I have rarely played any course from the tips. Why would you do that?
Only time of late was when I was playing as a guest at the Plantation Course at Kapalua.
I was a single and the starter said he’d work me in and I’d have to play whatever tees the group played. He added me to Japanese men, both avid golfers but with not much game. The starter said, “They want to play the tips. If you don’t want to, you can wait 30 minutes and go off with two regulars. They play the men’s tees.” I elected to go with these two and get done probably 45 minutes sooner and make my dinner reservation with Jean Ann.
It wasn’t horrible because the ground was hard and the ball rolls a lot at Plantation Course, since many of the shots are downhill, downwind on the longer holes. I shot 84 because I made a couple of putts and my playing partners slapped back anything under 5 feet “as good.” They both shot over 120. Two nice fellows. They didn’t speak much English other than to say “great shot” anytime I got it airborne and straight. They were amazed that I could hit a long iron. This was quite a few years ago before the arrival of all the nice hybrids that replace the long irons.
That’s a long course, around 7,500 yards. But it doesn’t play that long because there are several long par four and par fives straight downhill with the prevailing wind. I hit several tee shots that rolled and rolled and might have gone as far as 330 yards. I probably only carried them 230, but they just don’t stop until they get to a flat spot.
The only other time that I played a significant course from the back tees was at Augusta National (the year Larry Mize won). Jack Stephens put me and my dad on the course in the media lottery event (and we didn’t draw) on that Monday. You play the same pins as on Sunday.
The media plays the member tees. But dad suggested to Jack that I should play the championship tees that were used the day before. They were not the tips. Several tees had been moved up because of the wind on Sunday. So I didn’t play the tips. I played the tees as they were set up on Sunday and the greens had not been mowed. I shot 81 after hitting it in the water on 13 and 15. I could have played it safe on those two and probably broke 80. I’d say I played it about 150 yards under the tips, but definitely from the championship tees boxes. There were four or five holes that I was up by as much as 20 yards from the tips, including 16. Most of them were 10 to 15 yards up from the back. Seldom in any championship event do they play the absolute back of a tee box. First, that would wear out a place that you may want to use sometime. So even when you are playing the back of the course, the tees are sometimes up from the back, sometimes by quite a lot.
Augusta National (with medium speed greens) is not brutal. There is little rough. The fairways are wide. The problem is when you miss a green, then getting your pitch to stop near the pin especially when you are on the wrong side. Having a caddy direct you to the proper place to “miss” the green when in trouble off the tee is important. Just do what they tell you even if it means playing short and away from the pin. Leaving yourself a long chip can save you a triple bogey. You can be 10 yards off the green (or in a bunker) on the wrong side of the pin and have no chance to keep it on the green. It may roll down a hill and leave yourself a 100-yard shot back to the green. But if you take your medicine and play for a bogey, that’s what you will get.
Having a 60-yard pitch that you can spin to a spot that has a back stop means you can stop it for a 20 foot putt and get your two-putt for bogey. Or you can go for that pin, end up in a bunker on the short side and then take four to get down. It sounds stupid until you do it.