Larry Gilhuly - USGA Agronomist and TEE IT FORWARD program advocate.

Special guest

For much of his 35-year career with the United States Golf Association, Larry Gilhuly was all about agronomy. His formal title with the USGA is Agronomist, West Region. In other words, Gilhuly is an expert on growing grass. But in recent years, Gilhuly has become passionate - very passionate - about teeing it forward. And by forward, he means way forward. “This topic that I am talking about has got me fired up,” Gilhuly told his audience.

It was hard not to buy his argument. Gilhuly came to the AGM armed with data to back up his claim that courses are too hard, even from the current forward tees, for average female golfers and senior players.

As we age, our swing speeds decline and so does the distance we hit the ball. The average female player, Gilhuly said, has a swing speed of about 60 miles per hour. She averages about 140 yards with her driver, 120 yards with her 3-wood and about 60 yards with her wedge.

That makes it impossible for that player to hit greens in regulation on the vast majority of holes from the current forward tees at most courses. “There are a lot of golfers, males, who can reach the green in regulation with a lot of different clubs, but not the women,” Gilhuly said. “And if they do they are hitting low-trajectory shots. What is happening now is that it isn’t just the women. This is not a gender issue anymore".

Gilhuly had another message for his audience: “Red is dead,” he said, referring to red tees. “I hate red colours,” he said. “If we could just do this one thing, get rid of the red tees. It is amazing what happens. We did it at Canterwood Country Club (in Gig Harbor, Wash.) and the old guys moved up. . . if that red tee is there, they won’t move. We have got to address that issue.”

Gilhuly said some courses have dropped colour-coded tees all together and started simply numbering their tees. “Start with 1 being the forward tee and work your way back,” he said. “Seniors will move forward. I guarantee it. I will buy you a beer if they don’t.

“Pace of play, player enjoyment and economic sustainability all improve with forward tees,” Gilhuly said in closing. “In my opinion this century-old mistake holds the key to our game. That’s a bold comment but it is so simple. . .if we just add these forward tees we will get more women into the game. There’s no question in my mind.”

TEE IT FORWARD is a joint initiative between the USGA and The PGA of America that encourages players to play from a set of tees best suited to their driving distance. In addition to providing more enjoyment for golfers, teeing it forward also can be one of the most important steps that golfers take in improving pace of play.

Larry Gilhuly - USGA Agronomist and TEE IT FORWARD program advocate. has been a guest on 2 episodes.