Golf Courses Are Not Fair To Most Women Who Play! Here’s Why.

If you are a woman golfer with an average swing, and an average swing speed, chances are almost every golf course built today is too long for you to play and get to the greens in regulation. And there is very little you can do about it, short of creating your own tees on every course you play.

golf for womenThe subject of fairness in golf for women was the focus of several workshops at the recent PGA Merchandise Show. One of the panelists was Arthur D. Little who, with Jann E. Lemming, devised  the “fairness test” for golf courses. In the following article, written by Karen Moraghan (republished here with permission from the issue is explored in detail.

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Women come up short in golf’s ‘Fairness Test’: Immense implications for golf


Editor’s Note: the following reports on an important and  overlooked problem whose solution could just help the  game and the business of golf.

According to the “fairness test” devised by Arthur D. Little  and Jann E. Leeming, women golfers are being asked  to play courses that are generally more than 1,000 yards  too long for them to reach greens in regulation. In a  recent posting on their blog, Golf With Women, Little  asks the following questions:

  • How fair is a 5,600-yard course for the average woman?
  • What would you think if we told you that a 5,600-yard course would be equivalent to an 8,400-yard course for the average man?
  • How about an 11,200-yard course for Matt Kuchar?

If the average woman should play from 5,600 yards, the average LPGA player should be playing a 9,600-yard course and a good male amateur should play a 10,400-yard course, Little contends.

“That’s how the math works if ‘fair’ is defined as having to hit the same clubs to reach greens in regulation from their respective tees,” Little writes. “This concept is what we define as the ‘fairness test.’ Sorry, Dustin Johnson, you are at 12,320 yards based on your average drive of 308 yards.”

According to Little and Leeming, the “average women golfer” hits her tee shot 140 yards. Hence, based on the  data they have collected in their research, the length of the course she should play in order to have the  opportunity to reach greens in regulation is 4,200 yards. Note that this is 30 times her average drive, which, Little adds, turns out to be a very good rule of thumb for  everyone.

He goes on to note that the average male golfer hits a drive of 210 yards, while Kuchar’s average drive of 280 yards is within a few of yards of the PGA Tour average in  2010.

If the woman is at 4,200 yards, the average male golfer  should be playing tees at 6,300 and the average PGA pro should be at 8,400 yards,” he writes.  “These  yardages seem much more reasonable, even though  8,400 yards is approximately 900 yards longer than the  longest courses played on the PGA Tour.  No wonder  those guys are good!”

A graph that accompanies the blog posting shows that the average woman is asked to play courses that are generally more than 1,000 yards too long for her to meet the “fairness test” of reaching greens in regulation. The yardage for the average male is just about right, observes Little, who adds that better players usually play courses that are close to 1,000 yards shorter than would  be indicated by multiplying their average drive by 30.

“The problem is that there are very few 4,200-yard golf  courses in the United States, never mind the world,” Little writes.  “As a result, most women golfers do not  have the choice of a set of tees that gives them a fair chance to hit greens in regulation and thus give them  the opportunity to score well.”

Little and Leeming believe the idea of courses with sets of tees that fit players with a wide range of driver swing speeds (from 60 to 110-plus mph) is critical. He writes that courses built (or retrofitted) this way will be more fun  for all and much faster to play, and points to Old MacDonald Course at Bandon Dunes as one such shining example.

“We neither realistically believe courses will be built that are long enough to ‘fit’ players with faster than average swing speed, nor do we support such an effort – 7,500  yards is plenty long enough,” he writes.

Little offers this advice for players when choosing their  yardage: Play a course where the yardage is approximately 30  times your average drive.  If a course is longer than this,  it will be a lot less enjoyable. If you don’t really know how long you hit your average drive (most people significantly overestimate), use two times your average nine-iron yardage. If you are among  the great majority (98 percent) of golfers, this will be  accurate. If your 30 times calculation results in a number shorter  than the most forward set of tees at the course you are  going to play, Little encourages them to read the “Move  On Up” post to see how to deal with this situation.

The complete “What’s Fair?” posting, and  accompanying graph, as well as other postings, can be  found by visiting

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In December of 2010, Little and Leeming published what they are calling “The 65% Solution” which is a simple method for determing the total length of the course players should be playing. It’s a good read and worth your consideration.

What do you think? Are today’s golf courses fair for the average woman golfer to play?

  17 comments for “Golf Courses Are Not Fair To Most Women Who Play! Here’s Why.

  1. Graham Blades
    October 28, 2018 at 4:03 am

    I play in the UK and we are even more fixated in playing traditional courses from ‘our’ correct tees. Red for women, yellow for casual golf, white for men’s competition! Discussions I’ve had with men and women usually end with “we’ve always played from those tees”!
    A further issue I believe is the “failure” of the women’s professional tours to be on an eguivalent footing to the male tours. The longest hitting ladies’ at pro level are hitting into par 5 holes with clubs that are 4 and 5 clubs longer than male pros, this results in a less ‘entertaining’ spectacle than ladies tour golf deserves to be!
    I believe that if the LPGA and the LET set an example, both they, and the rest of women’s golf would benefit greatly!
    But, then again, we’ve always played like that!!

  2. Don
    July 28, 2017 at 2:41 pm

    I play with a group of senior golfers from WI. Our average drives are from 150-180 yards. Handicaps range from 16-24. Several years ago I started agitating to play more forward tees, and it has paid off, not, however, without a bit of whining.

    So now we “set up” the courses we play at about 5400 yards, either by playing the forward tees and going back on several holes or playing the medium tees and playing several holes at the forward tees.

    One of our guys “adjusts” the course every week, and it works out great. It does make things a bit difficult for people who keep an official USGA handicap, but the vast majority of weekend type players do so, so not a major problem

    I see so many of the senior players in AZ, where I winter, playing white tees when they would be much better off playing the forward (red) tees. We also have white-red combos which could help a bit.

    Keep up the good work, and work with golf course managers to promote this. Thanks.

    Don from AZ/WI

    • August 27, 2017 at 11:39 am

      Thanks. Sounds like your golf group has a great solution to the problem. I think if more clubs required golfers to declare their handicap before play and assigned the correct tee to each golfer, it would solve a lot of the angst. Let’s face it. For most golfers it’s an ego thing. But unless a person with a 24+ handicap is super strong, he should not be playing from the tips. Move forward, and you’ll have a better game. (And this goes for the ladies who try to hit it long as well.)

  3. Barbara Nuckols
    September 25, 2011 at 3:31 am

    I agree most courses are too long for women. Plus most women, no matter their age, play from the same red tees. My home course used to be the longest in our area at 5300 yds. for ladies. The red tee’s were on the same tee box as the senior tees. It was hard to score well for most ladies. They moved the red tees up so 4500 yds. Now more fun to play and easier to score well. Lots of articles out now “To play it Forward” so maybe there’s hope!

  4. Brian Allman
    February 21, 2011 at 1:59 pm

    Pat, I totally agree with your last assessment to Jayson’s comments. I understand his point but when you consider that the average male golf score is 90+ and the average score for the women player is 106+ shouldn’t the point be to better address the largest percentage of golfers (which could exceed 90% of all players) not the tournament players. Also, while technology has increased hitting distance, it’s a fact that it has not affected scoring.
    Regarding the feminist comment, I’m always amazed what really drives people’s opinions…

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  6. Jayson
    February 17, 2011 at 3:50 pm

    It appears the author of this post suffers from some basic cognitive illusions. It doesn’t matter if the golf course is designed for men. 2 women in competition have exactly the same obstacles. I have yet to hear of a golf tournament where it was men vs. women. More feminist claptrap.

    • Pat Mullaly
      February 17, 2011 at 5:10 pm

      Jayson, first thanks for your response. But the issue is not a question of competition — whether between men and women or women and women… it’s the fact that most golf courses are simply too long for most average weekend golfers — male or female — to get to the green in regulation. In order to do so, you have to be hitting between 180 and 220 yards off the tee. Most weekend warriors can’t do it … so you end up with slow play and a lot of disgruntled golfers. Move the tees up and rate them accordingly and give golfers the option of a new “forward” tee from which to play.

  7. February 17, 2011 at 2:30 pm

    It think the problem is technology is advancing so much that golf courses are being lengthened to accommodate the extra distance everyone is hitting the ball off the tee. It’s probably more noticeable at men’s level because of the faster swing speeds but still effects women as well.

    Tough one to find a solution to other than getting the women’s tees adjusted. Failing that really working on the your long game, driver and hybrids to assist with reaching these longer holes.

    • Pat Mullaly
      February 17, 2011 at 3:05 pm

      You are probably right Troy, that technology is driving the longer course designs… but even so, if a course were to put in forward tees that would allow your average woman, beginner or senior golfer to reach the green in regulation, call them the “fast tees” if you like, and then get those tees properly rated for handicap purposes, then no matter who plays from them, the player could enter a legitimate handicap score. The result would be players more satisfied with their game, and probably faster rounds of golf, as women and seniors and beginners would not have all those extra strokes just to reach the greens. I think it is worth further investigation.

  8. February 17, 2011 at 1:47 pm

    Pat, thanks for sharing this! This might explain some of my scores! Great thing to look out for when researching courses.

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  13. Brian Allman
    February 15, 2011 at 6:16 pm

    Pat, it’s article like this that have me returning your your Blog day after day, thanks for sharing it. I’ll re-post this on my site, it’s knowledge that every woman golfer should have and understand and information which I believe will help make players enjoy the game more. The odds to score well are stacked against the average woman golfer from the first tee forward…so the question is, how do we go about changing that?

    • Pat
      February 15, 2011 at 7:53 pm

      Thanks Brian for your continuing support. You are a fine advocate for women’s golf!!! Glad to see you willing to “stretch” the envelope!

      Best way to change the status quo is to encourage golf courses to rethink the position of those forward tee boxes… so that the average woman golfer, seniors and beginners can have half a chance. I’ve heard one golf course calls their new set of tees the “fast” tees. Not only does it encourage women to play from them, but they are finding that a lot of guys who want a quick round will play from them as well. Biggest challenge is to get those tees rated, so that scores can be entered into the GHIN system.

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