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New initiative encourages novice golfers to "Tee It Forward"

July 31, 2012
By Dennis Grall - The Daily Press, Escanaba , The Daily Mining Gazette

ESCANABA - Taking three shots to reach a routine par four hole gets old in a hurry. Putting a tee shot into a hazard easily cleared by longer hitters gets frustrating quickly.

Having fun on the golf course is always the goal entering the parking lot, but that quickly becomes elusive upon finding one's game is not up to the challenge or the conditions when reaching the first tee.

A movement reaching into the Upper Peninsula is beginning to build momentum to put a little more enjoyment into the game, which hopefully will build interest in a sport suffering a downturn in recent years.

Tee It Forward is an initiative started by Barney Adams, founder of Adams Golf, that has been adopted by the PGA and USGA that gives amateurs a chance to play a course at roughly the distances of a touring pro by adjusting distances on various holes.

"This is an innovation that we think will appeal to golfers of all skill levels because it gives them a new challenge that better aligns with their abilities," said USGA president Jim Hyler.

"The PGA believes that this new approach to the game can make golf much more fun for millions of people and increase their desire to come back and play even more golf," said PGA president Allen Wronowski.

The Highland Golf Club and Marquette Heritage Golf Club have already introduced a portion of the plan, and newer courses that are built with four and five tee boxes are also encouraging golfers to play the position that suits their game the best.

A couples tournament at Highland this weekend will incorporate the idea as players with higher handicaps among the 74 teams will be allowed to use forward tee locations.

"People want to have better scores and we want to give them a chance to have good scores," said Highland manager Kevin Londo.

Londo noted golf traffic is shrinking throughout the country. "We have to find a way to get people to play and get them off the course quicker instead of playing three-hour rounds for nine holes," he said.

Tee boxes on three longer par three holes at Highland (nos. 4-7-8) have been shortened for women, by 55 yards to 135 yards on No. 4 and to 135-140 yards on the others.

Marc Gilmore, long-time pro at Marquette Golf Club, said an alternate format is available for youngsters and beginners on the Heritage layout. Special scorecards are available and tee areas of 150 yards or less are marked off, and family days are established.

"It works out really good. It got kids to enjoy it more," Gilmore said of trying to attract the next generation of golfers. "That is the whole point of teeing it forward."

It also relates to having senior golfers use tees suitable for their reduced distance by moving them forward. Gilmore said his father, who will be 80 next month, plays in a group that has moved forward "after battling the white tees for years and they are having a blast."

Gilmore said the Marquette senior tees were moved forward about three years ago. "A lot of guys enjoy it more," he said.

The average Tour player's drive is around 290 yards while a typical amateur is less than 225 yards, and most women don't reach 200 yards.

In another effort to help youngsters and beginners, Shanty Creek Resorts in Bellaire is trying a new program of inserting eight-inch cups on each hole of the Schuss Mountain course while using the forward tees.

The traditional 4 1/4-inch holes are also on each hole for players using the regular tees. Players decide before their round which tee-hole format to play.



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