SPGC Debuting Carolina Blue Tees
Jack Nicklaus was talking, and Doug Thompson and Woody Davis were listening.
As a result, the idea for the Carolina blue tees was born, and an entirely different concept for senior golfers is being tested at Southern Pines Golf Club.
Actually, it isn’t all that different, just a shorter version of what the USGA and other leaders in the game are promoting. And “Teeing it Forward” is no longer a concept; it’s reality. But Thompson and Davis are taking steps (toward the green) to make it happen.
Nicklaus was promoting the idea of providing shorter holes for seniors and other players who don’t hit those prodigious drives like the PGA Tour stars during the recent Ryder Cup, and a light bulb came on over Thompson’s head.
“We have a lot of people who are reluctant to play because they feel they don’t hit the ball far enough and they’re holding up faster players,” Thompson said. “We already have four sets of tees, including senior tees that play to about 5,700 yards, but a lot of our tees are elevated, and some players don’t move as quickly as they used to.
“So we figured, why not give these players a break? Why not build tees for a course that plays about 4,100 yards that can bring them back into the game? They won’t have to hit the ball 300 yards to reach greens in regulation, and they won’t have to feel guilty about holding other players up because they’re getting a major jump on every hole.”
Thompson, the director of golf, and Davis, president of Avestra Golf, which leases the course from the Elks Club, called in course superintendent Brook Vickery and ran the idea past him.
The reaction was action. Fast and furious.
“We already had blue, silver, gold and red tees,” Thompson said, “so we decided the new ones would be Carolina blue. Not for the university, but for the Carolina blue skies that we always have in the Sandhills.
“Brook had the new tee areas mown before I could get the tees painted. And by the time people read this, they can play them.”
Ironically, plans were already under way to install a new set of tees on the Donald Ross classic course, but those tees were going to be black and designed to stretch the layout longer than its now full length of 6,268 yards in an effort to satisfy players who do hit the ball 300 yards off the tee.
“We’re trying to accommodate every menu for everyone who wants to play and make it enjoyable,” Davis said. “We’ve been listening to a lot of our members. Golf is a game that doesn’t change, but it is changing. We have a great relationship with our senior players, and we want them to keep playing. And the great thing is that these tees will benefit junior players and beginning players, too. It just gives them all an opportunity to enjoy the game.
“Golf is a game for everyone from the beginning of time to the end of time, and it makes no sense for everyone not to be able to play. We just have to accommodate them.
“We have a great course here and great people, so it just makes sense to allow them to have fun,”
The setup, location and accessibility of the Carolina blue tees will doubtless enable some people who have given up the game to return. Every tee, with the exception of one, is built within a couple of yards of the cart paths, and none of them is elevated. And that tee, on the par-5 second hole, is built so that carts may be driven right alongside it.
“This is one of the few things that we’ve ever been able to do where there are no negatives,” Thompson said. “We have no agenda other than to help people enjoy the game and not be afraid that they might be holding someone else up.
“Actually, these tees aren’t just for seniors or juniors; they’re for anyone who wants to put a peg in them. The great thing is that they still allow players to get the personality of the greens. This is a Donald Ross course, and the green complexes are not going to be compromised. The course will still have its personality; just a shorter version.
“We just decided we wanted to do it now rather than later. A lot of things get to the table, but the candle never gets lit.
“And can’t you hear it now? A guy walks off the course and says, ‘Yeah, I played from the blues today.’ He just doesn’t elaborate on the hue of blue.”
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