What to do on the tee

Every time that you stand on a tee, it is a fresh start. Each hole presents a different challenge and no matter what has happened playing the previous holes, this is a new beginning.

The tee shot is usually what will affect your score. It gives you an opportunity to work out the best angle of attack to the hole.

Once you leave the tee, you will be playing the ball from the variables of the golf course. The slopes, the rough, the hazards, so use the teeing ground to your best advantage.

The tee is of strategic importance. It’s where you work out where to position your tee shot as far down the fairway as possible, avoiding trouble on both sides.

Once you arrive at the tee, identify the hole’s major features. Something substantial like a stream down left or a large tree or bunkers. 

Look for a contoured fairway lake in front of the green or slope on the green, isolate these key features and get a basic strategy worked out for attacking the hole. Decide how many shots you’ll need to reach the green.   Then organise these shots estimating distances and choosing what clubs. Stick to your plan.

Look for a point that will guide you in the teeshot, the marker can be a tree or a hazard or a fixed object.  Aim towards that point. Pick a target area to land your ball.

Choosing where and how to tee up

Walk around the tee and walk from one side to the other and see how perspective changes. Stand between the markers and landing area.

All tees are not necessarily aimed towards the ideal target. It is always the players job to determine the right angle of approach. Various tee positions could dramatically change the target or landing areas.

The rules of golf allow you to tee up between the markers and no more than 2 club lengths behind them. The ball must not be in front of them. Skilled players will usually place the ball on the side where there is greatest trouble and play away from it towards the safer, open side of the hole.

The different teeing areas mean that all players will be tested, regardless of their ability.  Pick the tees that suit your game.  Don’t let your ego dictate which tee you should use. An extra 40 yards per hole could give you a much more enjoyable round.

Elevated tees can build confidence because you have to worry less about getting the ball airborne.  But a drop from the tee to the fairway will make any mistake you make with your line more difficult.  Elevated tees can tempt you into swinging hard with a disastrous consequence of offline shots. You need to strike the ball accurately or you will end up in trouble or out of position for your second shot.

How high your ball is teed relates to the club and shot. Tee high you have an ascending blow, driver, woods, long irons, hybrids.

Middle or short irons need to be teed lower.

Tees are usually tipped slightly to create surface drainage. Tipped downhill it can cause you to hit a higher shot than intended and uphill, lower shot and lose distance.

Where are the edges of the hole?  Is the tree line edging the rough? Where are the out of bounds markers? How do the playing conditions affect bounce or roll?

A runway tee – a long, straight area often 50 yards in length were intended to accommodate 3 sets of tees for golfers of different skills. The tee will point directly at t he landing area near a major hazard or obstacle like a bunker.  The tee should aim you toward the proper target.

You will probably notice a mowing pattern on the teeing surface itself and a cut of rough to accentuate the perimiters. Remember you can use any part of the tee, so long as you don’t tee up in front of the tee markers to endure your best alignment you can also use the edges of the tee.

Elevation of the tee can create improved visual effects for the player.  The player who has a game plan which they use on each tee usually scores better.  It makes sense to analyse the course in detail before you begin the round.

Tools to help your strategy

Use the scorecards and a yardage book. These are tools to help you.

These show the shape and physical characteristics of the holes.  The areas of water, the location of bunkers in landing areas and target zones and the yardages from the tees to holes on each tee. 

What you won’t see is the wind direction.  Try to determine how the wind blows – throw grass into the air and watch how it flies. If you can talk to the professional in the pro shop and ask for information about prevailing winds and local rules and difficult holes. Look for the local rules pinned up in the locker room so you know what they are.

Yardages – make sure you read them from the tee you’re going to play from.  Each set of tees is designed to challenge your shot making skills.

Look in the locker room for any local rules and what advantages they provide.  Ask about the toughest holes, types of grasses, speed of the greens, rough and strategy. Use your PGA professionals knowledge.

As you go round your home course jot down distances, elevations, features and any data that  helps you understand your design strategy.

Elevated tee positioned above the fairway landing area, difficult to determine because of increased distance you obtain from the vertical drop.

Preferred landing area is tightened because an errant shot will travel farther through the air and farther off line. Move forward – higher the elevation, the straighter the club.

Tee in relation to other features.  If a tee is tucked into trees, and protected, you won’t be able to tell the wind direction. 

Look at the balance of the course.  If there are more par3s on one half of the course it may have an easier start or finish.  This can help you adjust your mindset on how you play.

Handicaps can help you anticipate the relative difficulty of individual holes. On every scorecard holes are ranked from 1 to 18. Look for hard stretches of holes, sharp swings from hard to easy again which could upset your playing rhythm.  Often you will start easy and finish hard on the front nine.  Know the rhythm of the course to help you prepare mentally.

Slope rating – the scale indicates the overall difficulty of a golf course. 70 is easy, 150 is hard.

Risk and Rewards

Most tees have a psychological element. Designers sometimes try to intimidate players to create indicisiveness about club and shot selection.

Most tee shots have gambling elements. It may be flying the ball over trees to cut off part of the hole.  It’s a bit like playing chess against the course architect. Try to find the perfect route to t he hole.  Jack Nicklaus once said 

“there is an ideal route for every golf hole ever built.  The more precisely you can identify it, the greater your chances for success”.

One way to do this is to look at the position of the pin and work back to the tee with your eyes. Look for the best angles from the fairway and the prime landing area for your tee shot.  Don’t forget that pin positions can be changed daily and take into account the weather.

Look at the green area – a portion of the green may be guarded by water making the other side of the fairway the perfect spot from which to attack the target.

If you can’t see the green from the tee, look at the hole’s shape to work out the best position from which to approach the final target.  If the hole doglegs from right to left the left side of the landing area will usually be the preferred angle of approach and will shorten the distance to be covered.

Do you hook or slice? Can you fade or draw the ball? Use our own shot making pattern to play the hole’s layout with your strengths. Every tee is a new opportunity to improve or mend your score.  The key to good scoring is finding the fairway off the tee. Taking all of these into account in how much risk are you willing to take. Weigh up the risks and rewards. Every tee is a new opportunity to improve or mend your score.  

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