Saving Golf By Changing Golf Tees

Golf aficionados can wax poetic about the joys of a day spent out on the course, but numbers don’t lie and according to the National Golf Foundation the sport today is in crisis. In just four years, the number of active amateur golfers in the United States dropped by about three million. So what is causing this decline in one of the world’s most popular sports, and what can be done to avert it?

According to Barney Adams, inventor and founder of the Tee It Forward initiative, one problem is that most amateur golfers feel compelled to swing from too far back, from the championship or advanced tees, leading to longer, more frustrating games. Adams’ research has revealed that while the average male golfer can routinely drive a ball about 200 to 230 yards, he believes that he can drive it as much as 250 to 280 yards. For a player like this, moving up from the far back tees to a more realistic position might be a hit to the ego, but it would also mean playing on shorter courses with faster rounds and better scores. In a world where fewer and fewer people seem to enjoy golf, that could be a significant change.

Adams is currently volunteering with the PGA and the United States Golf Association to try to persuade amateur golfers to move up to closer tees more suited to their abilities. But even if he has the statistics on his side, Adams may find that changing the culture of a sport, without changing the rules, is an enormous challenge. If you’re looking for golf tees, click here.

Other golf reformers are pushing even further than Adams. The Alternative Golf Association, for example, has begun promoting “Flogton,” a more user-friendly variant of golf designed to appeal to a wider audience. In Flogton, for example, players are allowed to use golf tees even on the fairway. In some circumstances, they can also move the ball and take mulligans.

Adams and Tee It Forward have a more modest vision, not actually changing the rules to golf, just changing the culture to make it more user friendly. And despite the challenges, the Tee It Forward program has seem some positive results. Golf pros and coaches who encourage their amateur students to tee up from forward positions have made numerous converts, even some who were skeptical at first. One golf pro in Florida describing struggling to persuade her 94 year old father to Tee It Forward. He resisted at first, but now? “He’s loving it.”