What Tees Should I Play From

Set Aside the Ego: What Tees Should You Play From?

If you’re like a lot of golfers, chances are you’ve wondered which tees to play from? Front, middle tees or the tips?

This is even more of a question when playing a new golf course as it’s a big decision that can make or break the day. Not only for you but for other golfers behind you as the wrong tees can lead to slow pace of play. This is one of the biggest issues in the golf world. 

As Jack Nicklaus said, “All of us deeply involved in the game constantly encourage golfers of all skill levels to play the proper tees, but too often golfers want to bite off as much of the golf course as they can. What ends up suffering is their scorecard and their overall enjoyment.”

With multiple tee boxes on every course it’s essential to make sure the tee boxes correspond with your skill level. Keep reading to learn the best strategies to find the right tee boxes for your game which will lead to more fun and lower scores. 

What Tees Should I Play From?

So, how do you determine which tees to play from?

Let me first illustrate an example of playing the wrong tee boxes.

I’m a scratch golfer and always play the tips, regardless of what fellow golfers are playing. On one particular day I got paired up with another golfer and suggested he play whatever tees he likes.

I know most golfers don’t (and shouldn’t) play tees at 7,000+ yards. When he learned I’d be tipping the course out he said,“I’ll join you, might as well get my money’s worth.”

I shook my head and knew I was in for a long day since he should have been at the gold tees. He only drove it about 210 yards which meant he couldn’t even carry the ball to the fairway and struggled on his long second shots. After five holes he admitted defeat and moved up three tee boxes as it was clear the tips were far too challenging. 

When golfers say, “I’m going to get my money’s worth”, you know you’re in for a long round. Luckily, he self-corrected within a few holes and played the right set of tees. This helped speed up pace of play and make for a better experience for everyone. 

Playing the right tees is one of the most important things you can do. Here’s why… 

Why Playing the Right Tee Box is Important

Let’s review some of the biggest before teaching the best ways to find the correct tee boxes.

Pace of Play

One of the biggest problems in the game of golf is slow pace of play.

A round of golf can take five or more hours to play which is a huge inconvenience for a lot of players. Paired with drive time, warm up, and a meal after, it’s a 7-hour experience.

One of the reasons golf takes so long to play is because of golfers playing the wrong tee box! While it’s okay to challenge yourself occasionally, you shouldn’t always do it. Play more challenging tees with golfers who should play there (to help you level up) and off times. 

Have More Fun 

Let’s face it, shooting lower scores is more fun.

By playing up and making the golf course shorter, you are effectively making it easier. Which should lead to lower scores and ultimately, more fun.

If you play a tee box that doesn’t match your skill level, you’re making golf even harder. You need to earn your way back to those tee boxes to not negatively affect your playing partners if you don’t have enough driving distance for the tees. 

Being Considerate of Other Golfers 

If you play the wrong tee boxes, not only will you score higher but you will likely frustrate your playing partners too. In the case of my example from above, watching someone struggle from playing the wrong tee boxes is a self-inflicted error. But it can lead to a negative experience for playing partners too.

For example, if you’re having to look for that person’s golf ball all the time, it can make for a long day.

Check The Scorecard

The easiest way to pick the right tee box is by checking the scorecard. Specifically, you want to check the slope and rating of the golf course.

Additionally, some scorecards will have handicap recommendations for which tees to play. This makes it even easier as you don’t have to check out the slope and rating. They will typically give a range for each tee box based on the distance/difficulty of the golf course. 

For example, 

  • Black tees: >5 handicap
  • Blue tees: 5-12 handicap
  • White tees: 12-20 handicap 
  • Yellow tees: Low handicap women golfers and senior tees 
  • Red tees: 35+ handicap and women golfers

Also, check online as most golf courses often provide more insight and information about the course layout. 

Nick Faldo’s Tee Box Strategy

Nick Faldo is one of the most well-known golfers and also had a very successful career announcing the game. His strategy for figuring out tee boxes was simple – start at the front tees and work your way backward.

Basically, if you can’t score under a certain score from the reds, you don’t deserve to move back to a tee box. But once you do, then you can move back to the whites. Then the blues and finally the black tees.

This is a great way for many amateur golfers to earn your way back to more advanced tee boxes! 

How to Decide What Tees to Play

Driving Distance

Another way to figure out the correct tee box is based on your driver distance.

If you can’t hit it about 290 yards, don’t play the back tees (or a golf course that is over 7,000 yards). Otherwise, it’ll be impossible to make some of the required carry distances and lead to a lot of long second shots.

 If you can’t hit it 250+ yards, don’t play the tips or even the second back tees. If you can’t hit over 235 yards, don’t play more than one back from the front tees.

While there is no hard and fast rule here, get creative so you and your group have the most fun playing the right tee box. 

Ask The Pro Shop or Starter 

The pro shop or starter on the first tee are also great resources to figure out the best tee box to play. They will appreciate you asking as it’ll ensure the marshal won’t have to govern your group if you fall behind from slow play. 

Play a Hybrid Set of Tees 

Some golf courses might have an extra tee box on the scorecard that isn’t an actual set of tees. For example, a course might have a gold/white combo where you tee off on the whites on some holes and golds on the others. This is a good option for long hitting senior men who still want a good challenge.

This makes it hybrid length and usually a great solution when playing with different skill level golfers. On long holes you’ll typically play from the white tees and other holes that aren’t as challenging you will play from the blue tees. 

3 Reasons Why You Should Tee it Forward 

Golfers should tee it forward more for a few reasons.

First, when you tee it forward you get to mix up your round.

Playing the same tees on the same course frequently is boring! You will break the monotony of the same shots on the same holes and it will force you to pick new targets and hit new shots off the tee and into the greens. 

Second, playing different tee boxes will help you learn how to go low. If you move up a box, you should be able to score lower and might help you break through a plateau. 

For example, if you can’t break 80 from your current tee box, move up one box. Shoot in the 70s a few times from there to get over the mental blocks of shooting in the 70s and then move back. You’ll be a low handicap golfer in no time!

Third, playing up different tee boxes allows you to learn how to get better with your wedges. Since you’ll have shorter distances into the green, it’s a great time to work on your short game too.

FAQs About Playing Different Tee Boxes 

Do you have more questions about finding the right tee box for your game? If so, keep reading to learn more now and enjoy golf by playing the right set of tees.

What golf tees should I play? 

The ones that match your skill level. One of the most annoying things that golfers can do is play a tee box that is much more advanced than their current skill level. This slows down the pace of play and can make for a frustrating experience for other players.

Use the tips above and/or ask someone in the pro shop or the starter to see which tees are best suited for your golf game. 

What color tees should I play from? 

Each golf course has their own set of tees. The most common is red, white, blue, and black. 

Red tees are typically women tees, white is seniors or beginner golfers, blue is mid to low-handicap golfers and black is for the best players. But each golf course has their own set of tees as there are no standardized tee box colors.

It’s a good idea to look at the scorecard as they often provide handicap recommendations for each box.  

Should I play from the white or blue tees? 

You should play the set of tees that is right for your current skill level. Don’t feel like you have to play blue or white sets of tees.

Should I play the same tee boxes all the time?

If you play the same course frequently, it’s best to mix up your tee boxes for different yardages. Not only will it mix up your club selection and shots, it will make sure you mentally focus as well. 

Playing the same course can also make many golfers get mentally lazy as they hit the same shots over and over again. You might not laser every pin or think about your targets which causes lazy golf swings. 

Instead, play a combo set of tees or play up an entire tee box on certain days of the week. This will also allow you to hit different shots, break through scoring plateaus, and find variety on a course you play often. 

What is teeing it forward?

Teeing it forward is a great initiative by the PGA.

As they said, “By playing from forward tees, amateur golfers have the chance to play the course at the same relative distance as a touring professional would over 18 holes. The playing field is leveled by giving golfers the opportunity to play from distances that are properly aligned with their abilities.”

Plus, it means shorter approach shots and ultimately fewer shots total, “With many more golfers hitting approach shots with 6- and 7-irons instead of hybrids and long irons, their chances for enjoyment increase. Also, playing from forward tees should result in fewer overall shots, shorter distance traveled on each hole, and potentially, fewer lost balls.” 

Final Thoughts on Playing the Right Tee Boxes 

Remember, you need to earn your way up to playing longer, more advanced tee boxes.

Otherwise, you can ruin the round for other golfers, get in trouble with the golf course, and not have much fun shooting high scores. For the most enjoyable round, play the right tees that match your average driver distance and/or handicap.

There are so many upsides to mixing up tee boxes and playing golf from shorter distances. Don’t be afraid to mix it up and challenge your regular group of buddies with a different set of tees. At the end of the day, it’s always about shooting the lowest score.  

Use the tee box system as motivation to get better and keep improving your golf game!

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