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How to select the proper tees to play from (What tees you should play from)

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Unless you are a professional golfer or playing in a competitive tournament, the main goal for every round should be to have fun, and a big part of having fun means selecting the correct tees to play from. But it doesn’t stop at just picking the correct tee color, you need to consider the yardage because the “middle tees” on one course might not equate to the middle tees on another.

The wonderful thing about golf is that as an individual pursuit, even when playing with other golfers each player can choose to play from different yardages while on the same course to ensure that they are getting maximum enjoyment from their round.

Rules for selecting the right tees to play from

There are a number of ways to quickly and easily figure out which yardage and tee you should play from. The PGA of America offers a guideline chart to allow golfers to reference their driving distance which then recommends total course yardage.

GolfWRX: Average driving distance for male golfers

An important thing to keep in mind for those golfers that fall into the category of playing yardage that might not actually be available on the standard scorecard is you can simply tee up from an area in the fairway in front of the traditional tee decks to make each hole as short as you would like. As mentioned off the top, unless you are playing in a competitive round being ruled by a governing body, you should be making decisions to have fun.

Iron distance formula for picking the right tees

Another popular formula for selecting the correct set of tees to play from is based on 5-iron distance, if you do not use a 5-iron specifically, you can reference your 5-hybrid or a 9-wood.

5 iron distance X 36 = the total yardage

By using this method to select the correct yardage, you will be put in a position to hit similar approach shots into greens as other players that might be playing from different yardage. For example, if a golfer playing from the middle tee deck on a par 3 is hitting a 7-iron, you should also be playing from a yardage that allows you to a 7-iron or equivalent club give or take one club up or down.

“Let’s start at the forward yardage, and if we’re having too much fun and making too many birdies, we can move back one” – Scottish caddy saying

USGA – Choosing the right tees to play

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Ryan Barath is a club-fitter & master club builder with more than 17 years of experience working with golfers of all skill levels, including PGA Tour players. He is the former Build Shop Manager & Social Media Coordinator for Modern Golf. He now works independently from his home shop and is a member of advisory panels to a select number of golf equipment manufacturers. You can find Ryan on Twitter and Instagram where he's always willing to chat golf, and share his passion for club building, course architecture and wedge grinding.

27 Comments

27 Comments

  1. ChipNRun

    Jan 25, 2021 at 3:03 pm

    One consideration is what time of year it is. From November through March the ball just doesn’t roll out very much due to softer ground, and leaf clumps in the fairway. Plus, my muscles don’t feel as fluid at 50* and overcast as they do at 85* and sunny.

    In November through March, I play the Senior tees (5,300). Once things warm up a bit, I move back to the Middle tees (5,800).

  2. JB

    Jan 18, 2021 at 6:51 pm

    My pro believes if you are playing the right set of tees you should be have the chance to hit 1-2 of the 3 or 4 par 5s in two giving yourself an eagle putt.

    Remember he said have a chance of doing it – not necessarily doing it every round.

  3. Dennis

    Dec 17, 2020 at 12:39 am

    Regarding the 5-iron-formula: Is it carry or total distance? Is it a strong or traditional lofted 5 iron?

  4. X flex

    Dec 15, 2020 at 11:50 am

    X Flex ? and play from the tips…. these are the wanna bees that clog up the course. Oh, and the guys that drive the ball 225 and wait for the green to clear on par fives so they can hit their 275 yard shot?

    • RAY

      Dec 21, 2020 at 8:55 am

      Yeah, exactly.
      They hit 225 with a driver, but wait to hit into the par 5 (275) with their 3 wood?? huh?
      Result? About 205 with a cut into the trees.

      Priceless.

  5. Rick Flynn

    Dec 15, 2020 at 10:28 am

    This is WRX though. We will never get anyone to admit how far they really hit their driver or 5 iron. Slow play continues…

    • John

      Dec 21, 2020 at 9:00 am

      ahhhh yes…

      The incredibly fragile male ego. its a curse on the game.
      The equipment manufactures love them though. LOL

  6. Boo

    Dec 14, 2020 at 9:59 am

    This is a terrible way to determine which tees to play from. This should be based on your handicap. Using formula means bernhard langer and I should use the same tees… Cmon man.

    • NP

      Dec 16, 2020 at 11:08 am

      disagree. Remember this is for when ‘playing for fun’. Handicap is NOT an indicator of driving distance.

      • Obee

        Dec 16, 2020 at 3:42 pm

        Nor should driving distance determine where you play from — solely.

  7. William Davis

    Dec 14, 2020 at 9:32 am

    I look forward to joining the Ladies – if they’ll have me.

  8. Tom Duckworth

    Dec 14, 2020 at 9:24 am

    It a pain when you get stuck behind a group that thinks they need to play from the back tees when they don’t have the game for it. When it’s busy you can’t play through because there’s a group in front. So please put your egos aside and play the proper tees.It will only help pace of play.

    • Dosier88

      Dec 30, 2020 at 7:45 pm

      A shank into the woods and looking for the ball for 10 minutes is the same no matter what tee it was shanked from IMO.

  9. Ajit Pillai

    Dec 13, 2020 at 8:13 pm

    I keep it even easier. If I can’t reach a par 4 with my driver or 3 wood and my 4 iron (I carry a hybrid) then I’m on the wrong tees. I don’t care what the total yardage is, it’s the par 4’s I focus on. Currently I’m good for 445-450 par four with Driver/4 iron under normal conditions.

    • Mike

      Dec 20, 2020 at 10:00 am

      Great way to look at it. For me, if I can’t reach the average par 4 on a course w/ a driver & 4H, time to move up tees. Par 5 & par 3 distances are irrelevant; on any tee distance I would consider playing from, most par 5’s are a 3 shot hole & I can probably reach any par 3.

      But based on my driving distance (210 yds), I should play at what, 5,600 yds? That’s ABSURD, unless I wanted to purely feed my ego. But I CRINGE when I see folks heading to the back tees. Watching 1 or 2 of your swings, I can tell if they belong there. Most of the time, they DON’T.
      And I know it’s gonna be a long & frustrating round. BTW, when you aren’t good & are playing from the back tees, please don’t insult my intelligence & tell me this just happens to be your worst round of the season!

  10. Dennis Beach

    Dec 13, 2020 at 9:25 am

    I play the white tees all the time at every course I play. The distances on the courses I play are less than 7000 yds., and some of the blue tees are so far back, that it is over 200 yds.to the fairway, so the white tees cut this in half or less. 25+ hdcp. with no golf ego, and being 64, and never was a long hitter. I average 200-220 on my drives, so I know what tees to play from to have the most fun.

    • NP

      Dec 16, 2020 at 11:11 am

      You should play about 6000 yard tees. You’ll have more fun.

  11. George Gearhart

    Dec 12, 2020 at 11:34 pm

    I am a 75 year old 8 handicapper who averages about 200 yards off the tee, but I hit my 3Wd about 190 off the fairway. If I don’t hit the greens on Par 4s over 380 there a pretty good chance I can get up and down in one, certainly two, which means I will usually be hitting Par 5s with an 8 iron or less with GIR more often than not. I have a very good short game and can average low 80s from most White Tees and shot 76 three times this year. So I would say there are acceptions to the driver distance for tee selections.

    • Jack Matthews

      Dec 13, 2020 at 3:14 pm

      I agree. I’m 70 and my drives are usually between 190 to 210 unless it’s really cold and/or wet. However, I usually play from 6250 yards. Obviously to break 80 I have to chip and putt well. A lot of the guys with which I play are sometimes 30 to 40 yards longer than me, but I usually score the same or better than them as I rarely miss a fairway. If one has a really good short game and is a great putter he (or she) can overcome being short off the tee.

    • CV

      Dec 30, 2020 at 8:34 am

      Sir, you are an inspiration. Keep it going. I wish I could get in the 70’s.

    • Matt S

      Jan 13, 2021 at 3:31 pm

      Some good thoughts put together by various respondents. I would agree that distance and handicap should both be considered in determining an appropriate tee colour.
      However, I would suggest that most golfers should not play one tee colour only, but play another tee colour occasionally for a different challenge and experience. Also, suggested tee colours should always be guidelines and not obligatory.

  12. Redo Mulligan

    Dec 12, 2020 at 8:27 pm

    Tell that to Dechambeau

  13. Bruce Helbig

    Dec 12, 2020 at 5:19 pm

    If you are hitting more than a 7 iron into the greens for your second shot on most par 4 holes, move up. There fixed it for you.

    • Carolyn

      Dec 16, 2020 at 9:03 am

      My favorite is still the young guy’s that drive it 300 or more then miss the green from 80 YRDS. chilly dip their chip, second chip 15 feet past hole and then two putt…mean while my partner and I smash our 220 yard drive, get close to the green with our 7 wood, chip close to hole and one putt. First hole we are two up….and the pattern continues till we shoot 85 and the long boys are trying to figure out why they both shot 97?

    • NP

      Dec 16, 2020 at 11:13 am

      Agreed. And unless your playing for money, don’t be influenced by the others in your group.

      • John

        Dec 21, 2020 at 9:17 am

        Agree, Ironically the last part of your comment is where most golfers get their self esteem from. They are more concerned with what they think than anything else, even if the average handicap is 30.

        Not sure who said this but its got a lot of truth built in.
        “The less people know about something”, the more they talk about it”

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