Shorter tees for women wimpy or wise? Alice Dye weighs in

Now that the USGA has ruled on the long putter, golf course architect Alice Dye is hoping that the rulers of the game might next declare war on long courses for women. 

Image of Alice Dye with Pete at Kiawah IslandNot even a visit to a Florida hospital this week for some tests could muzzle Alice Dye’s latest crusade. While husband Pete and Dye Designs go on constructing confounding courses that men deem “Dye-abolical,” 86-year-old Alice Dye has set her sights on the problematic USGA-PGA of America “Tee It Forward” appeal asking players to move up and have more fun. 

“I’m trying to work with the USGA on this play it forward, but, where are you going to put us?” she asks, referring to the average woman player, with an average forward tee of more than 5,500 yards. “Until the USGA gets interested in women’s golf and starts saying that women should have two tees, we’re never going to get them. I don’t think it’s dawned on them. They’re big on Tee It Forward, but we’re already as forward as we can get.”

Dye, the first woman president of the American Society of Golf Course Architects, has for 25 years been advocating the construction of two tees designed for the average and above-average woman, one of them in the 5,400-5,800 range and the other as far below that as 4,600. When she and Pete started building courses 50 years ago, she said, it was typical to see the red tees, the so-called ladies’ tees, as far back as 6,000 yards. But, she says now, that was a different “lady” back then, unlike the broad range of players today who drive the ball anywhere from 130 to 230 yards.

The type of women who played when we started were what I call sportswomen,” Alice Dye said. “They played hockey in high school, they fished or hunted and did sports of that kind. They were physically stronger than a lot of the women that play today. Today it’s a much broader range. More women are playing. We have lots of people my age, in their 80s, but we don’t hit it as far. Then we have all the girls that have gone through Title IX, that go to the gym and work out, they’re super strong. Even though they’re not terribly athletic, they can hit a ball a long way.”

Alice, a scratch player back in the day who won many trophies, made herself at home at that distance. She’s now a 14, which might be a record low in her age group.

“I’m delighted to still be able to play,” she said. “I play well enough I still enjoy it. And even if I don’t play well I still enjoy it.”

WHERE ALICE DYE LIKES TO PLAY

She likes the 5,000-yard course today, citing La Quinta’s PGA West Stadium (5,092), and where possible would like to see even shorter tees. The “Two Tee System for Women” she has formulated recommends yardage ranges for par 3s, 4s and 5s that are significantly lower than the USGA’s rigid prescriptions. USGA standards could apply to the tees suitable for the women who drive the ball 200 yards or so.

This is not a new cause for Alice Dye, but the USGA is a new target because, she feels, women themselves have opposed the shortening of golf courses and the USGA needs to step up and play advocate for them.

Jan Bel Jan, who became the second woman member of the ASGCA after Dye, notes that, “It’s often difficult to let women know that it’s OK to be on a green in regulation. This is important: Too often, they feel shortchanged if they are on a par-4 in two shots.

“Alice has observed how men will play the member tees 50 weeks a year and then go to a resort course where the PGA Tour plays once a year and say, ‘I want to play it the way the pros play it,’ and go to the back tees. But, truly, to play it the way the pros do means they would be hitting the same club into the green. What they’re doing instead is playing the course the way the women do, without the possibility of reaching the green in regulation.”

Dye says some women scorn shorter tees because they believe the game should be hard.  “I think women would like the fun, but they don’t want to play the wimp tees,” she said. “That’s what the women who don’t like the short tees (just under 5,200 yards) we put in at Glenmoor in Colorado call them. I’ve worked so hard to try to get women to have two tees. They just didn’t do it. They just wouldn’t do it. So I don’t know.”

Dye relishes telling a story of her visit to an established, exclusive golf club in Florida, where she showed a committee where they could install some more forward tees.  “Then I went into the locker room,” she said, “and here’s this woman, covered in sweat, her bosoms are dripping and her hair is all kinky and curly, and she’s just a mess because it’s so hot out there. She said to me, ‘Alice, we’re not going to play those forward tees of yours.’ I said, ‘That’s fine, I really think two tees is what we should have.’ She said, ‘That’s not the problem, the problem is we’re 9-holers and if we play those short tees, we’d finish too soon.’ ”

AND WHAT IS WRONG WITH FINISHING FASTER?

Bel Jan says that the promise of a better pace of play helps make a case for shorter tees at courses planning renovations, which have been buttering the bread of Bel Jan and other golf course architects during these tough times in the golf industry. 

With the markers forward, women should need less strokes,” she said. “That should improve the pace of play, giving the course the ability to have additional tee times and increase revenue.”

Dye says it wouldn’t hurt for the golf magazines to include front-tee playability as a factor in their ratings and travel stories. But, mainly she’s hoping for the USGA to adjust the attitudes of women unjustly worried that their handicaps will fall without cause (slope adjustments take this into account in the handicap system) or that they won’t be able to have a fair match against an opponent who prefers a longer tee (see GottaGoGolf’s report on the 6 steps to a fair match with anyone).

“They just don’t understand they’re still going to win the little pencil holder on ladies day, because the handicap will be adjusted for the people playing forward,” Dye said. “They can’t get that concept. So they won’t let anybody play shorter yardage. It’s just ridiculous but that’s the way it is.”

Readers: If you had a choice between tees at 5,400 yards and tees at 4,800 yards, which would you choose? Please comment below, and include your index.

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