In last month’s column, I opined that one of golf’s “distance problems” is that many golfers are playing from tee boxes that are too difficult for them. Or maybe restated, if they played tees that offered, say, a 6,000-yard experience instead of a 6,600-yard experience, they might find it more enjoyable and the round a little speedier. And golf writer John Gaughan recently penned a wonderful piece about aging and moving up a set of tees, and the joys of discovering the golf course in a new way and the challenges it brings.
I think there are two factors that cause golfers to pause at the idea of (gasp) moving from one set of colored tees to another: One is ego, and the other is having to consider an equalizer in addition to giving or receiving strokes. Let’s unpack this for a moment, and realize that you — the course operator — can help make this work.
Ego. No one likes admitting or realizing they aren’t hitting the ball as far as they used to. But you can help ease the pain and encourage a more appropriate set of tee boxes by embracing the combination-tee movement. What was once a rare anomaly is now a bit more common — looking at the scorecard and seeing something like Blue/White or White/Yellow as one of the rows on the card. Going from Blue to Blue/White is an easier jump than straight to White. Just getting golfers out of their ingrained behaviors of playing the SAME tee box, no matter where they play or the distance of the course, is a great first step. And of course, having more than three or four sets of tees helps the cause even more. But if you don’t think you can afford to build or maintain more tee boxes yet, updating the scorecard is a great first step. Kudos to those who have been doing it!
Equalizer. You’ve been there. Standing on the first and everyone figures out who gets how many strokes from whom before play begins. In most cases, everyone is likely playing the same set of tees, so you’re only dealing with one variable – differences in typical score levels. If the group starts splitting up what tee boxes they are all playing, you’re introducing another variable. How does that impact the calculus of determining who gets how many strokes? The short-term head-scratching on that one will be temporary. Eventually, it will “all come out in the wash,” as my mother used to say. If you move up a set of tees and you start scoring better, then eventually the spread of strokes will get smaller naturally, and everyone can carry on as before.
Why is this important? I look no further than my own father. He played golf weekly for decades, and then (for a variety of reasons) nearly stopped playing altogether. Upon returning to the game, he decided to play one set of tee boxes closer than he had all his life. And, man is he happier and back to playing a few times per month.
Happier golfers mean a higher chance of returning to the course. Returning to the course means recurring revenue from a reliable customer base. And what business owner doesn’t love reliable, recurring revenue?