I call it the trudge. Another medal, another Stableford, another trudge to the very limits of your golf course’s yardage.
I’ve always been partial to a competition. The scent of victory, the tragedy of defeat, the frustration of mediocrity – there is just something about full-scale golf battle against other people that gets the blood flowing.
Golf competitions, though, also come at a price, and not merely the entry fee you’re invariably donating to the prize fund.
Men’s events are invariably staged from the back tees. If your golf is limited to a once-a-week outing (like it is for lots of players who have yet to welcome retirement) that means playing the same golf course, off the same yardage, and largely to similar pin positions, week after week after week.
You could call it a grind, but I’m happy to go a bit further. It’s just boring. It’s also completely unnecessary, if clubs would just entertain the prospect of offering a bit of variety into their calendars.
I’ve heard all your criticisms before. Golf’s not meant to be easy. Competitions are meant to be tough. What, all of them?
Is a midweek Stableford meant to be as testing as a board comp? Let’s not pretend it is. So why not approach different events with a little more imagination?
Why not have more golf competitions played from the middle tees? Why not the forward tees? Because it’s not just the yardages that change. Lines of play are altered, strategy and tactics are different. The shots you play routinely from the back tees can get you into a lot of trouble when you attempt them a little further forward.
Ah, but higher handicappers would win even more. Would they? Wouldn’t a shorter course, that asks those alternative questions, actually benefit the better players? A high handicapper is still going to be inconsistent.
You could go further. The World Handicap System gets a lot of stick, but it also offers opportunities. One of those, for courses that have different tees rated, is the ability to hold multi-tee competitions. That is to have different golfers, playing from different tees, within the same event.
I’ve played in one of these and it adjusts intuitively. I played from a shorter course, my course handicap was different, and I lost a stroke. Those who made the decision to remain at the limits of the course boundaries received extra shots.
It had a couple of interesting outcomes. The leaderboard was not chock-full of 54 handicappers, but it did seem to make the event more equitable.
Players who could not make some of the tougher carries off the furthest tees – no matter how high their handicaps were – could get the ball into play. And they could compete. This, for me at least, is a much more effective way of keeping players interested and competitive rather than just flinging shots at them.
But there needs to be some limits on golf competition changes
Now, before you get completely up in arms, allow me to introduce some important caveats to my new manifesto.
I’m not suggesting we should play from wherever we want for every competition. There are premier events within the club – board competitions, trophy competitions, the monthly medal, that are designed to be the ultimate examination of a club golfer’s abilities.
I would never suggest those types of competition should be diversified to that extent. You are playing for the most prestigious prizes. They should be treated as such.
It is also an inalienable truth, though, that there are a lot of ‘rank and file’ competitions too. The midweek or Sunday Stableford. A fun Texas Scramble. Stuff that will never get you an invite to prize presentation evening.
These are events that don’t carry the historical baggage and yet still see participants making the trudge. Why not give the back tees a rest – the course manager will thank you – and introduce some flexibility?
At a former club, where there were competitions every single week, I’d never see a tee other than the ‘whites’ between April and October. Eventually, I got a tired of it and moved.
If you think I’m talking selfishly, because I don’t fancy the longest walk every week, then I’ll take that on the chin.
There is certainly a breed of golfer who won’t consider anything other than the very tips to be proper golf. They could still do that. No one is taking it away from them. Their playing handicaps would be adjusted to match.
I know there are some clubs that offer separate competitions – a white and yellow tee event, if you will. Kudos to you. There have also been calls, where handicap restrictions prevent some players from taking part in an event, for an alternative competition to be included to give everyone a chance to play.
But spare me the history and tradition tosh as an excuse for saying no. We don’t need to spend 40 competitions a year dominating one set of tees. Free your minds, and your golf.
Now have your say
What do you think? Should all men’s golf competitions be staged off the back tees or is there room for plenty of variety too? Let me know by leaving a comment on X, formerly known as twitter.
Tom Irwin and I talked about this in much more detail in the latest episode of the From the Clubhouse podcast, in association with TaylorMade Golf.
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