The Back Tees

Different Course Layouts, Different Challenges

When a woman golfer arrives at a golf course, she typically walks past two or three sets of tees before she stops at her destination—the forward tees. The average woman golfer plays the majority of her rounds from the forward tees. By taking advantage of the different sets of tees, women golfers can experience different course layouts and challenge their skills, while remaining competitive against playing partners with lower handicaps.

Golf courses typically provide anywhere from two to four different sets of tees. Average female golfers generally use the forward tees. Average male golfers and some women golfers, depending on their ability and handicap, use the middle tees. Scratch golfers prefer to play the back tees, also referred to as championship tees or “the tips.”

Many women golfers can become complacent playing the forward tees. Even if their skills improve and their scores get lower, they seem more comfortable on the forward tees. The yardages from these tees can be more manageable. Sometimes there is a difference of over 100 yards between the tips and the forward tees. Hazards and long grass can sometimes be avoided as well when playing the forward tees.

But women golfers can benefit from shaking up their games and playing from a different set of tees. Golfers experience a whole different course layout when they switch tees. They have to hit shots from spots they’ve never been in before. This forces a golfer to learn and become adept at different shots with different clubs. Even if the tee switch only happens every so often, the experience with these new shots and clubs can help improve a golfer’s play from their regular tees.

Women golfers playing from back tees can still be competitive with playing partners of both sexes and different playing abilities by using course handicap, course rating, and course slope. Course rating and slope are confusing for many golfers, but they can be extremely helpful in leveling the playing field once they are understood.

Most scorecards will list the course rating and slope. Course rating is defined by the USGA to be “the evaluation of the playing difficulty of a course for scratch golfers under normal course and weather conditions.” The slope rating of a course, as defined by the USGA, is the “measurement of the relative playing difficulty of a course for players who are not scratch golfers, compared to scratch golfers.”

How do these numbers help women golfers playing from back tees compete with their playing partners? The process involves three steps:

(1) The players must determine their course handicap, which is different from their handicap index. This procedure involves some math and requires knowing the slope rating of the course. The USGA provides a handy guide to computing a course handicap here.
(2) Compare the course ratings for the two different sets of tees being used. Find the difference of the two ratings.
(3) Whatever the difference is, add that amount to the course handicap of the player who is playing from the tees with the higher course rating.

Although it may take some guts, and a little math, for women golfers to hit from the back tees, the effort is worth it. Golf skills will improve with increased challenges and so will a golfer’s confidence. The next time you walk to up to the first tee, try a walk that’s a little shorter and tee it up from a different set of markers.



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