What Tees Should I Play?

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The key to picking the perfect tee box is finding the yardage that will allow you to have a shot at hitting all greens in regulation (e.g., two shots on a par 4), ideally, with an iron more often than a fairway wood or a hybrid. Read on to find the best yardage for you to attack the pin!

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A quick way to compute the ideal yardage is to multiply your 5-iron distance by 36 and play from a tee box near that distance.

golf tee box at Sentry World

5 Iron System

This 5-iron system takes the distance you hit your five-iron and multiplies it by thirty-six to get a recommended tee box yardage. This is an excellent place to start.

5-Iron Distance (Yards)Recommended Tees (Yards)

Driver System from USGA & PGA

The USGA also provides a guideline for choosing a tee box, but they base it on your average driver distance. This table is slightly conservative compared to some recommendations, but I think it’s a good target unless you’re a low handicapper (in which case, consider playing closer to the top of the range).

Average Drive (Yards)Recommended Tees (Yards)
3007,150 – 7,400
2756,700 – 6,900
2506,200 – 6,400
2255,800 – 6,000
2005,200 – 5,400
1754,400 – 4,600
1503,500 – 3,700
1252,800 – 3,000
1002,100 – 2,300

Reviewing the Scorecard

selecting a tee box golf

If you have the extra time, review the scorecard to find the ideal tee box. This is the most accurate measurement method as it considers the holes you’ll be playing.

To use this method, you must know your club distances, mostly your driver and fairway woods or hybrids. Then follow these steps:

  1. Review the Par 3s – Look at the par 3 distances and decide which club you’d use to reach the green. For me, anything over 180 means hitting a fairway wood at the green. This is fine for one or maybe two holes, but if I’m constantly hitting woods and long irons into par 3s, that takes a lot of fun out of the round.
  2. Next, Look at the Par 4s – On a par 4, I want to have a good chance to put my second shot on the green if I hit two good shots in a row. Again, it’s okay to hit a fairway wood into the green occasionally, but it’s not as fun if I do this on most holes. To find this, add the distance of your driver and your longest iron together and scan the par 4s to see if they are above or below this number. For example, if your driver is 230 and your 5 iron is 170, you want most par 4s to be around 400 yards or less.
  3. Check the Par 5s (optional) – Now you could continue to check the par 5s and figure out what distance your approach shot would be by subtracting a drive and a long fairway shot, but I find that if you’ve done the first two checks, this probably isn’t needed.

Common Tee Boxes and the Average Golfer

You may have heard that the red tees are for women, the white tees are for seniors and high-handicappers, the blues are for mid-handicappers, and the blacks are for low-handicappers. While this might fit these groups on average, I don’t think it’s a good way to approach picking your tee box.

These colors are pretty standard on courses, but they won’t always be in the same yardage range. Some courses use different color schemes (e.g., silver, oak, or emerald). Looking at the yardages will be much more consistent.

Playing from the back tees is not fun for scratch golfers who don’t hit the ball far. And if you’re a bad golfer who hits the ball far but way offline, playing from the tips will add lots of extra time and frustration to your round.

You’re looking for a tee box that is fun, allows you to score well, and lets you play on pace.

Should I Play Up or Down When Between Tees?

I’d recommend playing an easier tee box if you’re just looking to have fun. If you’ve checked the actual hole distances and everything is reachable, or you’re a low-handicapper, you could play the longer tees.

What If People In My Group Play Different Tees?

When you first start, it can feel like you should be playing the same tee box as the others in your group. This is a big mistake. If they can hit the ball further than you and shoot lower scores, it will be obvious no matter which tee box you play from, but at least playing from the correct yardage lets you keep up and enjoy your round. And even if you’re the better player, playing a forward tee should signal them that maybe they should be joining you.


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