The factors that affect your score on a golf course are almost infinite. From the wind conditions to the wetness of the grass to where the pins are located that particular day, many of the elements are out of your hands completely. But one that isn’t is where you tee up your golf ball.
The total distance of a golf course can drastically change depending on which color tees you choose to play from. For example, the infamous Pete Dye Course in French Lick, Indiana, sees more than 2,000 yards of total distance added between the red tees (the closest offered) and the black tees (the farthest offered to amateurs), and 1,000 yards of difference between the white tees (the ones most often played by men with high handicaps) and the black tees.
So, if you choose to play from the black tees, you’d better be able to hammer 300-yard drives straight with regularity or it’s going to be a long, painful day for you, your playing partners and anyone unlucky enough to be behind you on the course.
While there is no official rule about who can play from which tees, the common practice is for women with mid and high handicaps (i.e., those who regularly shoot scores of at least 90) to play from the red tees, and women with low handicaps to play from the white tees.
For men, there are usually many more tee box options in play, but beginners should play from the reds or golds (which are also meant for seniors), high handicappers (i.e., those who regularly shoot at least 100) play from the whites, mid-handicappers from the blues and low-handicappers from the blacks.
Unfortunately, pride, hubris and peer pressure often lead inexperienced golfers to play from tees they have no business setting up on, making an already tough game even crueler.
If you prefer a more scientific way to tell which tees you should play from, we found a simple trick online that uses a little math to base your choice on your hitting distance rather than your handicap. The golf teachers at Athletic Motion Golf recently shared an easy formula on Instagram that may improve your scores and help you enjoy the game even more.
The formula just requires you to know roughly how far you hit your 5-iron with regularity. So, if you’re not sure about that, take it out to the driving range and jot down some notes.
According to Athletic Motion Golf, if you multiply your 5-iron distance by 36, it will give you the overall course distance you should be playing. We did some of the math for you here to get you started:
Based on that chart, unless you’re hitting your 5-iron at least 150 yards with regularity, you probably shouldn’t even be at the white tees yet. Move up a few yards and watch your scores improve!