Playing from the Reds

By: Bob Spiwak

One of golf's major bugaboos is slow play. It has been my experience over half a century that much of this is due to players teeing off from blocks where they cannot meet the demands of long carries, or they slice or hook into the puckerbrush. This results in lengthy searches for errant balls, frequently longer than the permissible five-minute limit.

As I have gotten older, I recognized that I could not longer play from the traditional white tees. Many courses offer little compensation other than the "ladies tees," having only two areas to hit from. At Bear Mountain, my home course above Lake Chelan (Wash.), there are five tee boxes ranging from black at the tips to red, the furthest forward.

A few years ago at Banks Lake Golf Course in the Grand Coulee, I was addressing the ball at the red tee when a cart drove up and one of the occupants rudely and accusingly shouted, "Hey! You're on the women's tee."

In the '90s, a cadre of Golf Writers Association of America members campaigned to eliminate the gender factor from tees. Of course it carried a stigma; every male golfer is familiar with the fly-open penalty for failing to reach the ladies' tee with his drive. The writers' solution was to simply change the name to forward tee. I am not a paragon of political correctness, but the practical aspects convinced me.

Having gained 14 strokes on my handicap and half as much around my waist, I took a lesson from Bear Mountain's head pro Von Smith. His first admonition was that I was in my 70s and my body was not what it was when I carried a 17 handicap years before. He suggested moving up to a forward tee. The bronze tees are between the whites and the reds, and while my scores did not diminish much, I discovered that I was enjoying the game much more, even as my pockets were weekly drained of the quarters-per-hole losses to my companions.

This year I moved up to the red, most-forward tees. Suddenly, for the first time in years, I was capable of hitting greens in regulation. It changed the game markedly. Even though I still have at least one double-digit hole per round, the quarters have been flowing back to me from whence they had previously come - my retirement fund.

Last week while driving to the course, one of my companions who carries a 16 handicap and plays from the whites commented that the betting meant nothing to him, he was playing his own game. That makes sense. But after the round, as the dollars and coins flowed across the table in my direction for the third week in a row, he gently groused that it was not fair to have to give me 14 strokes when I was playing a 1,000-yard shorter course than he.

I offered that I would no longer participate in the money games, because I agreed with the unfairness. He countered with the idea that I play to a 10-point lower handicap. I don't think so.

Desert Canyon, another favorite course, has wisely succumbed to male requests to change the color of the most-forward tees to gold. They had previously been designated as the "lilac" tees.

That very name was enough to discourage any guy.

Bob Spiwak took up golf in 1953 as a respite from the rigors of selling bibles door-to-door in North Dakota. Though suffering a four-year lapse, he's back to being a fanatical golfer. Now a contributing editor for Cybergolf, Spiwak has written articles for almost every golf magazine in the Western world. Bob's most treasured golf antiquity is a nod he got from Gerald Ford at the 1990 Golf Summit. Spiwak lives in Mazama, Wash., with his wife and several pets next to his fabled ultra-private Whispering Rattlesnakes Golf & Flubbers Club.

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