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Traditional red tees face change, but will golfers get on board?


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AS golf courses across America have added new tee areas farther back, it has made some male hackers uncomfortable.

After all, when it’s their turn to hit, their playing partners might remind them they will face extreme consequences if they can’t send their drive past the ladies’ tee.

The No. 1 penalty is embarrassment.

But the fact has become that the ladies’ tees, or red tees as has been the custom, often can be 50 to 100 yards closer than the other tees. It seems that the red tees haven’t shifted back to reflect advancements in equipment.

Improvements in technology have allowed all golfers, from the scratch player to the weekend warrior, to hit a golf ball farther. Male golfers routinely play different colored tees, so they just have more choices now.

Are female golfers comfortable with making the same choices, such as moving back from the red tees to another color?

“I look at the course yardage and I go to the tees that are about 5,000 to 5,200 yards,” said Diane Funkhauser, a member of Harrison Lake Country Club who was competing on Saturday in the first round of the Columbus Women’s City Tournament at her home course.

“But I would say that the average woman golfer just walks to the red tees.”

Indeed, those who manage golf courses have noticed that to be true and they want to get away from tees being associated with either gender.

At Harrison Lake, head pro Keith Clark has gotten rid of the red tees all together.

“We took our red tees and painted them gold,” Clark said. “We do know that gentlemen are reluctant to play the red tees.”

The industry is trying to promote quicker play by having golfers play the tees appropriate to their skill. Men don’t seem to have a big problem with moving backward or forward — as long as it doesn’t land them on red tees — but women might need a little more urging to move back. Each hole typically has three to five spots to tee off.

Harrison Lake member Susie Gregory, who also was playing in the city tournament, said when she travels to a new course, she checks out all that course’s tee yardages to see how they correspond with Harrison Lake. Then she chooses a tee area.

But not everyone puts that kind of thought into it.

Senior golfer Andrea Davis said, “Most women my age just play the red tees. But players like Tobi (Herron) and I who hit the ball farther, that’s not very much fun.”

Davis is a former collegiate golfer, and she likes to be challenged when she plays. She got used to moving back to the “men’s tees” when she was younger.

But if she goes out with a group of female friends, it is likely they will end up at the red tees.

If other courses follow Harrison Lake’s lead and paint over the red tees, both women and men will have to make yardage the deciding factor and not the color of a tee.

“The Tee It Forward program suggests that you base everything on how far you hit your driver,” said Clark, who is vice president of the Indiana Golf Association.

“That way you are hitting your scoring irons into greens.

“But I do know that if you move up too far, you lose the tee design and the way the hole was made to be played.”

Funkhauser said an example is when she plays at Salt Creek, that the ladies tees are about 4,700 yards. That’s too close for her, so she moves to a tee area that fits her game.

“I don’t care if they are red or purple,” she said.

Of course, many golfers, men or women, love to play as far forward as possible so they can score lower.

“There is a certain demographic that if you moved their tees back, they wouldn’t have any fun,” she said.

Sydney Anderson, who will be a senior for the Columbus North varsity this fall, said she plays a tee area depending on her playing partners.

“If I’m playing with family, I probably am going to play the reds,” she said. “But I’m pretty used to playing the blue tees at Otter Creek.”

Even if the red tees are very close, too close for her ability, Anderson said it still can be a lot of fun once in a while to play up there.

Why?

“Because I like really low scores,” she said.

Anderson shot a 75 on Saturday for second in the Open Division while Herron led the way with a 72. The next lowest scorer was Nicole Bodi at 89.

The tournament was played from Harrison Lake’s most forward tees, or the ones that used to be painted red.

Davis did quite nicely up there, shooting 92 to take the lead in the Senior Division of the City Tournament. She is two strokes ahead of Donita Compton and five ahead of Gregory.

The final round will be played today at Otter Creek with the first tee time at 12:06 p.m.

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