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Sports

Lots of hockey. Lots of golf. Other sports too. 

On Golf-- Teeing It Forward, but not too much...

Minivan Dad

I haven't been writing much the last week or two. Well, at least not much that is ready for public viewing. I've been busy playing my annual 3 rounds of golf. Tough, I know.

I'll get to the point. I hated the US Golf Association's "Tee It Forward" campaign when it first came out, which encourages us golfers to play from a tee box more appropriate to our skill level than our ego. I never believed in it. I subscribed to the theory that golf should be a challenge, and that I should play the course from the maximum length that my best game would allow. Particularly if I was paying for a nice course and only get to play a few times a year.

I hadn't played golf since last June, when I visited Grandma and Grandpa MinivanDad in California, whereMinivanNoMoreSis also lives. This year, right before my visit, I hurt my back reaching to an ATM someone else had partially blocked. Dumb.

Our first two rounds were on a windy, challenging seaside course (gotta love public golf in Cali). The third was on a recently aerated (the day before!), old-style California valley course, so the putting was pretty terrible but the course itself is very strategic. The kikuyu grass was pretty rough on my back, and the aeration made it play much longer than the posted yardages.

I knew I wasn't going to be swinging with my usual force (250-260 driver) so I stuck with my Dad at the 6200 yard tee boxes instead of my regular 6600-6700 yard target length. Obviously, I played pretty well. More importantly, it was fun. It's not like I was driving greens or hitting wedge second shots on every hole, but I had a few less forced carries and a few more 6-9 irons (and an occasional wedge) into greens instead of 4-5 irons.

(Shameless self-promotion - about three years ago I wrote a full length golf instruction book, "How to Play Golf - Six Times a Year." Excerpts are posted here on the site. Until last Tuesday, I hadn't hit a golf ball in over a year. This week? Playing with my bad back-- 88 on Tuesday, 89 on Wednesday, and 95 on Thursday when my back finally gave out over the last 4 holes. So yeah, the stuff in the book works. If you're a golf publisher and want to take a look at the whole thing, let me know! Shameless self promotion is now over.)

I was amazed to find that I had more shot selections, more interesting options to play the holes, and had to play a larger variety of shots than I did last year. I hit some bump and runs, some knockdown punches, and even some putts from the fairway. I love that kind of stuff. My less than perfect shots found trouble, but my recovery options were so much more varied because I was just a little closer to the hole than I would usually have been. Twice, after perfect drives, I had the option to try and reach par fives in two. I even had a birdie or two, which I hadn't had in years.

For reference, my Dad is a 74-year old 14-handicap and I'm 47. (Dad shot 90, 87, 90). We both really enjoyed playing the courses this way rather than simply trying to survive the longer holes. I probably would have only been 5 or 6 strokes higher in my scores had I been playing the 6700-yard course, but Dad would have been much higher. I doubt it would have been nearly as much fun, nor do I think I would have been able to make it through three full rounds with my back the way it was. 

You know, golf isn't necessarily about hitting drivers and 4-irons all the time, or hitting 8-iron third shots into par 5 holes. PGA Tour golfers spend a good deal of time hitting drivers and short irons or wedges, and reaching par 5s in two shots. Golf is about executing an appropriate shot at a necessary time. It's about putting the ball in the correct position in the fairway, then the correct position on the green, making good decisions, and recovering from mistakes. I certainly screwed up a couple of holes to the tune of double and triple bogeys when I couldn't make decent swings or did stupid stuff. Oh yeah. And that putting thing. Which isn't easy no matter what tee box we use.

My only caveat is that my Dad and I both had a little local knowledge the first two days, and an electronic rangefinder to help us. This made a huge difference in these rounds compared to my previous attempts to "Tee It Forward." In the past, I've found it extremely frustrating to try to play a shorter course, only to lose a ball because there isn't any distance information available on a blind shot or a visually deceiving dogleg, and I've guessed wrong. It's the secondary reason I really hated this campaign. If the USGA is going to promote programs like this, then they also have to seriously encourage public and resort courses to give us more yardage information that we don't have to pay extra for, particularly on tee shots.

But hey, USGA, I'll give credit where credit is due. Good idea. Just don't expect my Dad to start playing the ladies tees.