Which set of tees should you play at a golf course? Here's how to decide how long of a course to play
CMC Golf Culture

Which set of tees should you play at a golf course? Here’s how to decide how long of a course to play

A picture of golfer Rory McIlroy DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - JANUARY 29: Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland tees off on the 8th hole during the Third Round on Day Four of the Hero Dubai Desert Classic at Emirates Golf Club on January 29, 2023 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

If you've played golf, you've no doubt had this discussion on the first tee with your group that day: What tees should we play today?

Most golfers don't have a great idea of which set of tees they should play or how long of a golf course is the right length for their game. Many golfers decide which tees to play based on what their buddies are doing, thinking they don't want to rock the boat in choosing to play a different set of tees that are either longer or shorter than their peers.

There are plenty of golfers who want to play the back tees or the next tees up from the back because they want a bigger challenge or think they should play that length since that's the perception of what their demographic -- often, men -- should be playing.

Which set of tees should you play at a golf course?

The reality is that the right tees for you is the set of tees that offers the right mix of an opportunity to score and an opportunity to be challenged. Golf is more fun when you have at least a modest chance at success and aren't grinding for pars and bogeys or worse on every single hole. Having birdie putts is nice.

The easiest way to determine the right tees for your round of golf is based on how far you hit the driver. The USGA recommends golfers determine how long of a golf course to play based on the big dog. For example, if you hit the driver an average of 200 yards -- and be honest with yourself here -- then you should play a course ranging from 5,200-5,400 yards in length.

What is the right length of golf course for my game?

275 yards 6,700-6,900 yards
250 yards 6,200-6,400 yards
225 yards 5,800-6,000 yards
200 yards 5,200-5,400 yards
175 yards 4,400-4,600 yards
150 yards 3,500-3,700 yards
125 yards 2,800-3,000 yards

Of course, driver length alone doesn't tell you what's the right set of tees. Some people prefer to go off how long a player hits a 7-iron or a 5-iron.

However, golf courses that are similar in length don't present the same challenges. They have different course rating and slope. Using your driver length as a starting point, you can then decide on the proper set of tees based on how tough you know or expect the golf course to play. That may mean moving up a tee box if you think the course is too hard or moving back a box if you think it'll prove too easy.

Taking these factors in mind, you'll be able to identify the right length of golf course and the proper set of tees to get maximum enjoyment from your round of golf.

About the author

Ryan Ballengee

Ryan Ballengee is founder and editor of Golf News Net. He has been writing and broadcasting about golf for nearly 20 years. Ballengee lives in the Washington, D.C. area with his family. He is currently a +2.6 USGA handicap, and he has covered dozens of major championships and professional golf tournaments. He likes writing about golf and making it more accessible by answering the complex questions fans have about the pro game or who want to understand how to play golf better.

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