Somewhere in the first half dozen responses, someone, invariably a high double-digit handicapper, will claim to average in the vicinity of 280-300 metres.
And that’s when the fun begins. Without wading into the minefield that is driving distances among amateur golfers (and yes, there really are 20-plus markers who can hit the ball a very long way), let’s accept the reality that most of us simply don’t hit as far as we think.
And it follows that for the most part, we play golf courses at a length that is simply too much for our games.
Using our handicaps (Thommo, 20, and me, 14) we set off for the first 18 at The Dunes course but despite having six shots to play with it became apparent fairly quickly that it wasn’t a fair fight.
Playing the Terracotta tees (one forward from the back) proved about the right distance for my game but it clearly wasn’t for Thommo.
At the par-5 11th, with a strongish breeze into us, he couldn’t make the 200-odd metre carry to the fairway.
No matter how good a golf course is (and Barnbougle is among the best in the world) that is simply not fun.
For the second 18, we decided that instead of using strokes for handicap we would use distance and Thommo moved forward to the blue tees.
On a trip that featured an awful lot of poor decision making, this particular idea turned out to be one of our best.
Not only did the match become more even but, more importantly, the whole trip became a lot more fun.
What had been a bit of a slog in the beginning was now an enjoyable challenge much more suited to the abilities of both of us.
In fact, Thommo enjoyed it so much he actually started to play uncharacteristically good golf. Good enough golf to serve up a healthy defeat to yours truly.
As disappointing as that particular aspect of the outcome was, the overall decision was a salient lesson for both of us.
That few hundred metres difference changed the entire experience for Thommo who, to his credit, didn’t let ego dictate he bite off more than he could chew.
In 2011, the USGA and US PGA Tour joined forces to promote a concept called Tee it Forward to encourage golfers at all levels to move up a set of tees.
The research says quite clearly that the game is quicker, and more fun, when we put aside bravado and play at a distance that better suits our skill set.
With that in mind, I would encourage all clubs to hold at least one event a year where the entire field plays off the most forward tees possible.
Making it a club competition gives the concept legitimacy and, importantly, proves to golfers how much more fun the game can be from a more realistic distance.
Our admittedly unscientific experiment last year was such a success that Thommo and I are back at Barnbougle this year to do battle again.
Early indications are that the theory still holds up. We’re having a ball and, so far, the match is fairly close.
I, for one, am a convert to the concept and suggest everyone give it a try. You might be surprised just how much more fun the game will be and ultimately, isn’t that what golf is supposed to be about?
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