Arthur Little, senior trustee of the Royal Little Family Foundation has released “Proper Tee Placements Lead to More Play,” a data-based report on the value of tees and increased player participation.Little writes:

There has been a good deal of discussion recently about how to increase participation in the sport of golf. An increasing part of the conversation concerns the length and set up of courses. Do courses, as presently designed, fit the customers the golf industry is trying to attract and retain? In the great majority of cases, the resounding answer is NO.

In order to help address this issue on a truly sound and factual basis, National Golf Course Owners of America (NGCOA) contracted with Golf Laboratories of San Diego to do a comprehensive study of the yardage that golfers with different swing speeds hit the ball and the ball flight patterns that result. Gene Parente, the President and owner of Golf Laboratories, has been doing this kind of testing for 28 years and is regarded by the golf industry as the leading independent expert in this area.

This is the second time NGCOA has done this kind of study with Golf Laboratories. The data presented in the current study was collected using a more extensive test protocol and the most up to date Track Man “normalization” technology which makes the data more accurate and consistent by removing weather conditions. Thus, the data in this study are more reliable.

Both studies were funded through the NGCOA Foundation by the Royal Little Family Foundation whose senior trustees, Jann Leeming and Arthur Little have been avidly studying the issues of course length and set up for twenty years.

In the most recent study, Golf Laboratories tested swing speeds from 55 to 125 miles per hour (mph) in 10mph increments, driver through lob wedge. The purpose was to accurately measure:

-The relationship in yardage between the different swing speeds.
-The % difference between the driver and the other clubs “in the bag.”
-The differences in ball flight at different swing speeds.

The goal of the study is to provide both golf course architects and owners with very accurate data upon which they can make decisions about tee lengths, course design and set up. If the data is used wisely, it will result in:

-Attracting and retaining the widest spectrum of players to the sport.
-More women and their families
-Encouraging senior men to play more and extend their playing careers.
-Increase in junior play

-Improving the speed of play significantly

The results of the testing accompany this memo. The summary numbers are found in:
-GL Graphic through Lob Wedge (LW)

For industry people who want to get really deeply into the data, please see the file Master Normalized.

-This testing was set up with efficient launch angles and center hits using the most advanced technology for testing. As a result it doesn’t truly represent real golfers yardages on their average shots. For real golfers, their average drives will be approximately 10% shorter with a commensurate loss of yardage with other clubs.

-Please note there is no mention of either age or gender in the testing data. The golf ball doesn’t care.

There is an enormous amount of data included in the study, but the salient conclusions from the data and other work the Royal Little Family Foundation has done are as follows:

-Most courses should have tees set up for players with swing speeds from 65 to 105 mph. This will cover the great majority of players.

Rule of thumb, the yardage and percentage relationships between the tees should be as follows:

Swing speed                                   Yardage        Relationship to other tees

65mph-average woman*                 3900-4100             65%

75mph                                             4700-4900             78%

85mph                                             5600-5800             93%

90mph-average man*                      6000-6200             100%-“base tee**”

95mph                                             6400-6600             107%

105mph                                           6800-7000             113%

*Gathered from a variety of sources

**The “base tee” is the yardage from which the average male golfer should be playing.

-Swing speed has a significant effect on ball flight. In addition to less yardage and lower height, the slower swing speed player’s ball reaches its apex further from the landing location, lands at a shallower angle, has less spin and gets more of its distance from roll.

Driver statistics:

Apex as % of carry      Landing angle           % of yardage from roll

55mph         53.2                                       14.8                           37

65mph         56.8                                       22.3                           22.4

75mph         58.9                                       24.6                           18

85mph         62.8                                       32.1                           11.4

95mph         65.5                                       35.3                           9

105mph       65.6                                       34.7                           9.8

115mph       66.3                                       33.8                           8.9

125mph       68.9                                       47.0                           5.1

For slower swing speed players, there are significant implications for course design and set up:
-Makes it harder to clear cross hazards
-Penalizes the slower speed swinger more on uphill shots
-Makes it harder to hold greens
-Makes open approaches to greens more important
-Makes soft turf conditions more difficult.

The Royal Little Family Foundation has focused much of its time and energy over the past twenty years thinking about and doing research on these issues. Its goal has been to promote the sport of golf to the widest spectrum of players and allowing them to make the game truly a lifetime sport to be genuinely enjoyed by the whole family.

We are happy to help the entire golf industry and encourage people to contact us. Arthur Little can be reached at or 603-475-0666.