Golf, As It Was Intended
I played Mission Hills CC from the same tees Lexi Thompson did when she won the 2014 Kraft Nabisco Championship (now known as the ANA Inspiration). Every blade of grass looked as if it was placed by hand; not a dry patch in sight. Absolutely stunning. But, my game definitely was not on Lexi’s level that day. I was a player who averaged 230 yards, battling a 6,738 yard golf course compared with Thompson’s driving average of 273 yards. While my woes were partly due to a combination of tee boxes and the LPGA Tour major championship course conditions featuring impossible hole locations with greens rolling like kitchen tile, playing from the championship tees did not make it any easier. Golf is a hard, crazy game. Why make it harder?
For perspectives from each end of the tee-box-talk spectrum, I recruited a few women from our FORE Her editorial board:
(TK) TJ Kliebphipat (Level: Experienced, Competitive)
(JS) Jennifer Seislove (Level: Beginner, Social)
From which sets of tees do you normally play?
TK: I normally play from around 6,400 yards, which is usually a mixture of white and blue tees.
JS: As far up as I can! The closer I start, the more confident I feel. When can we stop calling the junior tees by that name? (Hey Jen, you’re preaching to the choir!)
Why do you choose the tees you play?
TK: I play tournament golf so when I go out for a casual round I like to play the yardages I would normally play in competition to keep my game sharp.
JS: So I can feel as successful as possible during my round. Anytime I can give myself an opportunity to actually record a score and not have to pick up, that’s a win for me.
Can you turn off your ego when walking to the forward tees?
TK: Everyone’s game is different, and it doesn’t matter what tees you play from. I encourage friends to play from the forward tees for a couple rounds to see how much better their game feels!
JS: At my level, there should be no ego! I think my enthusiasm of “Playing It Forward” helps other women around me feel good about making the same decision.
If the right sets of tees are used, these two women can play their respective games and enjoy each other’s company. Imagine how Jennifer would feel if she played from 6,400 yards with TJ. I’m sure her opinion of golf would be quite different. Just because I own a Mini Cooper S, which for some is considered a sportscar (including myself, she’s pretty dang quick), that doesn’t mean I’m ready to take on Lewis Hamilton in the Monaco Grand Prix.
Bear Creek GC’s head golf professional, Kim Schilling, can attest to this struggle of playing the appropriate tees as her women members fight peer pressure, lack of knowledge and comfort to make the right decision.
“We are creatures of habit, we don’t like change,” Schilling said. “They know their club selection and many times it’s the same club every day on every hole.”
Not only that, but from what Schilling has seen from her members, ego and fear of perception plays a big role.
“We are all worried about what others think,” Schilling said. “Whether it’s because of peer pressure or lack of understanding, one should instead be comfortable playing a shorter tee because it makes them more successful.”
There are several initiatives to help make golf more pleasurable and improve pace of play. We love the Play 9 initiative — a lot of us here at the SCGA participate in Twilight Leagues after work. Schilling looks further, integrating the Operation 36 Program into the mix.
“The idea is that you should shoot par if playing the proper tee,” Schilling explained.
At the end of the day, golf should be fun and challenging but not impossible. Let’s disregard the reputation of tee boxes and what they are called — play the right tees for your game. Give yourself the opportunity to play different shots and utilize all your clubs. Only then will you have the ability to play golf the way it was intended.