. You still have to hit all of the shots and get the ball in the hole. You’re going to enjoy it more hitting short irons into the green rather than hybrids or woods.

  18. christian

    Jan 7, 2014 at 4:35 am

    I have tried several times to play from the back tees on some pretty long courses, and the difference in the time it takes me to finish the round is more or less nothing. Sure, I hit it pretty far, probably around 270-280 with the driver, almost all carry. But I’m no low hcp, around 12 at the moment. I actually find that the hole “opens up” more from the back, letting me rip driver to a larger landing area, and the angles are often (surprisingly) more forgiving from the back. That is, the back tees are usually not straight behind the forward tees, at least that’s what i have noticed on the courses I play. I actually often feel need to be cute and delicate from the whites, where I usually play with my buddies. Also, I have noticed my scores are the same regardless of which tees I use. Weird, I guess.

    • naflack

      Jan 7, 2014 at 3:15 pm

      For the most part that has been my experience as well.

  19. Hauss

    Jan 7, 2014 at 2:43 am

    Some of the most fun I’ve had on the course is playing the last 9 before dark off the shortest tees with my guys. That huge par 5 is now driver, 8 iron. Play it fast and play it fun. You’ll talk about that 9 more than the first 18 for sure.

    • TJ Jackson

      Jan 9, 2014 at 12:31 pm

      One drawback on short par-5’s is some hack always wants to wait for the green to open up so they can hit their 2nd shot (even knowing they seldom can carry 200 yards no matter what club is used). That really slows down the pace. I always tell my buds if they insist to wait to play their 2nd on a par-5, that they owe me $5 if they miss or come up short. This usually stops that practice. Case in point, Zach Johnson won last week in Hawaii, hardly ever going for a par-5 in 2 (or driving a short par-4). He played to his strength.

      Golfers need to know their limits, and just because they ‘once’ hit a 7-iron 200 yards in their younger days, doesn’t mean they can still hit it when they’re older or less skilled.

  20. naflack

    Jan 7, 2014 at 2:39 am

    you are not locked in to playing the same set of tees either.
    i usually play the back tees but if its a 600 yard par 5 i go up to the whites, if its a 220 yard par 3 i go up to the whites, if its a 460 yard par 4 i go up to the whites.
    have fun with it, customize the tees to fit your game. the site i use to keep my index allows me to enter customized course info…i just do the necessary math. watch the pros, they dont always play the tips, the tee box they use often gets changes due to weather or what have you.

  21. Sam

    Jan 6, 2014 at 6:20 pm

    Genius idea! At my club in New Zealand (mirimar links) we have blue white and yellow for ladies.. Love the whites means I can hit 3 wood instead of driver on several holes to avoid the millions of fairway bunkers.. I’ve been told also mirimar is the windiest course in the world an tee off 18 dead into the wind off the blues is almost impossible to hit the green in 2 and it’s a par 4!!! Move them foward I say!!!

    • John

      Jan 6, 2014 at 8:50 pm

      I had the pleasure of playing Mirimar several years ago. The wind was howling and I used a three wood from the white tees on most holes. Being a links course with a 40 knot mostly cross wind required much imagination but it was a great experience. And, the course is conveniently located right next to the airport.

  22. Jive

    Jan 6, 2014 at 4:51 pm

    I have always felt that the flags on the driving range should show you what tees to play. If you need to hit drives 100 yards to play the red tees at the course, make the 100 yard flag red, then you must consistently drive past the red flag to play the red tees. Put the white flag at the appropriate distance, eg 175 yards, if you can consistently drive past the white flag then you play the white tees, do the same with blue, black, yellow, etc. With grass practice tees if they are deep you can move the target flags, but +-10 yards isn’t going to make much of a difference. Second rule of thumb I tell my friends. If there are 12 par 4s and you need to hit driver off every tee box then you are playing too far back.

  23. GJR

    Jan 6, 2014 at 2:30 pm

    Courses could really help this by encouraging players at the time of check in to play it forward. They could also have it on each of the tee boxes. Additionally, some courses have 4 or 5 tee boxes. You only need 3.

    1.) Red = Women, Seniors, and say, golfers that shoot around 100. In other words, 99% of golfers on your local muni.
    2.) White/Blue = Golfers that can consistently break 90.
    3.) Black = Reserved for long and accurate players that can break 80.

    Would this require people to check an ego? Yup. Would it be hard to enforce? Yup. Can it be accomplished? Yup.

    I realize that courses need to make money. Especially with volume declining every year (at least here in Minnesota) but this is what is best for the game.

    Lastly, we need to see better course management from the course and rangers. If the first tee time doesn’t get off on time and everyone else gets pushed back, move the up a hole. Slow players? Move them up a hole. Tee it forward can probably help at least half the problem of slow play, if not 2/3 of the problem. But courses can do a better job as well of keeping everyone on track.

    • JD

      Jan 7, 2014 at 10:34 am

      To be heonest the enforcement part you referenced “moving someone up” isn’t enforcable with the competition in pricing and the number of courses around you will dwindle your customer base. Public courses can not enforce that. High-End courses do bump tee-times that are late. Due to policy and procedure. Tee-ing it forward has been tried a number of times at my course and seldom do people follow it. It is an ego thing, absolutely. The problem isn’t rangers or course protocol, it’s the golfers ultimately taking too long and playing shots they absolutely shouldn’t. How many times have you seen guys waiting to hit into a par 5 green from the fairway and not even come relatively close to the green. One of the ideas we use to help pace of play is we went to 10 minute tee times, instead of 7-8-9… We also use our starter to suggest a tee. based on handicap. we have 4 boxes and single digit only from the tips…

      • GJR

        Jan 7, 2014 at 4:26 pm

        Hey JD.

        Yeah, I certainly realize that it’s tough to enforce that when courses are concerned about turning away customers and losing profit. It’s too bad though because we should all be trying to grow the game the right way. That means telling people that they aren’t fit to play the tees they want and it’s holding everyone else up as a result. I wish more courses would take that stance.

    • TJ Jackson

      Jan 9, 2014 at 12:44 pm

      Greens keepers could also help speed up play. Why tuck a pin in an impossible spot on a weekend, when the majority of players would have problems scoring? I’ve even seen pins put right next to a drop off. Leave the hard pins to tournaments (Mondays were for pro pins) but match the placements to the majority of the players. Remember, 95% of the golfers can’t break 90 consistently (unless they pick up or not play ‘real golf’)

      I like when the course has ‘pin settings’ shown (placement 1, 2, 3, 4), where all the players BEFORE they tee off.

      Also, why doesn’t clubs have ‘short tee’ weekend, where everyone plays short tees (2 sets at most)? Then some would ‘discover’ that golf is really fun, not an ordeal or searching for balls.

  24. 8thehardway

    Jan 6, 2014 at 1:41 pm

    Ego infiltrates every part of golf but choosing tees is more of a peer pressure thing.

    I play it forward during the winter. Two years ago a 75 y/o I’ve played with struggled from the regular tees but his foursome insisted on playing them. One day we went out as a twosome and I said I’d play the forward tees with him if he wanted to give them a try. He was hooked; eventually his swing improved and he started scoring in the low 80s instead of the 90s. Now he alternates tees depending of conditions, not what his group wants and he crunches his buddies from ‘their’ tees.

    The forward tees get you used to success rather quickly, a valuable experience if/when you go back to your usual tees. It highlights your short game and lets you spend more time with your short irons.

    It becomes a different course… par 3s are less comfortable and you’ll need new strategies on the other 14 holes to score well. You’ll enjoy the really hard holes when you can reach them in regulation with a 4 iron off the tee. Also, you’ll set new goals.

    Don’t get me started on winter golf, which lengthens every hole by 20 yards and drives my buddies crazy. I know you’re supposed to suffer with golf, but ‘golf happy’ and enjoy the break… you deserve a treat after the way golf’s treated you.

    • Grn2T

      May 30, 2014 at 7:06 pm

      Well said 8thehardway.

      I agree, it’s all ego. My brother and I have been playing from the white tee since we came back to the game 4 months ago. He’s an 11 and I’m an 8, I was a solid 4 handicapper before I stopped playing 10 years ago.

      I just joined the private club and surprised to see that most members I played with outside the club before I joined play from the white tee at the club, heck most members play from the white. They are older Asian golfers who could break 90 nor put their drive pass 200 yards, yet insist on playing from the tip of the local resort course, almost 7000 yards narrow par 71 Zaharias course which include a 300yd par 3, it was the longest 5 hours I ever have to endure on the golf course. The 3 of them are main reason used golf balls are thriving. I played from the white and the course still kicked my ass I shot 84.

      I don’t necessary agree that playing from white tee would make the course that much easier for longer than avg driver’s length(211yds) golfer white tee can be as challenging as the blue because your landing zone becomes narrower. I notice that this is the case for about half of the par 4s I played. Of course, the up side is the shorter approach shot and more margin of error with higher lofted clubs would yield more GIR, and lower your score.

      Teeing from the tip is pretty much a backward thinking that noobs love to practice. It’s their right of passage, it only make sense as they are learning the game from tee to green not the other way around. The usual answer when I asked why play from the back tee is I want to see the course, or getting my money’s worth because it’s more challenging. What? why not kick your ball into the divot on every fairway hit to make it more challenging. Most time instead of being embarrass that better player plays from the forward tee and move up, they would ask me why I don’t play from the tip with them. When I ask why? well you know the answer.

      Actually, I don’t really care what tee noobs play from as long as they keep up and move along. It takes 5-7 years to become a mature(thinking) golfer for most golfers they just have to pay their dues, I’m cool with that as long as they don’t keep me waiting 2-3 mins on every shots. Use all your “rights” to enjoy yourself on the course as you please, I’m happy for you don’t infringe upon me or risk being called out.

  25. Tim

    Jan 6, 2014 at 1:08 pm

    We don’t have. Any program like tee it forward in the uk, probably because on average the courses are shorter. But at out course we have shorter tees of course many of the social competions are played off them, but you will almost never catch me or any other of the single figure golfers playing off them because the standard scratch goes down from 72 to 69. Meaning you need to shoot 3 shots under your handicap to maintain it a it’s current level. In some courses that might be easy, on a tree lined course wih a number of doglegs making the drives shorter doesn’t make it much easier for a good golfer. Drivng over or around the trees on many holes is too low a percentage play, so you can’t get much closer to the greens you just take the driver out of play. This doesn’t help much for most low handicap golfers as we all know it’s the short game that separates us. If a course is well designed with a proper level of risk and reward shortening or lengthening it should not be necessary. I think we are influenced by too many tour courses which place distaance over accurracy particularly of the tee. As tour players rarely loose a ball off the tee due to course marshalls, imagine if the consequences of some of there bad swings was playing 3 off the tee, you would see a lot more irons and 5 woods off the tee and therefore more mid iron approaches . This wouldn’t be as fun to watch of course so i don’t want this implemented just considered when you compare tour golfers with amateurs.

  26. corey

    Jan 6, 2014 at 12:48 pm

    i agree with this article. my HS coach made us play from the tips and that was fine cuz it was competitive golf. but now i never play from the tips unless the whole group is. its more enjoyable to be hitting short irons into greens than trying to be accurate with mid to long irons for an entire round. also, if you cant shoot in the low 80s dont play from the back tees. no ones ego is hurt from playing the whites, your ego will be hurt if you play from the tips and duff it or hit big slices all day. then the people behind you will shake their heads and go “looks like its going to be a long day”

  27. gary

    Jan 6, 2014 at 12:32 pm

    so from what i can understand from reading this article rather than trying to improve ones golf by spending time on the practice area you should just “cheat” by playing from forward tee boxes. what is next???? the handicap system and the golf course slope were put in place to ensure that all players of all ability could play the same course without one player having an unfair advantage.
    this “instant gratification golf” is false you just think you have scored better. yes i understand that some players can not hit the ball as far as others but that is part of the game even on the tour they have long and short hitters and time and time again we see that it is the wedges and the putter that make the difference.
    spend some time on the range and try to improve your own game you will enjoy golf a lot more in the long run.
    i am not a scratch golfer nor do i play off the back tees but in my heart i know that if i did play off forward tees and was to post a better score that normal it would not be because i played better golf.

    • Sean

      Jan 6, 2014 at 1:27 pm

      This is an incredibly childish remark. It’s the same thing I say to my sister as a joke when she beats me playing off whites when I play off the blues.

      As for the choice of practicing or playing a round. Not everyone has the time to do both so plenty of weekenders need to make the decision between going out and playing 18 and spending an hour smashing balls on the range, because lets face it, how many people practice effectively on the driving range? I spend hours on a range, because I enjoy tinkering, and working towards that 1 consistent swing. My sister hates the range, she rarely if ever goes, and she spends 30 minutes whacking balls at the fence, she’s also a 3 handicap.

      And comparing long and short hitters on tour to the average joe? Casual players can play off whatever tee they feel like and they shouldn’t be called cheaters or scrutinized for that.

      • Gary

        Jan 6, 2014 at 11:27 pm

        Sean, I am not saying that they cant play off whatever tees they want that is up to each and every player however if you start playing of forward tees you change the course stroke rating a par 72 becomes a 70 for example.
        This is not improving your overall game it is flattering your ego.
        For example if you have trouble with long putts do you just say “I am no good at these shots” and move the ball closer to thr hole.
        As for practice time. Golf is a game that takes a long time to play 4:30/5:00 hours are you really going to say that you cant get to the course a half hour earlier or go to the range for a half hour after the round.

    • tom stickney

      Jan 6, 2014 at 1:58 pm

      Gary–

      Individuals can choose whatever makes them happy…if you desire to play all the way back then I’m game.

      • Gary

        Jan 6, 2014 at 11:16 pm

        I am not saying that they cant play for where ever they want. however if you play off the forward tees you change the course from a par 72 to a par 70 or lower it is normal that you will shoot lower scores.
        As a teaching proffesional I would have thought you would have been for improving the playing standard rather then making the game easier.

        • Tom Stickney

          Jan 7, 2014 at 12:50 am

          The masses don’t take lessons…they need all the help they can get.

        • 8thehardway

          Jan 7, 2014 at 5:24 pm

          Such a silly position must have been arrived at intuitively because your logic doesn’t hold: consider the paradox that since all tees are forward of the back tees, any reasons you can muster for playing less than maximum distance are available to golfers playing from shorter tees than you play.

          Distance only differentiates skill levels, it does not legitimize gratification. There’s no minimum distance for enjoying a hole-in-one or a great round on a par-54 pitch & putt. If playing less-than-maximum yardage doesn’t lead to self-delusion, false gratification or lower standards for you, why should it affect (or infect) others?

          In the end, your position is not unlike that of a friend who recently opined that any golfer hitting straight, 230-yard drives or less who isn’t playing the forward tees in winter is either crazy or ego driven.

          Neither your position or his takes into account the personal nature of challenges and pleasure.

        • DC

          Jul 22, 2014 at 3:30 pm

          Umm, if you’re a 14 handicap and go from a par 72 to a par 70 on the same set of 18 holes, you now how have to shoot an 84 instead of 86 to shoot your handicap. So you’ve actually made it harder on yourself. You’ll have to break through your expectation of settling for 4 pars and 14 bogies. You’ll now have to squeeze two more pars or knock in some birdies.

          Two strokes is a lot. That’s at least either 1 bad drive, or 2 missed greens, or 2 flubbed chips/putts. Each mistake you make is amplified.

          How you deal with mistakes is a cornerstone to playing this game.

  28. snowman

    Jan 6, 2014 at 12:26 pm

    I’m now 57. A couple of years back, I got involved with a group that plays from the “white” tees…. I’m a single digit handicap and always previously played the Blue tees, but for the sake of camaraderie, I go along and play the whites….. and guess what— I still enjoy the game! It aint no big deal. Yes, the game is a tad less demanding and my scores on average are a bit better; so what. I’m not a long hitter, but I still often play the Blues when I’m alone or with a different group, but I’ve learned it’s still satisfying to Break 80, even from the shorter tee box. Try it!

  29. A. Flores

    Jan 6, 2014 at 11:37 am

    I completely agree. To the exception of one guy in my group, none of us shoots in the eighties. Yet, all of my friends refuse to play from the whites. I do. And I don’t care as long as my score improves. When my score improves, I have more fun making nice shots for frequently. It’s simple. I am not scratch. I do not play from the blues or blacks.

    • Lazza

      Jan 6, 2014 at 12:38 pm

      In South Africa the blues are the seniors, whites the club and yellow/black championship. I could play off the championship tees, but most of the courses that offer them are devilishly tough (Durban Country Club, Zimbali CC, etc), so you gain very little for the extra stroke in the course rating you get. You had better be hitting deadly accurate drivers/woods or resort to very, very long, long irons. Typically the senior tees are much lower in rating than the club (65 for par 71 Selborne GC vs. 69 for club and 70 for championship, etc), but that doesn’t make it much easier to score well, so the club tees suit me best.

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: Early season wedge game tune-up

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Depending on the part of the country you call home, you might just be getting into the 2024 golf season, or you might be several months into it. Either way, your scoring success this season – like every season – will likely drill down to how good your game is from 100 yards and in.

The best way to sharpen your wedge play is, surprise, spend some time refining and practicing your technique. Whether it’s winter rust or mid-season sloppiness, your wedge game can be a serious cause of frustration if and when it goes sour on you.

If you want to be sharp when it really counts, give it some time and attention. Start with a detailed look at your fundamentals – posture, alignment, ball position, grip, and grip pressure – and then advance to an examination of the actual chipping and pitching motion of the swing.

No matter what your skill level might be, I am convinced that time spent on the following drills will yield giant rewards in your scores and enjoyment of the game. There is nothing quite so demoralizing and maddening than to hit a good drive and better-than-average approach shot, then chunk or skull a simple chip or pitch, turning a par or bogie-at-worst into a double or even more.

Core activation

The key to a solid short game is to synchronize your arm swing with the rotation of your body core. They simply have to move together, back and through impact into the follow-through. When I’m about to start a short game session, I like to begin with the club extended in front of my body, with my upper arms close to my chest, then rotate my upper torso back and through, to give me the sensation that I am moving the club only with my core rotation, with the hands only having the job of holding on to it. In this drill, you want to ensure that the clubhead is exactly in front of your sternum as you rotate back and through. When you lower the club into the playing position, this puts the upper end of the grip pointing roughly at your belt buckle and it stays in that “attitude” through the backswing and follow through.

S-L-O-W motion

I believe one of the most misunderstood and destructive pieces of advice in the short game is to “accelerate through the ball”. What I see much too often is that the golfer fails to take a long enough backswing and then quickly jabs at the ball . . . all in the pursuit of “accelerating through the ball.” In reality, that is pretty hard NOT to do if you have any kind of follow through at all. Relying on that core activation move, I like to make very slow swings – back and through impact – experimenting with just how slow I can make the swing and still see some ball flight. You’ll be amazed at how slow a body rotation can be made and still make the ball fly in a nice trajectory.

Windows

I’m borrowing this term from Tiger Woods, who often spoke of hitting his iron shots through certain “windows,” i.e. first floor, second floor, etc. For your short game, I simplify this into hitting short pitch shots on three different flight trajectories – low, medium, and high. I have found the simplest way to do this is to use the same swing for each shot and determine the trajectory by where you place the ball in your set-up. Start by finding the ball position that gives you what you consider to be a “normal” trajectory with your sand wedge. Then, hit some shots with the ball just one inch back and forward of that spot and see what trajectory you get. You can then take that to another level by repeating the process with your other wedges, from your highest lofted to your lowest.

Ladder drill

For this exercise, I like to have some room on the range or practice area that lets me hit balls any distance I want, from ten feet out to about 25 yards, or even more if you can. I start by hitting a basic chip shot to fly precisely to a divot or piece of turf I’ve targeted about ten feet in front of me. The next shot I try to land where that ball stopped. I repeat that process until I have a line of balls from ten feet to 25 or so yards from me. With each shot, I repeat it until I can land my shot within a foot or less of my “target ball.”

The idea of this kind of practice with your short game is to hit so many shots that you feel like you can do anything with the ball, and you can take that confidence and execution skill to the course. You can literally work through a few hundred shots in an hour or so with these drills, and there’s nothing like repetition to build a skill set you can trust “under fire.”

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19th Hole

Vincenzi’s 2024 Charles Schwab Challenge betting preview: Tony Finau ready to get back inside winner’s circle

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After an action-packed week at the PGA Championship, the PGA Tour heads back to Texas to play the Charles Schwab Challenge in Fort Worth.

Colonial Country Club is a 7,209-yard par-70 and features Bentgrass greens. The difficulty of the event this week will be influenced by course setup and/or wind. The last four seasons have all produced winners with scores between -8 and -14, with the two most recent playing extremely difficult. Last year, Emiliano Grillo won in a playoff against Adam Schenk at -8, and in 2022, Sam Burns edged out Scottie Scheffler in a playoff at -9.

After last season’s event, the course was renovated by Gil Hanse. I expect the course to stay true to what the original design intended, but will improve in some areas that needed updating. Jordan Spieth, who is one of the most consistent players at Colonial, told Golfweek his thoughts on the changes.

“I always thought courses like this, Hilton Head, these classic courses that stand the test of time, it’s like what are you going to do to these places? I think that’s kind of everyone’s first response,” Spieth said. “Then I saw them, and I was like, wow, this looks really, really cool. It looks like it maintains the character of what Colonial is while creating some excitement on some holes that maybe could use a little bit of adjusting.”

The Charles Schwab Challenge will play host to 136 golfers this week, and the field is relatively strong despite it being the week after a major championship.

Some notable golfers in the field include Scottie Scheffler, Max Homa, Tony Finau, Sungjae Im, Collin Morikawa, Min Woo Lee, Justin Rose, Adam Scott, Jordan Spieth and Akshay Bhatia. 

Past Winners at Charles Schwab Challenge

  • 2023: Emiliano Grillo (-8)
  • 2022: Sam Burns (-9)
  • 2021: Jason Kokrak (-14)
  • 2020: Daniel Berger (-15)
  • 2019: Kevin Na (-13)
  • 2018: Justin Rose (-20)
  • 2017: Kevin Kisner (-10)
  • 2016: Jordan Spieth (-17)

Key Stats For Colonial Country Club

Let’s take a look at five key metrics for Colonial Country Club to determine which golfers boast top marks in each category over their last 24 rounds.

1. Strokes Gained: Approach

Approach will be a major factor this week. It grades out as the most important statistic historically in events played at Colonial Country Club, and that should be the case once again this week.

Approach Over Past 24 Rounds

  1. Scottie Scheffler (+1.09)
  2. Ryan Moore (1.00)
  3. Tom Hoge (+0.96)
  4. Akshay Bhatia (+0.85)
  5. Greyson Sigg (+0.83)

2. Strokes Gained: Off The Tee

Both distance and accuracy will be important this week. Historically, shorter hitters who find the fairway have thrived at Colonial, but over the last few years we’ve seen a lot of the players in the field use big drives to eliminate the challenge of doglegs and fairway bunkers.

The rough can be thick and penal, so finding the fairway will remain important.

Strokes Gained: Off the Tee Over Past 24 Rounds

  1. Scottie Scheffler (+1.11)
  2. Keith Mitchell (+0.90)
  3. Kevin Yu (+0.87)
  4. Alejandro Tosti (+0.81)
  5. Min Woo Lee (+0.80)

3. Strokes Gained: Total in Texas

Players who play well in the state of Texas tend to play well in multiple events during the Texas swing. 

Strokes Gained: Total in Texas over past 36 rounds

  1. Jordan Spieth (+2.16)
  2. Scottie Scheffler (+1.97)
  3. Tony Finau (+1.91)
  4. Akshay Bhatia (+1.68)
  5. Justin Rose (+1.62)

4. Course History

Course history seems to be much more important at Colonial Country Club than most other courses. The same players tend to pop up on leaderboards here year after year.

Course History per round Over Past 24 Rounds:

  1. Jordan Spieth (+2.31)
  2. Justin Rose (+1.70)
  3. Harris English (+1.66)
  4. Webb Simpson (+1.54)
  5. Collin Morikawa (+1.47)

5. Strokes Gained: Putting (Bentgrass)

The Bentgrass greens at Colonial are in immaculate condition, and putters who roll it pure are at an advantage. Historically, great putters have thrived at Colonial.

Strokes Gained: Putting (Bentgrass) Over Past 24 Rounds:

  1. Denny McCarthy (+1.08)
  2. Justin Rose (+0.93)
  3. J.T. Poston (+0.87)
  4. Maverick McNealy (+0.85)
  5. Andrew Putnam (+0.74)

Charles Schwab Challenge Model Rankings

Below, I’ve compiled overall model rankings using a combination of the five key statistical categories previously discussed — SG: Approach (27%), SG: OTT (25%), Strokes Gained: Total in Texas (14%), Course History (17%) and SG: Putting Bentgrass (17%).

  1. Scottie Scheffler
  2. Chris Kirk
  3. Tony Finau
  4. Billy Horschel
  5. Daniel Berger
  6. Maverick McNealy
  7. Adam Schenk
  8. Collin Morikawa
  9. Austin Eckroat
  10. Sepp Straka

2024 Charles Schwab Challenge Picks

Tony Finau +3300 (FanDuel)

Tony Finau hit the ball incredibly well at last week’s PGA Championship. He led the field in Strokes Gained: Approach, gaining 9.3 strokes in the category, which was his second-best performance on approach this season (Farmers T6). Finau’s tie for 18th at Valhalla is ideal considering the fact that he played very well but didn’t have the mental and emotional strain of hitting shots deep into contention in a major championship. He should be sharp and ready to go for this week’s event.

Finau has been phenomenal in the state of Texas. He ranks third in Strokes Gained: Total in the Lone Star state in his past 36 rounds and just recently put up a T2 finish at the Texas Children’s Houston Open last month. He also has success at Colonial. He finished 2nd at the course in 2019 and T4 at the course in 2022. He missed the cut last year, however, that seems to be an aberration as he hasn’t finished worse than 34th in his seven other trips to Fort Worth.

Finau has gained strokes off the tee in 10 of his 13 starts this season, and his ability to hit the ball long and straight should give him an advantage this week at Colonial. He’s also gained strokes on approach in 11 of his 13 starts this year. His tee to green excellence should work wonders this week, as Colonial is a challenging test. The concern, as usual, for Tony, is the putter. He’s in the midst of the worst putting season of his career, but with a target score in the -8 to -13 range this week, he should be able to get away with a few mistakes on the greens.

Finau is one of the most talented players in the field and I believe he can put it all together this week in Texas to get his first win since last year’s Mexico Open.

Sungjae Im +5000 (BetRivers)

Sungjae Im is really starting to play some good golf of late, despite his missed cut at last week’s PGA Chmapionship. Im missed the cut on the number, which may be a blessing in disguise that allows him to rest and also keeps the price reasonable on him this week. The missed cut was due to some woeful putting, which is atypical for Sungjae. He gained strokes slightly both off the tee and on approach, therefore I’m not concerned with the performance.

Prior to his trip to Valhalla, Sungjae was beginning to show why he has been such a good player over the course of his career. He finished T12 at Heritage and then won an event in Korea. He followed that up with a T4 at Quail Hollow in a “Signature Event”, which was his best performance on the PGA Tour this season. At the Wells Fargo, the South Korean was 20th in Strokes Gained: Ball Striking and showed his skill around and on the greens.

Sungjae has had some success at Colonial. He’s finished T10 and T15 with two missed cuts scattered in between over the past four seasons. When he is in form, which I believe he now is, the course suits him well.

Im hasn’t won since 2021, which is an underachievement given how talented I believe he is. That can change this week with a win at Colonial.

Christiaan Bezuidenhout +5000 (FanDuel)

I absolutely love this spot for Christiaan Bezuidenhout. The South African is having a fantastic season and this is a course that should suit his strengths.

Prior the PGA Championship, Bez hadn’t finished worse than 28th in six consecutive starts. He’s not the type of player who can get to -20 in a “birdie fest” but can grind in a tougher event. He is a terrific player in the wind and putts extremely well on Bentgrass greens. Bezuidenhout has also had success both in Texas and at Colonial. He ranks 16th in Strokes Gained: Total at the course and 10th in Strokes Gained: Total in Texas over his past 36 rounds.

Part of what has made Bezuidenhout play so well this year is his increase in ball speed, which has been the recipe for success for plenty of players, including the winner of last week’s PGA Championship, Xander Schauffele. Bezuidenhout’s coach shared his ball speed gains on Instagram a few weeks back.

https://www.instagram.com/p/C6FCvK3S97A/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link

Now at close to 170mph ball speed, that isn’t enough to compete at the monstrous major championship courses in my opinion, however it’s plenty to contend at Colonial.

Bezuidenhout has been one of the most consistent performers on the PGA Tour this season and a win would put an exclamation point on what’s been his best year on Tour to date.

Brendon Todd +12500 (BetRivers)

Brendon Todd is the type of player that’s hit or miss, but usually shows up on the courses he has a strong history on and plays well. Todd finished T8 at Colonial in 2021 and 3rd in 2022. He’s also flashed some Texas form this year as he finished T5 at the Valero Texas Open in April.

Todd doesn’t contend all that often, but when he does, he’s shown in the past that he has the capability to win a golf tournament. He has three PGA Tour wins including a win in Texas back in 2014 (TPC Four Seasons).

Todd is a player who can rise to the top if some of the elite players aren’t in contention after a grueling PGA Championship.

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19th Hole

Vincenzi’s 2024 PGA Championship betting preview: Rising star ready to join the immortals at Valhalla

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The second major of the 2024 season is upon us as the world’s best players will tee it up this week at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Kentucky to compete for the Wanamaker Trophy.

The last time we saw Valhalla host a major championship, Rory McIlroy fended off Phil Mickelson, Henrik Stenson, Rickie Fowler and the creeping darkness that was descending upon the golf course. The Northern Irishman had the golf world in the palm of his hand, joining only Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus as players who’d won four major championships by the time they were 25 years old. 

Valhalla is named after the great hall described in Norse mythology where the souls of Vikings feasted and celebrated with the Gods. The course is a Jack Nicklaus-design that has ranked among Golf Digest’s “America’s 100 Greatest Courses” for three decades. 

Valhalla Golf Club is a par-71 measuring 7,542 yards with Zoysia fairways and Bentgrass greens. The course has rolling hills and dangerous streams scattered throughout and the signature 13th hole is picturesque with limestone and unique bunkering protecting the green. The 2024 PGA Championship will mark the fourth time Valhalla has hosted the event. 

The field this week will consist of 156 players, including 16 PGA Champions and 33 Major Champions. 

Past Winners of the PGA Championship

  • 2023: Brooks Koepka (-9) Oak Hill
  • 2022: Justin Thomas (-5) Southern Hills
  • 2021: Phil Mickelson (-6) Kiawah Island
  • 2020: Collin Morikawa (-13) TPC Harding Park
  • 2019: Brooks Koepka (-8) Bethpage Black
  • 2018: Brooks Koepka (-16) Bellerive
  • 2017: Justin Thomas (-8) Quail Hollow
  • 2016: Jimmy Walker (-14) Baltusrol
  • 2015: Jason Day (-20) Whistling Straits
  • 2014: Rory McIlroy (-16) Valhalla

In this article and going forward, I’ll be using the Rabbit Hole by Betsperts Golf data engine to develop my custom model. If you want to build your own model or check out all of the detailed stats, you can sign up using promo code: MATTVIN for 25% off any subscription package (yearly is best value).

Key Stats For Valhalla

Let’s take a look at five key metrics for Oak Hill to determine which golfers boast top marks in each category over their past 24 rounds.

1. Strokes Gained: Approach

Valhalla will play as a true all-around test of golf for the world’s best. Of course, it will take strong approach play to win a major championship.

Strokes Gained: Approach Over Past 24 Rounds

  1. Shane Lowry (+1.25)
  2. Scottie Scheffler (+1.09)
  3. Jordan Smith (+1.05)
  4. Tom Hoge (+.96)
  5. Corey Conners (+.94)

2. Strokes Gained: Off the Tee

Valhalla will play long and the rough will be penal. Players who are incredibly short off the tee and/or have a hard time hitting fairways will be all but eliminated from contention this week at the PGA Championship. 

Strokes Gained: Off the Tee Over Past 24 Rounds:

  1. Bryson DeChambeau (+1.47)
  2. Scottie Scheffler (+1.11)
  3. Keith Mitchell (+.90)
  4. Alejandro Tosti (+.89)
  5. Ludvig Aberg (+.82)

Strokes Gained: Total on Nickalus Designs

Valhalla is a classic Nicklaus Design. Players who play well at Nicklaus designs should have an advantage coming into this major championship. 

Strokes Gained: Total on Nicklaus Designs over past 36 rounds:

  1. Jon Rahm (+2.56)
  2. Scottie Scheffler (+2.48)
  3. Patrick Cantlay (+2.35)
  4. Collin Morikawa (+1.79)
  5. Shane Lowry (+1.57)

Strokes Gained: Tee to Green on Very Long Courses

Valhalla is going to play extremely long this week. Players who have had success playing very long golf courses should be better equipped to handle the conditions of this major championship.

Strokes Gained: Total on Very Long Courses Over Past 24 Rounds: 

  1. Scottie Scheffler (+2.44)
  2. Rory McIlroy (+2.24)
  3. Will Zalatoris (+1.78)
  4. Viktor Hovland (+1.69)
  5. Xander Schauffele (+1.60)

Strokes Gained: Total in Major Championships

One factor that tends to play a large role in deciding major championships is which players have played well in previous majors leading up to the event. 

Strokes Gained: Total in Major Championships over past 20 rounds:

  1. Scottie Scheffler (+3.14)
  2. Will Zalatoris (+2.64)
  3. Rory McIlroy (+2.49)
  4. Xander Schauffele (+2.48)
  5. Tommy Fleetwood (2.09)

Strokes Gained: Putting on Bentgrass Greens

Valhalla features pure Bentgrass putting surfaces. Players who are comfortable putting on this surface will have an advantage on the greens. 

Strokes Gained: Putting on Bentgrass Greens over Past 24 Rounds:

  1. Ludvig Aberg (+1.12)
  2. Denny McCarthy (+1.08)
  3. Matt Fitzpatrick (+0.99)
  4. Justin Rose (+0.93)
  5. J.T. Poston (0.87)

Strokes Gained: Total on Zoysia Fairways

Valhalla features Zoysia fairways. Players who are comfortable playing on this surface will have an advantage on the field.

Strokes Gained: Total on Zoysia Fairways over past 36 rounds: 

  1. Justin Thomas (+1.53)
  2. Will Zalatoris (+1.47)
  3. Xander Schauffele (+1.40)
  4. Brooks Koepka (+1.35)
  5. Rory McIlroy (+1.23)

2024 PGA Championship Model Rankings

Below, I’ve compiled overall model rankings using a combination of the key statistical categories previously discussed — SG: Approach (25%), SG: Off the Tee (22%), SG: T2G on Very Long Courses (12%), SG: Putting on Bentgrass (+12%), SG: Total on Nicklaus Designs (12%). SG: Total on Zoysia Fairways (8%), and SG: Total in Major Championships (8%). 

  1. Brooks Koepka
  2. Xander Schauffele
  3. Rory McIlroy
  4. Scottie Scheffler
  5. Bryson DeChambeau
  6. Shane Lowry
  7. Alex Noren
  8. Will Zalatoris
  9. Cameron Young
  10. Keith Mitchell
  11. Hideki Matsuyama
  12. Billy Horschel
  13. Patrick Cantlay
  14. Viktor Hovland
  15. Adam Schenk
  16. Chris Kirk
  17. Sahith Theegala
  18. Min Woo Lee
  19. Joaquin Niemann
  20. Justin Thomas

2024 PGA Championship Picks

Ludvig Aberg +1800 (BetMGM)

At The Masters, Ludvig Aberg announced to the golf world that he’s no longer an “up and coming” player. He’s one of the best players in the game of golf, regardless of experience.

Augusta National gave Aberg some necessary scar tissue and showed him what being in contention at a major championship felt like down the stretch. Unsurprisingly, he made a costly mistake, hitting it in the water left of the 11th hole, but showed his resilience by immediately bouncing back. He went on to birdie two of his next three holes and finished in solo second by three shots. With the type of demeanor that remains cool in pressure situations, I believe Ludvig has the right mental game to win a major at this point in his career.

Aberg has not finished outside of the top-25 in his past eight starts, which includes two runner-up finishes at both a “Signature Event” and a major championship. The 24-year-old is absolutely dominant with his driver, which will give him a major advantage this week. In the field he ranks, in Strokes Gained: Off the Tee, and has gained strokes in the category in each of his past ten starts. Aberg is already one of the best drivers of the golf ball on the planet.

In Norse mythology, Valhalla is the great hall where the souls of Vikings feasted and celebrated with the Gods. The Swedes, who are of Old Norse origin, were the last of the three Scandinavian Kingdoms to abandon the Old Norse Gods. A Swede played a major role in the 2014 PGA Championship at Valhalla, and I believe another, Ludvig Aberg, will be the one to conquer Valhalla in 2024. 

Bryson DeChambeau +2800 (BetMGM)

Bryson DeChambeau is one of the few players in the world that I believe has the game to go blow-for-blow with Scottie Scheffler. Although he isn’t as consistent as Scheffler, when he’s at his best, Bryson has the talent to beat him.

At The Masters, DeChambeau put forth a valiant effort at a golf course that simply does not suit his game. Valhalla, on the other hand, is a course that should be perfect for the 30-year-old. His ability to overpower a golf course with his driver will be a serious weapon this week.

Bryson has had some success at Jack Nicklaus designs throughout his career as he won the Memorial at Muirfield Village back in 2018. He’s also had incredible results on Bentgrass greens for the entirety of his professional career. Of his 10 wins, nine of them have come on Bentgrass greens, with the only exception being the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill. He also has second place finishes at Medinah and TPC Summerlin, which feature Bentgrass greens.

Love him or hate him, it’s impossible to argue that Bryson isn’t one of the most exciting and important players in the game of golf. He’s also one of the best players in the world. A second major is coming soon for DeChambeau, and I believe he should be amongst the favorites to hoist the Wanamaker Trophy this week.

Patrick Cantlay +4000 (FanDuel)

There’s no way of getting around it: Patrick Cantlay has been dissapointing in major championships throughout his professional career. He’s been one of the top players on Tour for a handful of years and has yet to truly contend at a major championship, with the arguable exception of the 2019 Masters.

Despite not winning majors, Cantlay has won some big events. The 32-year-old has won two BMW Championships, two Memorial Tournaments as well as a Tour Championship. His victories at Memorial indicate how much Cantlay loves Nicklaus designs, where he ranks 3rd in the field in Strokes Gained: Total over his past 36 rounds behind only Scottie Scheffler and Jon Rahm.

Cantlay also loves Bentgrass greens. Six of Cantlay’s seven individual wins on the PGA Tour have come on Bentgrass greens and he also was one of the best putters at the 2023 Ryder cup at Marco Simone (also Bentgrass). At Caves Valley (2021 BMW Championship), he gained over 12 strokes putting to outduel another Bentgrass specialist, Bryson DeChambeau.

Cantlay finished 22nd in The Masters, which was a solid result considering how many elite players struggled that week. He also has two top-ten finishes in his past five PGA Championships. He’s undeniably one of the best players in the field, therefore, it comes down to believing Cantlay has the mental fortitude to win a major, which I do.

Joaquin Niemann +4000 (BetMGM)

I believe Joaquin Niemann is one of the best players in the world. He has three worldwide wins since December and has continued to improve over the course of his impressive career thus far. Still only 25, the Chilean has all the tools to be a serious contender in major championships for years to come.

Niemann has been the best player on LIV this season. Plenty will argue with the format or source of the money on LIV, but no one can argue that beating players such as Jon Rahm, Bryson DeChambeau, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Cameron Smith is an unremarkable achievement. Niemann is an elite driver of the golf ball who hits it farther than just about anyone in the field not named Bryson DeChambeau or (arguably) Rory McIlroy.

Niemann is another player who has been fantastic throughout his career on Bentgrass greens. Prior to leaving the PGA Tour, Bentgrass was the only green surface in which Joaco was a positive putter. It’s clearly a surface that he is very comfortable putting on and should fare around and on the greens this week.

Niemann is a perfect fit for Valhalla. His low and penetrating ball flight will get him plenty of runout this week on the fairways and he should have shorter shots into the green complexes than his competitors. To this point in his career, the former top ranked amateur in the world (2018) has been underwhelming in major championships, but I don’t believe that will last much longer. Joaquin Niemann is a major championship caliber player and has a real chance to contend this week at Valhalla.

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