Golf Tip: Fun Factor and Longleaf tees encourage ALL golfers

Jamie Sadlowski. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Jamie Sadlowski. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

Golf Tip: Pick the teeing ground that best suits your skill level

This golf tip zeroes in on the golf course and, specifically, the teeing ground and how it can be manipulated to the benefit of both recreational golfers and the golf course’s bottom line.

As I wrote in my earlier article about Scoring Tees, golf can be a challenge, and that’s exactly why the avid golfer loves it. The issue for newer golfers is getting started and staying with it no matter what your age or strength level because golf is not easy. It’s a lot harder than kicking a soccer ball.

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Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals at Augusta National GC. Mandatory Credit: Michael Madrid-USA TODAY Sports /

When it comes to enjoyment at all ages, all you have to do is look at the recent Drive Chip & Putt competition where youngsters starting at age seven took their skills to a competition at Augusta National GC the Sunday before The Masters.  The older kids were hitting 275 yard drives, which is much longer than the average golfer. The younger kids, maybe 100 yards, maybe 125, which is long for their size.

So, you can certainly enjoy the game whether you are seven or 70. But your ability to hit the ball a certain distance is going to be determined by strength and flexibility and a lot of practice. Not everybody is as strong as Jason Day or Rickie Fowler. Not everybody is going to be able to hit a drive 350 yards. But even if you can’t hit with Jason or Rickie, it doesn’t mean you can’t play golf or that you can’t enjoy golf.  You just need the right tees.

The Right Tees

Three ideas have been circulating recently which will allow golf courses designed for guys like Jason and Rickie to be more user-friendly for you. (Or me.)

I’ve already explained Scoring Tees.

Related Story: Scoring Tees encourage ALL golfers

Now it’s all about adding the Fun Factor to golf at any level and exploring the principle behind Longleaf Tees. Like Scoring Tees, these two concepts base YOUR tees on YOUR swing speed and the distance YOU can hit a ball instead of making you play from the same spot as Jason and Rickie.

Think about it.  How nuts is it for you to expect yourself to hit a 300-yard drive? Totally nuts. What you need is a course suited to your driving distance.  You need Scoring Tees, Fun Factor tees or Longleaf Tees.

Fun Factor Tees

The USGA got in on the action with a publication from their Greens Section in 2013 called The Fun Factor: Understanding what makes golf fun will be good for your bottom line.  In the article, author Chris Hartwiger suggests that course owners answer three questions regarding their course:

  1. Who is your best customer? 2. What makes golf fun at your facility? 3. What makes golf difficult at your facility?

One thing that definitely makes golf harder is course length.

As a result, Hartwiger included a chart that suggested course lengths based on the length of a golfer’s drive. A drive of 100 yards means a golfer should be playing a course between 2100 and 2300 yards for 18 holes. A 125-yard drive, a course of 2800-3000 yards, and so on up to drives of 275 yards, playing 6700 to 6900 yards.

Longleaf Tees

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A couple years later, the founder of US Kids Golf, Dan Van Horn, who also happens to own Longleaf Golf and Family Club in Pinehurst, NC, wanted to add shorter tees to his course during a renovation.  He hired ASGCA member Bill Bergin to develop appropriate lengths and locations.

That local innovation became the Longleaf Tee Initiative which was introduced by the ASGCA Foundation and the founder of US Kids Golf, Dan Van Horn at the 2016 Golf Industry Show. Van Horn dialed in on the economic benefits of the Longleaf initiative:

"This is no longer theory, it is proven data. Scaling our course with seven sets of tees makes golf more enjoyable for all players, and the club’s bottom line is much improved. The results were immediate and profound."

“The beauty of this system rests in how it promotes fun,” said ASGCA Foundation President Clyde Johnston.

The ASGCA noted that because every course is different, it’s certainly smart to engage a golf course architect to help create the tees.

The Longleaf Tee system suggests a starting point of between 3100 and 3700 yards for a drive of 100 yards for 18 holes on a course that might scale up to 7400 yards for a PGA TOUR player.

Fun Factor Tees and Longleaf Tees, like Scoring Tees, are revolutionary.

That’s because in the world of golf, courses have been designed primarily for the scratch player or better.  Yet, only 1.6 percent of all men golfers and .52 percent of all women golfers have a handicap that is scratch, meaning their handicap is 0 or better.

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There’s no other industry on the planet save Hermes, Harry Winston, and creators of original designer clothing, where that even comes close to making sense. As a marketing plan, it would be a disaster.  And yet, when it comes to building golf courses, that is the measure that’s been used since Old Tom Morris first thwapped a featherie.

Ask yourself.  How crazy are we to set up golf courses that guarantee 70 to 80 percent of people will fail fairly miserably? Then we expect them to come back time and again and enjoy it?  It’s like Charlie Brown never being able to kick the football because Lucy moves it. It’s a wonder the favorite beverage at the 18th hole isn’t hemlock with a chaser of arsenic.  Followed by a knife in the back on the way out the door.

Well, perhaps with Scoring Tees, Longleaf Tees, and Fun Factor Tees, we can finally get it right, and you and I can go out to a golf course without thinking there is something wrong with us if we can’t hit a Jason Day/ Rickie Fowler length drive.  We can only hope.

Next: Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, 11 sites, 26 courses, 468 holes

Right now about 25 million people in the US play golf. That’s like the entire population of New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Antonio, San Diego and Dallas. People never think about it that way, but that’s how many people play golf. And most of them are playing from the wrong tees.