As if the game of golf isn't difficult enough, it can be downright daunting when you go to a new course for the first time and check out the yardage on the scorecard before you tee off.
Depending on the tees you play, the course could stretch to well over 7,000 yards. That's just fine for a Tour-caliber player, but what fun is it for the person who loves to play, but can't possibly enjoy hitting nothing but fairway woods all day?
The PGA of America and the United States Golf Association (USGA) have joined forces to support, "TEE IT FORWARD," a new national initiative to be proposed for golf facilities nationwide from July 5-17. The goal of the initiative is to help golfers have more fun on the course and enhance their overall performance by playing from a set of tees best suited to their abilities.
"Simply put, TEE IT FORWARD can make golf much more fun for millions of people," said PGA of America President Allen Wronowski. "We believe that by moving up to another set of tees, golfers will experience an exciting, new approach to the game that will produce more enjoyment and elevate their desire to come back and play even more golf."
Barney Adams, the founder of Adams Golf, provided the concept that led to TEE IT FORWARD and is at Congressional Country Club for this week's U.S. Open to promote it. 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.
From his original Adams Tight Lies fairway woods, right on up to this new idea, Adams has always been an advocate of making the game easier for the masses. This particular idea, as well-intentioned as it is, was born more out of frustration than anything else.
"I played a round of golf and I guess it lodged in my memory," Adams explained. "I was working late at my computer one night and reflecting on that round. It dawned on me that I didn't have a good time, which was crazy. I played in perfect conditions on a great course. Why would my thought process be that I didn't have a good time? I analyzed it less emotionally and more research-based. I went on the internet to learn my people leave the game. It took little to no time to find the answer to that question: it takes too long and it wasn't any fun."
Ever the researcher, Adams dug up more information and about 3-4 months ago, he discovered that the number of golfers nationally in 2009 was the same as in 1990. That was alarming considering how the popularity of the game had supposedly grown. How then, were more people not playing? Subsequent to that, Adams said that further research and updated data showed that there are a million people less playing now than in 1990.
What the heck happened?
"Let's call a spade a spade -- the stewards of the game were stubborn and not making it fun with longer courses and tee locations that most of us have no business playing from," Adams said. "There's a lot of people who feel like me. They quit. I've been playing for 50 years and I wasn't going to quit. I was frustrated. A third of the holes, I couldn't get home in regulation. That's not how golf is supposed to be played."
From there, Adams once again ran some studies and quickly came to the conclusion that the average Tour player very conservatively hits the ball 90 yards further per hole -- 70 yards off the tee and 20 yards with the irons -- than the average amateur.
"Using that logic, we teed it up at what the equivalent would be for the Tour player," Adams said. "For the average amateur, that's 6,100-6,200 yards, or, about 1,000 yards shorter than from where most men with the male ego tee it up from. It creates a more level playing field. It's not an advantage. When you're up there, you still have to hit good second shots, but at least you'll have a shot. The more I got into it, it's like a huge neon sign over my head flashed called, 'Dumb,' and that was me."
Adams wrote a story about his findings. It ran in PGA Magazine and was so well received that the PGA of America and USGA got together and wanted to support it. TEE IT FORWARD is no longer an idea, but the start of a movement.
Adams admits that in order for the movement to succeed, it's going to be a long, arduous process. After all, how do you shake the mindset of so many amateur golfers who believe the only way -- what they perceive as the, 'right,' way -- to play a course is from the way back tees? Or, more appropriately, why is it that so many amateurs think they're supposed to play those back tees?
"If I could figure that out, I could make a lot of money in the psychology business," Adams joked. "I had that same stupid mindset until I stopped and thought about it. When we ran an experiment and played the right tees, I felt guilty and I didn't even shoot a good score. But why? It opens up a whole new world. You play faster and it's more fun -- what do you know? Weren't those the original complaints as to why more people aren't playing? It's relatively easy to administer, but it'll be very difficult to change the mindset. The plan I have is the first year is an educational cycle. Get the word out and then get more proactive and design a set of tee markers. It's not about running up to the red and white tees, it's about setting up the course the way it's supposed to be. If I hit a bad shot with an 8-iron, it's going to be much easier to find than a bad shot with a hybrid or a fairway wood."
Adams also insisted it's not about adding several more sets of tees -- it simply involves golf courses setting tees where they should be set. It doesn't make the game easier, Adams said, it makes it more enjoyable. And, unlike other suggestions to make the game more fun -- a larger cup size, using illegal equipment, wider fairways, shorter rough, etc. -- TEE IT FORWARD doesn't compromise the integrity or the purity of the game.
TEE IT FORWARD coincides in July with The PGA of America's Family Golf Month, which has approximately 2,200 facilities already registered for that national initiative. During Family Golf Month, golf courses will offer a series of programs for people to learn and play golf as a family -- a perfect complement to TEE IT FORWARD as far as Adams is concerned.
"I started working at a course when I was 12-13 years old," Adams said. "From a family standpoint, I don't think there's a better place for a family to spend time together. I want them to enjoy themselves. I'm not doing anything to give them a better advantage. All I'm saying is, let's play a game the way the big guys do."