English Golf Courses

‘GENDER FREE’ TEES GROW IN POPULARITY

Over 30 clubs in England have done away with traditional tees

A GROWING number of golf clubs are abandoning traditional men’s and ladies’ tees and are, instead, replacing them with tees which any member can play off to suit their ability and preference.

Traditionally, men and women have played from different positions on golf’s tee boxes. However, that old habit is now being challenged as the game seeks to find new ways to encourage improving golfers, retain ageing players and promote social golf.

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Golfers who are losing length can move to forward tees, improving players can gain an extra challenge by moving back, and social golfers can choose to play together off the same tees.

‘Gender free’ tees are already commonplace in the USA and are beginning to attract widespread attention in the UK. Gemma Hunter, England Golf’s Handicap & Course Rating Manager has said that she knows of over 30 courses in England which have rated at least one course for both genders.

“This is all about making the best use of your golf course for all your members and for newcomers who want to take up the game,” said Hunter. “You’re not building new holes or tees. You’re just rating what you already have.”

Sheringham Golf Club in Norfolk, pictured, was among the first to introduce ‘gender free’ tees, while Trentham Park in Staffordshire has also followed the trend.

Sheringham took the plunge a couple of years ago when it also introduced a new set of forward tees to create an additional, short course. The club now has three sets of tees, all rated for men and women, from the shortest, blue, through to yellow and white. There is a further set of black tees, which are rated only for men on the advice of the ladies’ county association.

Club manager Neal Milton explained: “It’s been a great success, particularly with our senior gentlemen and higher handicap ladies, who now have the opportunity to play a shorter course.”

Milton first had the idea of ‘gender free’ tees when he was junior organiser at another club. He added: “We had a young lady who was in England training and who was only allowed to play off the ladies’ forward tees, despite the fact she could hit it further than most of the men. The club insisted on the status quo.”

Trentham Park, meanwhile, has abandoned the tee colours traditionally associated with the men’s and women’s game. Now, the club has a black course (6,390 yards), blue (6,188) and green (5,255), as well a composite blue/green course measuring 5,694 yards. Each of the four layouts has been measured and rated for both men and women, who now have new scorecards, new tee furniture and new signage.

“This is just fantastic,” explained club manager Jon Farmer. “We can give longevity to the ageing player who might have left because they were losing length and didn’t feel competitive. Meanwhile, the complete beginner, who maybe feels embarrassed teeing off in front of the clubhouse, can use the forward tee, which is about 100 yards away. As players improve and want a greater challenge, they can move back.”

 

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