Raymond Hearn Published Article

Does your course’s teeing system make sense? (continued)

Page Three

3. Angles of play that impede rather than promote the course’s strategic attractions, especially “risk / reward” options.

A cousin of tee design shortcoming #2 ignores another strategic aspect useful in making a round of golf both exciting and manageable for a variety of players. It is to make tee shots easier or more difficult according to their angles, not just the distances involved, particularly those involving forced carries.

For example, last year I consulted with a very prominent golf course in upstate New York whose four-tee-box system unfortunately made absolutely no sense. On many holes the attack angle associated with a hazard or hazards located near landing areas turned the risk / reward formula on its head: Instead of emphasizing forgiveness from the forward tees, it was the back tees that offered more spacious “bail-out” areas.

Worse than the tee placements themselves, though, was that many of the forward tees were actually angled toward trouble – a more egregious design and construction flaw than a less-than-ideal tee location. As I hope my recommendations made clear, however, such defects are fairly inexpensive and straightforward to remedy.

4. Sight lines that fail to capitalize on design elements, natural or man-made.

As many noted golf course architects have observed, a golf course’s setting, its purely “cosmetic” aspect, is key to the golfer’s appreciation of the experience, and this is even more true of the average player than the scratch player, who may be interested primarily in his ball-striking. It is often possible to maximize tee-box vistas without seriously jeopardizing “shot values” or other strategic

aspects associated with playing the course. Many times, in fact, all that is entailed is to move a tee box laterally, typically10 to 25 feet. As a designer, I know this has worked when someone says, “Wow, I never really appreciated the view on this hole. The scenery in the distance is beautiful.”

5. Teeing areas that make maintenance difficult or impossible due to size, location, or composition.

Most golfers would cite canted tee box surfaces, threadbare turf, and other defects as proof positive of inattentiveness on the part of management; and while this is sometimes a valid complaint, some tee box configurations simply cannot be maintained adequately regardless of the expertise and dedication of the greenskeeping staff. Many times this is attributable simply to the tee box’s size, or lack thereof, which leads to excessive wear from player use. A tee box that is too big is a problem both vastly less common and less serious.

With all the attention greens receive in terms of soil testing, I would venture to guess that about 60-70 percent of courses I have visited have tees that contain a soil mix incapable of proper drainage and turf nourishment. The solution is to analyze the soil mix using a USGA approved testing lab. If soil quality is the problem the solution is to rectify it through deep aeration and aggressive topdressing or rebuild the tees using proper tee mix. Other problems plaguing healthy tees are restricted access routes, excessive shade, root problems from trees, inadequate sprinkler coverage, and poor turfgrass choices.

Like much of golf course architecture, a good tee box system has much to do with common sense. But as elementary as all of this sounds, the five points listed above will resonate with many, even most, golf course owners. And the issues may be simple, but their resolution is far from trivial in the pursuit of new members or the golfing public at large. A good place to start is to consult a golf course architect to discuss potential areas of improvement. Your tees still can’t talk, but your customers will thank you.

The author, Raymond Hearn, is a member of the American Society of Golf Course Architects and also heads the firm of Raymond Hearn Golf Course Designs (www.rhgd.com) located in Holland, Michigan.

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