Tee It Forward


Last week I played behind a foursome of 60-some year olds who were playing from the white tees. Over nine holes I would bet that none of them ever reached a green in regulation. It seems that for some men teeing it forward (playing from the tee that gives you a decent chance to make a par) is as difficult as adjusting to a receding hair line. Golf course designers offer closer tees so that men (and women) who drive shorter distances can still have fun and sometimes make a decent score. Failure in golf is the rule, but to insure failure by playing from the wrong tees just doesn’t make sense and slows down the game for the groups following. 

With these thoughts in mind, I offer the following verse, which reduces the above paragraph to four lines (the beauty of poetry),

Tee it Forward

When you’re coming up short on every hole,
and not lighting any cigars;
When you’re totally frustrated with how you play,
Tee it forward and start making pars.


If you want to pass on the idea at your club, post this four-liner on the bulletin board. (Attribution is not required.)


A Golfer’s Poetic Lament – Winter is Coming

Francis Bowler Keene, who graduated from Harvard University in 1880 wrote a poem that should appeal especially to golfers who live in snowy areas of the country. In his title, Keene uses the word “monody,” meaning lament, to set his tone.  (A suggestion: To have the most fun with this poem, read it out loud and speed up towards the end.)

A Golfer’s Monody, After the First Snowfall

No greens, no tees;
.     No fragrant breeze;
No harmony of happy-hearted birds;
.     No verdure deep;
.     No roaming sheep;
No faithful collies, watchful of their herds;
.     No sunny glade;
.     No woodland shade;
No ferny path beneath the rustling trees;
.     No springy turf;
.     No murmuring surf;
No passing hum of honey-laden bees;
.     No motors fleet;
.     No golfers’ meet;
No lazy caddies lolling day by day;
.     No warning call;
.     No flying ball;
No contest in the fine and friendly fray;
.     No clubs to wield;
.     No drive afield;
No plaudits as the ball, far-driven flies;
.     No close-trimmed lawn;
.     No bunker’s yawn;
No hidden hazards lurking with bad lies;
.     No brassy swift;
.     No niblick’s lift;
No ringing click of iron, clear and clean;
.     No cleek’s true swing;
.     No mashie’s fling;
No careful putt along the velvet green;
.     No Club-nights gay;
.     No moonlit bay;
No dinners marked by mirth and merry jest;
.     No music bright;
.     No dancers light;
No broad verandah thronged with happy guests;
No winding walks;
No golfers’ talks;
No genuine delight for every member;
.     No matches more;
.     No games galore;
.     No joyous strife;
.     No zest in life;
.     November.

This poem is included in my book, Golf Course of Rhymes – Links between Golf and Poetry Through the Ages available on and


Golf Adjustments for More Distance

The TaylorMade R1 Driver

My father once wrote the following verse:

Laugh when you can
Cry when you must
Do as you plan
Plan to adjust.

(Philip S  White)

When he wrote these four lines I believe he thought of them as words to live by. Today they might also be the watch words of those who would have short hitters “Tee it Forward.” The verse would also appeal to TaylorMade and other makers of adjustable drivers.

Adjustable drivers were in the news this week when we learned that Ricky Fowler, Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood all increased the lofts on their drivers to take advantage of high altitudes at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Tournament. More generally, adjustable drivers seem to be the answer to a club-fitters dream: one club, but in the extreme, multiple settings for loft, lie, face angle and the distribution of weights. In the case of TaylorMade’s new R1 driver, 168 combinations are possible.

Of course the idea behind “one club fits all” is more distance and accuracy.  According to TaylorMade,

“. . .  data from the company’s MATT club fitting systems across the country showed that 80 percent of golfers were playing the wrong loft in their drivers, and that 35 percent of them were 2 degrees or more away from their optimal loft.”

TaylorMade’s answer: the R1 driver along with a fitter. And to be fair, Callaway, Titleist, Nike, Ping, Cobra and others have their answers as well.

But there’s another option. I would bet that if TaylorMade had collected a different set of data, they would have found that 80 percent of golfers  were hitting their drivers from the wrong tee. That may be an exaggeration, but the truth is that many golfers among TaylorMade’s 80 percent are being penalized twice with regard to distance off the tee. And even golfers playing the optimal loft may be playing from the wrong tees.

So if your driver fits you but your drives just aren’t long enough, here is a verse for you,

I’m not buying an adjustable driver
No change in loft or lie for me;
But I’ll still get a lot more yardage
By moving up to a forward tee!

On the other hand, if you “plan to adjust,” then we need a modification,

I’m going to buy an adjustable driver
And have it fit just right for me;
Then I’ll extend the yardage gain
By moving up to a forward tee!

And if you’re Michael Phelps, the newest Golf Channel star, your verse might read,

I ‘ve already got my adjustable driver
And the Blues are the only tees for me
But I still want a lot more distance
So I signed up for Project Haney.


Tee It Forward

                                                                       TEE IT FORWARD

    Guidelines for Selecting Tees

Driver Distance Recommended
18 Hole Yardages
275 6,700 6,900
250 6,200 6,400
225 5,800 6,000
200 5,200 5,400
175 4,400 4,600
150 3,500 3,700
125 2,800 3,000
100 2,100 2,300


Barney Adams, the founder of Adams Golf, has had a lot of good ideas. His latest is a program called “Tee It Forward.” The goal is to make golf more fun and faster. The basic notion is that golfers should play from tees that match their driving capabilities. So, looking at the chart above, if your drives average 200 yards, you should be playing from tees such that “your” golf course is 5200 to 5400 yards long. Shorter tees for shorter drivers; longer tees for longer drivers. Makes sense. Both the United States Golf Association and the PGA of America have endorsed the program and will try to get golf courses to adopt it.

A few weeks ago I decided to tee it forward and the experience inspired me to write a poem. I’m a decent player, but at age 75 the white tees have become a challenge. Teeing it forward did several things: first, it caused me to be more relaxed hitting tee shots since I no longer had to hit them as hard as possible; second,  it got me to hit different clubs from the fairway since my tee shots often landed further down the fairway than before; and, third, it improved my chances of hitting greens in regulation since I was using shorter clubs on approach shots. Better scoring is certainly not guaranteed, but birdie chances and even the outside chance of an eagle (on a par 5) are now more than dreams.

Of course, ego issues will keep some players from moving up. As I wrote in a Twine:

“Tee It Forward” with the frank admission
That your driver distance is a lengthy supposition.

Most important is that course managers endorse and promote the program. Why not, if they recognize that it will be more fun for most who try it and faster too. Course managers would do well to encourage newer players to tee it forward as well.

Now on to the poem:


I played the closer tees today —
Nothing bad happened.
One under
After three —
Not my usual score.

I teed it forward today —
Hitting eights,
And wedges
To the green.
Like —
Golf on TV.

I teed it forward today —
For the fun of it.
By ego —
By the experience.

I teed it forward today —
An experiment,
Kind of
Interesting —
Longer drives,
When not needed.

I teed it forward today —
Blew one hole
A big number
Lurking —
No matter which tee.

So —

Tee it forward?
Seems right for me —
How about you?
Just move up.
Guaranteed —
Nothing bad will happen.

And who knows,
You could be —
Under after three.


Leon S White
September 4, 2011

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