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Why at 65 this female golfer now hits from the back (er “men’s”) tees

January 19, 2010 – 4:00 AM

By Davi-Ellen Chabner

Why would I — a 65-year-old woman, a 23-handicap golfer — now be hitting from the blue tees (aka the back tees) — aka the men’s tees? Why not stick with the red tees, the women’s tees, a safer (and my designated) spot?

Since I started playing golf more than 30 years ago and experienced the thrill of hitting a long drive, this symbol of paternalism in sports has bothered me.

There is no standard when it comes to the distances between forward and back tees so some courses may offer a player hitting from the forward tees a substantial break — or merely a few yards. I resented the designation of “ladies tees” because it implies that women need this advantage because ANY woman could not hit as far as ANY man.

Most women don’t see the designation as a put-down,  but I can’t help feeling that it absolutely is!  Here’s why: For years, I hit from the reds and if I out-scored a male hitting from the blues the tee difference was used to diminish my score. A typical comment:  “Well, you really can’t compare a score from the reds with one from blues.”

I often find that women of any age believe that they need the advantage to score well and don’t want to “risk” hitting from the back tees.   It IS daunting to stand on the first tee at the blues.  You are very afraid of screwing up and proving “them” right, providing fodder for the belief that you shouldn’t really be there.  But then, isn’t it true that ANY time a woman has tried to break the gender barrier by changing an accepted norm (becoming a doctor, lawyer, construction worker, firefighter), she has felt unwanted and accused of “trying to be like a boy?” Even wearing pants or playing ball in school during the 1950s was a radical act for a girl!

To make matters worse, of course, the red tees have a profound negative stigma for men. You almost never seen a beginner or older man hit from the reds (even if their playing level suggests that they should). A male would no sooner step up to that tee than have a sex change.

In fact, at my club they just added GREEN tees a few feet behind the reds just for older men who could no longer manage the blues — but didn’t want to step foot on the reds!

Sisters — or any age — JUST DO IT!! Play from the back tees. It is uplifting. Experience the thrill of hitting from another perspective.  Do it for your daughters, nieces, and granddaughters, so THEY will feel comfortable hitting from wherever they wish!  This is what we fought for in the 1960s, the CHOICE to try. Play the blues and take (some) sexism out of golf!

The only female in a men's golf tournament, Chabner helps her team to first place

The only female in a men's golf tournament, Chabner helps her team to first place

Davi-Ellen Chabner is an avid golfer, photographer, instructor of medical terminology and author of 3 books: The Language of Medicine, 9th edition, Medical Terminology: A Short Course, 5th edition, and Medical Language Instant Translator, 4th edition. She has run 9 Boston Marathons and 1 New York Marathon in the past 9 years. She mentors in an after-school program for inner city girls (Mellon Academy of Goodwill Industries) and is on the board of The Boston Conservatory and Friends of the MGH Cancer Center.  She is perhaps best known as grandmother to Bebe, Solomon, Ben, Gus, and Louisa Rose.

  1. 5 Responses to “Why at 65 this female golfer now hits from the back (er “men’s”) tees”

  2. Davi,
    You go girl! I’ll never hit from the senior tees, for some of the same reasons you’ve mentioned. At 72 I can still hit it far enough, sometimes, to embarrass the younger men I’m playing with. So, when the day comes that I ‘shoot my age’ I don’t want it to be said that it was from the green tees.

    See ya at the Blues…

    By Bob R on Jan 20, 2010

  3. During my tenure as Director of Golf at the Yale Golf Course, we remove all gender designation from our official score card and changed the color of our tees to help get away from the universal red, white and blue standard. The message was play any tees you want. Most women continued to use the forward tees, but men also started to use them. I advocate golfers, male and female, to play the tees that gives them the most pleasure. When we play together, my wife and I play the same tee, I go forward and she moves back. We get to talk and move along the course together.

    By David Paterson on Jan 20, 2010

  4. Davi, that was great! I completely agree with your blog post. I played in Singapore a few years ago with my uncle and he knew that I was a pretty decent golfer, but when I went to his club to play, they wouldn’t allow women to tee off from the men’s tee. This actually really surprised me since no one in the States has ever told me that before. Somehow my uncle was able to insist that I was good enough to play from the men’s tee and sure enough after I teed off on the first hole, the people at the club were convinced too. It was a great feeling to prove to them that women can play golf too.

    By Taylor on Jan 20, 2010

  5. Davi,
    Absolutely loved this post. Sorry I did not see it till now. I have too much to read, but try hard to keep up to date on some things. You are amazing! I don’t play golf, but any time you would like to swim a few miles in the ocean, let me know! Seriously, fantastic, the marathons and all. I still run, but I am not running marathons any more. I only did 9, two of them at the end of the ironman triathlon. And I don’t ride bikes at all, have known 3 people killed while riding – totally lost my nerve on that.
    In any event, this is great. I enjoy the website, too.

    By Ellen Shockro on Mar 7, 2011

  6. Hi Davi! I’m a new (1 year) female golfer, who chooses to play the first set of men’s tees or if golfing as a single, hit off whatever tee the rest of the “boys” are playing. I’ve encountered some nice gents, who applaud my drive, literally. And some men who, when I out drive them at 230 yards and straight, simply ruins their psyche, and pisses them off to no end. I’ve gotten glares, comments about teeing off where I “belong”, and downright harassment to ruin my game. All because a woman can kick their butt off the tee. And when it gets into the feather fluffing, I throw into the mix I’ve only been golfing a year…. Ooh, that really gets their goat. So amen, to women golfers! Get out there and show them you are just as good, if not better!

    By Pam on Feb 11, 2012

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