As some golfers know, the PGA of America and the United States Golf Association joined forces last year on an initiative called “Tee It Forward,” intended to make the amateur golf game more closely resemble the version that appears on television.
The concept is based upon a math drill by Adams Golf founder Barney Adams, who noted the staggering differential between the length of professional and amateur players. His premise was that recreational golfers would be far less frustrated if they could hit approach shots using the same clubs their professional counterparts would pull.
The numbers speak — or rather, shout — for themselves. Last year, the average tour pro crushed the driver about 290 yards, while the typical amateur — whose distances fluctuate wildly — hit it more like 225. However, that’s not the end of it. Even from the same distance, a typical recreational golfer will pull two clubs more than a professional.
For instance, while most weekend players hit a 7-iron roughly 140 yards, the typical pro launches it about 170 yards. In other words, on a par 4, amateurs are giving up approximately 95 yards in two swings. It is no wonder casual players hit so few greens in regulation and rarely get an approach shot close to the hole; this disparity is equivalent to letting professional basketball players shoot from the free-throw line while the recreation-league players have to shoot from outside the arc.
With that said, there is resistance among some players to move up a set of tees. While the real culprit is ego, the oft-stated reason is that playing from 6,000 yards, which is the approximate distance recommended for those who drive the ball 225 yards off the tee, makes the game too easy. While the game of golf has many descriptors, most of which are unprintable, “too easy” is not among them.
Siena Golf Club is a perfect course on which to take the “Tee It Forward” approach for a test drive. It features five tee boxes, the middle one of which plays 6,146 yards, a good distance for this experiment. From that perch, none of the par 4s exceeds 400 yards. However, that advantage is offset by nearly 100 bunkers, many of which line the fairways.
Siena opens with a par 4 that plays 420 from the back but a manageable 376 yards from the blues. The drive must avoid the right fairway bunkers at all cost; from the beach, it is virtually impossible to reach the green with an approach.
Even from the fairway, the putting surface is hardly accessible. A pair of bunkers, one of which effectively fronts all but the green’s outermost edges, stands ready to devour any misplaced shots.
With regard to the bunkers, although one must drive to the far edge of the driving range to reach the practice bunker, it is well worth the trip. The bunkers are so cavernous and the sand so powdery and deep, that it takes a few swings to get a feel for the terrain.
At 448 yards from the tips and 397 from the blues, the par-4 fourth hole is Siena’s toughest, and a perfect example of why “Tee It Forward” has merit. Even assuming a solid tee shot, most golfers playing from the back could not reach the green if they hit a driver off the deck.
Moreover, the second shot plays uphill to a green defended against run-up approaches by another sandy barricade. Essentially, played from the wrong tees, this is a short par 5.
No. 8 is an actual par 5, but not the TV version that lets players hit driver-pitching wedge to the green. Playing 563 yards from the back and a still-respectable 513 yards from the blue tees, this hole features more sand than Maui.
Only the most prodigious strikers of the golf ball should consider trying for the green in two; everyone else should take care to avoid the first set of fairway bunkers, then lay up to a comfortable wedge distance on the second shot, leaving only the solitary green-side bunker in play. It is rare to see a par 5 rated among a course’s most difficult holes, but this one definitely warrants the ranking.
After ignoring the construction zone that is currently No. 9 (it should be tidied up by early summer), it is time to begin the road home with the par-4 10th, another beast whose length — it plays 425 yards from the gold and 397 from the blue — does not fully reflect its difficulty. Those who play the middle set should note that the fairway ends abruptly at about 300 yards.
However, the only unpardonable sin from the tee box is catching either one of the fairway bunkers. Trying for the green from either of those two beaches is foolhardy, as it requires a desert carry from a lie that tends to induce fat iron shots. Even from good position, don’t be tempted by a front pin placement, because the front green-side bunker makes for an exceptionally difficult up and down.
While not the longest or most difficult par 3 on the course, No. 14 is unquestionably the most tranquil. Appropriately nicknamed “Solitude,” this 192-yard hole (166 from the blues) showcases the Red Rock Canyon and is contoured to accentuate that backdrop. The hole’s uphill orientation dictates half a club extra, but there is relatively little danger around the green.
Siena closes with a par 4 that plays an even 400 yards from the tips and 372 from the blue tees. While the fairway’s left side is wide open and kicks balls back toward the center, the second bunker requires only 202 yards to carry from the blue for those who prefer the direct flight to Birdietown.
Some caution is warranted on the approach, as water laps at the green’s right edge. While Siena’s greens are a bit bumpy, they aren’t overly fast, so players can take an aggressive stroke.
With the new year comes new goals, whether reaching a single-digit handicap or breaking 90 for the first time. Given that the slope and rating for golf courses is factored into the handicapping system, playing from the appropriate set of tees isn’t cheating. However, it sure is satisfying to hit an approach shot with something other than a hybrid or fairway wood.
Siena Golf Club is located at 10575 Siena Monte Ave., just off the Las Vegas Beltway and Tropicana Avenue.
For more information or to reserve a tee time, call 341-9200 or visit www.sienagolfclub.com.