Which golf-course length best suits your ability? This handy chart will tell you

tee boxes on golf course

How far do you hit your 7-iron?

This is not a rhetorical question. The answer matters. It has implications for your enjoyment of the game as well as for your pace of play.

How do we know this? Let’s back up a bit.

According to the USGA, in a survey of more than 700 PGA and LPGA professionals, 92 percent said that it is “extremely common” or “somewhat common” for golfers to play courses from too far back. The average duffer bites off more than he or she can chew. That isn’t just opinion. Scoring data shows that roughly 75 percent of female golfers and 50 percent of male golfers play from distances that exceed their ability.

The consequences are two-fold: rounds become time-consuming slogs and golf itself becomes less fun.

No one in their right mind wants this. Surveys indicate that most golfers want to play from the proper tees, and that the staff at most courses are keen to help point players to the proper boxes.

But how do you know which distances are right for which golfers? Some courses offer recommendations based on handicaps. Others, like Bethpage Black, in New York, post warnings by the first tee alerting players to the challenges that lie ahead.

But those aren’t highly scientific systems.

Which brings us back to our question at the top, and a new data-driven initiative by the USGA that aims to help golfers select the proper tees. It is called, appropriately, Best Tees.

You can read more about the methodology here.

But the upshot is this: In collaboration with other leading golf organizations, including the PGA and LPGA, the USGA spent several years crunching numbers and surveying golfers — research that produced all kinds of insights about hitting distances, handicaps, player preferences and more.

Those insights, in turn, gave rise to guidelines as to where golfers should be playing, based…you guessed it, on 7-iron distances.

If, for instance, you fly your 7-iron 140 yards, the best course length for you is 5,900-6,100 yards. If your 7-iron only goes 125, you should move up and play from 5,400-5,600 yards. And so on. If you hit your 7-iron 80 yards or less, you should be playing from 3,500-3,700 yards. Or maybe you’re bomber and can bash your 7-iron more than 170 yards. In that case, feel free to take on courses of 6,700 yards and up.

best tees chart from usga
The optimal tees for your 7-iron distance. USGA

Why not try it? You’ll probably have fun. You might play faster.

As for your putting, sorry. We can’t help you there.

Josh Sens

Golf.com Editor

A golf, food and travel writer, Josh Sens has been a GOLF Magazine contributor since 2004 and now contributes across all of GOLF’s platforms. His work has been anthologized in The Best American Sportswriting. He is also the co-author, with Sammy Hagar, of Are We Having Any Fun Yet: the Cooking and Partying Handbook.