How many times has this happened? You’ve finally gotten a tee time for that coveted course on your golf bucket list, then because of either ego or peer pressure from within the friendly but unfamiliar guys you’ve been paired with played from a set of tees that at the end of the round left you frustrated and discouraged about the experience?
Or the same thing happens at your home course because your macho gene kicks in or there simply isn’t a more appropriate tee for your game off the tee?
It happens more times than you’d think or care to admit and industry leaders are starting to recognize it.
To that end, there’s a nationwide initiative underway to foster and grow the game, and one Calhoun County course will be right in the middle of it.
The Tee It Forward campaign is the concept of Adams Golf founder Barney Adams designed to encourage golfers to play the course at a length aligned with their average driving distance.
Organizers are encouraging golf course operators across the country to participate in the initiative July 5-17, but the 13 Honours Golf properties in the Southeast including Oxford’s Cider Ridge Golf Club and FarmLinks in Talladega County will be the only ones gathering statistical data for the National Golf Foundation and other industry entities to guage public response.
“We’ve got to do something to get people back into the game,” Honours Golf CEO Bob Barrett said. “We’ve all been our own worst enemy in hurting the game of golf … from the golf course architect and how they’re designing golf courses with deep bunkers, elevated greens , to us as operators and golf course superintendents going from the old-day three sets of tees to five, so we’ve confused it in just the way we set the courses up.
“Golf courses weren’t nearly as severe as they are today. All of the studies they’ve been doing of late show we’ve got to get people to enjoy golf more and the way they do is getting on greens in regulation, making birdies, occasionally getting on a par-5 in 2. This program’s mission is all about getting golfers to play better, have more fun and play the golf course at a length it’s designed to play for that player. The challenge is getting people to do it.”
During the testing period, the participating courses will be set up at 6,100 and 4,600 yards. That setup will not be in effect at Cider Ridge during the Sunny King Charity Classic or Lagoon Park during the Montgomery City Championship.
The guidelines, based on equipment manufacturer data, are designed to give players a chance to play the course at the same relative distance as a Tour pro.
Players who drive it, say, 275 yards, are recommended to play a course between 6,700 and 6,900 yards. But players who drive it 225 the average distance for men, according to data should play it at 5,800 to 6,000 yards. As it stands, the 6,700-yard course many male amateurs play today equates to a Tour pro playing at 8,100 some 700 yards longer than a typical PGA Tour layout.
The idea is by playing tees approporiate for their true length, players will hit approach shots with 6- and 7-irons instead of hybrids and long irons, resulting in fewer shots, potentially fewer lost balls and improved pace of play.
“That’s three things we’d all like to improve,” Cider Ridge director of golf Casey Smith said. “This can only help all three of those things.
“To be honest, if you asked Joe Blow how far he hits his drive, he’s going to say something way off. There are not many golfers who actually know how far they hit the ball or don’t want to admit it, and if you asked them how far a golf course is playing, they probably couldn’t tell you, maybe within a couple hundred yards. Egos get in the way, too. … For that reason, people don’t really play the golf course they should play.”
Interestingly, Cider Ridge used to have a tee configuration that measured nearly 6,100 yards and was quite popular with the membership. It was a mix of what then were the course’s white and blue tees. Today, the course has four sets of tees I at 6,946 yards, II at 6,549, III at 5,924 and an extreme forward tee at 5,186 yards.
“Now that we have this initiative … once we get the data back and we can figure out if our customers really like it, then we might could make a change,” Smith said. “I don’t thnk it really can go back to the black tee, but something that will be a little more playable, foregiving.”
Incidently, the Alabama Golf Association is scheduled to send a team to the facility July 18 to re-rate the golf course for handicap purposes.