Should Visitors Be Allowed To Play Off The Back Tees?

Only for competitions, or anything goes?

Should Visitors Be Allowed To Play From The Back Tees?
(Image credit: Getty Images)

GM regulars Jeremy Ellwood and Fergus Bisset debate whether the back pegs should be for competition golf only. Should visitors be allowed go play off the back tees?

Should Visitors Be Allowed To Play Off The Back Tees?

Yes says Jeremy Ellwood

The sacred turf of the back tee - the stuff of legends, where only the privileged few may tread. But why, would be my question.

I’ve listened to arguments about members’ privileges and wear and tear, but I’m yet to be convinced.

Perhaps when the back tees are particularly small, but other than that, I feel the wear and tear card is a little overplayed.

Wouldn’t free choice over tees create fewer wear pinchpoints, not more?

And when it comes to keeping these tees for members or big days, how many golfers ever come in gushing about the quality of the tees?

Hardly any, because all eyes are on the greens, golf’s most difficult-to-maintain playing surfaces, where all are free to tread.

Pace of play? Maybe, but at many clubs there’s only 200-300 yards difference overall between whites and yellows.

Crucially though, there will often be a few holes that become distinctly different beasts, and therein lies my main gripe – why deny visitors the chance to experience the very best your course has to offer, visitors who may go away raving about a couple of cracking holes to other potential visitors.

Many club websites harp on about their ‘6,600 championship test’, while ushering visitors forward, but if you have a course you’re proud of, would you not want visitors to have at least the chance to experience it in the same way as members?

Not all will want to, but those who do will then get the full experience.

Restricting which tees visitors may play from seems unnecessary and potentially counter-productive to me.

I would like to see such restrictions gradually consigned to the history books in the same way as other traditional conventions such as overly strict dress codes and members only bars.

Should visitors be allowed to play off the back tees?

No says Fergus Bisset

Most established golf clubs in this country are set on relatively small plots where there is space on each hole for just “boxes” and “back” tees.

The latter should be reserved for competition play.

Members who pay a significant annual subscription to keep the club running and the course maintained should enjoy a few perks for their outlay.

One of those should be having the chance to play off the back tees in competition, hitting from surfaces that haven’t been dug up by casual golfers through the week.

Participating in club competitions and playing off the back tees is one of the great benefits of golf club membership.

As clubs across the country look for ways to attract and retain members, it would be crazy to do anything to diminish this benefit.

Women members should be able to play off the back pegs in competition too.

At too many clubs, women of all abilities are expected to play all competition off the red (forward) tees.

But the better female golfers could easily play off the back pegs and there should be club competitions allowing them to do so.

Visitors will be able to experience a course off its back pegs if they enter one of the club’s opens.

Most clubs now offer a number of opens through the season, providing visitors the chance to play their course in competition, off the competition tees.

Many modern “resort-style” golf courses are set over huge areas and each hole has multiple, separate teeing options.

This is different. At these courses, players of both sexes should be directed to play from the tees best suited to their ability.

But, when only the traditional teeing options exist owing to lack of space, it’s quite straightforward – the “boxes” are for casual golf and the back tees are for competition only.

Fergus Bisset
Contributing Editor

Fergus is Golf Monthly's resident expert on the history of the game and has written extensively on that subject. He is a golf obsessive and 1-handicapper. Growing up in the North East of Scotland, golf runs through his veins and his passion for the sport was bolstered during his time at St Andrews university studying history. He went on to earn a post graduate diploma from the London School of Journalism. Fergus has worked for Golf Monthly since 2004 and has written two books on the game; "Great Golf Debates" together with Jezz Ellwood of Golf Monthly and the history section of "The Ultimate Golf Book" together with Neil Tappin , also of Golf Monthly. 

Fergus once shanked a ball from just over Granny Clark's Wynd on the 18th of the Old Course that struck the St Andrews Golf Club and rebounded into the Valley of Sin, from where he saved par. Who says there's no golfing god?