Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to acquaint you with the forward tees. Those would be the ones in front. Usually there are two sets, and often-but not always-they are colored gold and red. (On shorter courses, there might only be one set of forward tees.) You may know these tees by the outdated and at best inaccurate (at worst insulting) terms “Seniors’ tees” and “Ladies’ tees”.
Actually, I think I have that backwards. Though I am insulted to be pointed to “the Ladies’ tees,” it’s probably worse that by giving the red tees a girly label, it guarantees that no man will ever want to hit from them. (And likewise, that no one under 65 will hit from the golds.) This is a problem, because many men (and boys) who have not yet developed the strength or skill to make it to the green within four or five shots are nevertheless hitting from the middle-or worse, the back-tees.
The different tee boxes are a way of handicapping the game and making it more fun for everyone. I hit from the reds, or front forward tees, when I play with my husband because when I do and he plays from the middle/white tees, our balls usually end up side by side on the fairway. Depending on the advantage afforded the forward tees, sometimes I outdrive him, and sometimes he outdrives me, but it evens up the game a bit. We can play *together*, and we have an equal chance of scoring well.
When I played a shorter course with my mother-in-law recently, I played from the middle tees and she played from the forward; I probably could have moved back to the blues, given that I consistently outdrove the other couple playing from the whites, but I didn’t feel my skill level was quite up to the back tees.
Where you play from depends on your handicap (or skill level, if you don’t have a handicap; generally, the higher the handicap or the more shots it takes you to reach the green, the further forward you should go), the length and difficulty of the course, and the companions with whom you’re playing. If you’re playing with colleagues from work or otherwise doing business on the course, play from the same set of tees if you can manage it. How well you play is less important than the conversation. (You can always pick up your ball and drop it on the green to putt out with everyone else if you can’t keep up.) If you’re paired up with strangers and are just working on your own game irrespective of whatever they do, play from your regular tees-forward, middle, or back.
Whatever you do, don’t be like the three high school boys I overtook on the course a couple weeks ago, who insisted on hitting from the middle tees when they couldn’t get to the green in under 7 shots; I consistently outdrove them by double the distance between the middle and forward tees (from which I was playing), and I outscored them on all but my worst holes. You could argue that I should have moved back to make the game more even, but I’ll argue more strongly that they should have moved forward. They had neither the distance nor the skill to warrant their choice of tee box.
And while I’m encouraging the men to move forward (and the lower-handicap women to move back), can I just give a shout-out to the starter at Cool Creek Golf Club in Wrightsville, PA and say sir, there is no need to accompany two women golfers to the forward tees, explain how to play each hole, and then emphasize the VERY STRICT TIME LIMIT. First of all, WE’VE DONE THIS BEFORE, and second of all, women golfers are no slower than men. I’d go further and say that it’s the men who insist on waggling and bobbing and taking four practice swings and then stepping back and throwing grass up in the air to check whether the wind has changed before starting the whole procedure again from the beginning that are your problem. Those of us who have been known to finish 9 holes in under an hour are not.