From the Desk of Barney Adams...
I've spent months telling this story, initially trying for converts. An overriding lack of success taught me that the better approach was to gather feedback, hone the idea and hope to garner support from major organizations. Some of the most repeated comments and my responses follow.
“Your idea will ruin the game. To get everyone at the 135 yard “The Tour Test” marker players in a foursome will be hitting from different tees and that destroys the camaraderie that is part of golf.”
Response: In my concept a group playing from the same tees is integral to the enjoyment of the game. On Tour (our standard of relativity) the longest hitters are 40 yards in front of the shorter ones. As long as your group on average is 20 yards on either side of the 135 yard “The Tour Test” marker, you are fine.
“Let's cut to the chase, we gamble. You think we want our opponent at 120 yards from the green while we're at 150? That’s nuts.”
Response: Right now your shot is 180 yards. Can you roll the ball between the traps? Maybe one in five times? Your opponent is 150 yards and feels very secure. With “The Tour Test” you are now positioned at 150 yards and can carry your ball over the bunker and guess what -- it stops 10' from the hole. I don't care how close he is, your opponent’s shot just got a lot harder.
Note: Let me add something here. There’s a misconception that playing at “The Tour Test” distance will automatically result in lower scores. Maybe. I've plugged a lot of 7 or 8 irons into bunkers (while gambling) but at least somewhere in the “The Tour Test” game, I'll get a decent birdie opportunity.
“This is baloney, I'm 62 and I can get home on 400 yard par 4 holes.”
Response: I'm 73 and so can I. That's not the objective. I can shoot at a 12' basket too but I'd rather compete at 10' and be playing comparable to the best in the world. Besides, I have a lot more fun at 10’. If we don’t do something to enhance the experience of the game of golf for everyone, it is going to die a slow and painful death.
“How do I know what tees to play?”
Response: Properly set up (which is part of the program) courses will have suggested "The Tour Test" tees for men and women based on tee shot data from tens of thousands of golfers. If you find yourself constantly approaching from 160-180 yards (rather than close to 140 yards) then move up a set. If you are truly (note the word truly) a golfer who drives the ball 260 -280 yards, keep moving back. Golf is a game of honesty. If your stock 8 iron is 163 yards (like a tour player) then play the tips.
Over the years we have turned into a total yardage descriptor for golf, “We play from 6700, or 6000 or 7700 whatever.” I'd do away with those numbers if I could, (along with tee colors). “The Tour Test” golf is about testing your game against the best players in the world by playing relative distances into the green.
“Our group moved up and it just didn't feel right hitting 8 irons where we used to hit hybrids, almost like cheating.”
Response: Ironically this is one of the most significant lessons I learned from my field odyssey and experienced it myself. There is an inherent honesty in golf and you have to get used to the idea that you are simply playing relative distances to the best in the world. Once accepted it's an easy adjustment.
“What about my handicap, if I move to the “Tour Test” tees won't it go down and then I'll be penalized if I play a course that still plays back?”
Response: The USGA has strongly supported Tee It Forward. Assuming they are on board with “The Tour Test” I cannot see them ignoring handicaps should they become an issue.
“Can we do this at our course now? Why do we have to wait?”
Response: It’s perfectly legit to change. In my dreams the golfers of the world rise up and request "The Tour Test" tees at their courses NOW.