Yardage PlaybookOctober 10, 2019

Does this overly simple formula for figuring out what yardage you should play from actually work?

Dustin Johnson
Rob Carr/Getty Images

It’s been a debate that has gone on almost as long as the game has been played: What is the proper distance golfers should be playing from?

Of course, many Neanderthal males often insist on playing “the back tees,” almost always stretching past 6,500 yards and often measuring somewhere in the 6,800-to-7,000-yard range. Playing from the tips might be a boost to the ego, but it’s also pretty much a guarantee to be a killer for your score, and pace of play for the entire course, if you have no business being back there.

An Instagram post from athletic_motion_golf got our attention with a simple, yet seemingly perfectly reasonable, equation for what distance to play from.

Take your 5-iron distance and multiply it by 36 to get the distance you should be playing from.

Of course, we immediately got our phones out and started using the calculator. One editor who hits his 5-iron 175 came out to 6,300, and he plays tees at 6,344 on his home course. Another who hits it 170 (calling for 6,120 yards), plays a course just under 6,100 yards.

But won’t it get too short? We don’t know, you tell us. At 150 yards, that would be a course measuring 5,400 yards. But if you’re hitting your 5-iron only that far, maybe you should be playing that distance, at least if you want to really enjoy the game. The days of men’s tees and women’s tees should be over. In fact, it's antiquated to use the term: "women's tees" at all. It should simply be the yardages and which sets of tees we look at.

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If your 5-iron goes only 70 yards, a regulation course isn’t fun. But one with tees—even if in the fairway—measuring 2,520 yards would be a great way to keep people in the game. Think about it.

A few years ago, the USGA attempted to get golfers to “Play if Forward.” It was, in some ways, a tough message for golfers to wrap their head around. The hope here is that some simple math makes that process easier to understand.

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