By James Hibbitt published
Out with the old and in with the new.
Hartford Golf Club hit the news last month after they announced they are to do away with “traditional” tee markers that are based on a person’s gender and instead introduce markers based on ability.
Hartford have introduced five different teeing options for players to choose from with each hole maintaining its original par. For those World Handicap System (WHS) purists out there, the player must play from the same tee in competition rounds and each tee has its own course rating.
Speaking to Sky News, Paul Cunningham, Director of Golf at Hartford Golf Club, said “Playing some holes shorter gives you more chance of scoring par and getting a bit more enjoyment, and then hopefully you’re going to come back and play more.” More enjoyable golf is surely everyone’s goal.
He added, “Shorter holes but relative pars mean beginners might play a hole that’s 200 yards but still a par five.”
“It’s all about accessibility, getting people to play the game, get decent scores and then move back to the longer tees and increase the challenge.”
Prior to implementing, Hartford consulted with its members with an overwhelming 92% in agreement.
Gender specific tees are outdated. Ability is the way forward now especially with the introduction of the WHS 👏December 2, 2021
Whilst this is positive from an inclusivity perspective, it also brings a number of playing scenarios to fruition. The beginner, or even aging player, may select a tee they feel most comfortable with, which is likely to be the most forward tees.
The more accomplished female golfer, who would have otherwise been restricted to the “red tees” may move back to somewhere they feel more challenged.
What is clear is that the difficulty isn’t necessarily defined by the length of the course. More skilled players may opt for a tee depending on where they want to be challenged, which may well be the shorter course in a bid to break par and achieve the golfing Holy Grail.
What is perhaps most pleasing is that Hartford aren’t alone in this change. There are approximately 30 courses across the country that have introduced gender neutral tee markers. Amongst those are Sheringham Golf Club in Norfolk and Trentham Park in Staffordshire.
Neil Milton, Sheringham Park General Manager, said “It has been a great success, particularly with our senior gentlemen and higher handicap ladies, who now have the opportunity to play a shorter course.”
As well as introducing gender neutral tees, Trentham Park have moved away from the traditional colour of tee markers. They now have a black course (6,390 yards), blue (6,188), green (5,255) and a composite of blue and green (5,694).
Golf clubs are often criticised for outdated approaches, whether it be slow play, dress code or juniors playing in competitions but this is refreshing, crucial to the future of the game and must be applauded.
According to the R&A Golf Participation Report, golf saw the biggest uptake since the turn of the century, thanks largely to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Last year 2.1 million people are understood to have taken up the game, with 36% defining themselves as new or returning players. The number of female golfers taking to the links tripled.
As we enter a time with more players than ever, tee markers that are designed to give confidence and maximum enjoyment to everyone that plays is exactly what the game needs.
Let’s hope more follow suit soon!
James joined Golf Monthly having previously written for other digital outlets. He is obsessed with all areas of the game – From tournament golf, to history, equipment, technique and travel. He is also an avid collector of memorabilia; with signed items from the likes of Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino, Colin Montgomerie, Ernie Els and Johnny Miller. As well as writing for Golf Monthly, James’ golfing highlight is fist bumping Phil Mickelson on his way to winning the Open Championship at Muirfield in 2013. James grew up on the east coast of England and is the third generation of his golfing family. He now resides in Leeds and is a member of Cobble Hall Golf Club with a handicap index of 1.7. His favourite golf films are The Legend of Bagger Vance and Tin Cup.
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