After attending the ASGCA forward tee synopsis last fall in Pinehurst, I came back persuaded that golf course operators who are not considering forward tee options at 4000 yards are ignoring a growing segment of the game. At my home club, Cog Hill, the 72 hole mecca outside Chicago, the forward tees are currently between 5200-5600 yards. In order for me to initiate the planning process, I first looked to the 18 holes on the Dick Wilson designed, #3 course, which is laid out on the edge of a large river valley, with many of the tees and greens placed on the crests of rolling hills.
Dick Wilson once infamously said when asked about women’s or forward tees said “I don’t build women’s tees, but if I did, I would build them half way down the hole, to speed them up.” The sentiment expressed here may have been reflective of the zeitgeist 70 years ago but that is certainly not true of our world today. Forward tees utilized by beginners, juniors, seniors, and women players should be built and available to accommodate skill level, improve scoring, and most critically, allow the opportunity for everyone to find true enjoyment in the game of golf.
9th Hole at the Dick Wilson designed #3 Course at Cog Hill Golf & Country Club
Par 4 or 5, does it matter ?
In order to move forwards, sometimes you need to work backwards, which is exactly where I started. Looking back down the fairways allowed me to determine the most suitable landing areas from which forward tee players might approach. I placed tees at a distance that will allow players to reach the “new” landing area. However working within the constraints of the existing routing, some of these new tee locations ended up in valleys, leading to undesirable tee shots when compared to middle/back tee placements. So I asked myself the question, professional tournaments change short par 5’s to long 4’s to remain relevant, why not reverse the process for forward tees?
The second hole on #3 Course is a prime example of the middle tee routing and a par that is not currently able to accommodate the forward player’s needs. It plays 330-350 yards up and over a hill. The most skilled players at the course can drive the ball over the hill and tee shots will run down reducing the second shot to a small wedge or pitch. Forward tee players have a much different experience. After analyzing the scoring statistics of the ladies leagues, it became apparent they were playing this hole as a par five as the mean score was 40% over par. Switching par will reduce the standard deviation of the average score in relation to par.
In the Fall of 2019, in addition to adjusting par of forward tees, Cog Hill plans to break ground on a new set of tees for the #3 Course. Wadsworth Construction will be providing the majority construction expertise supported by myself and Chris Flick, the golf course superintendent. When the renovations are complete, the #3 course will offer three sets of tee options for forward tee players at 4400, 4800, and 5200 yards. It is my goal that with these new tees, there will be increased options for players of all skills levels including high handicaps, juniors, seniors, and golfers new to the game.
Over the next season, the course will track usage of the new tees to determine the effects on pace of play, scoring statistics, and overall satisfaction to help drive decisions on future forward tee additions to the remaining 3 courses. For example, the women’s leagues typically rotate between three courses and I expect they will play tees at lengths of 4800, 5200, and 5600 providing different data sets for review. During field testing with some of our regular female players, one woman reported she had her best score in over a decade. She was so excited; she went out the next day to play again!