I'm amazed at the discussion this is getting. I've had a so many emails as comments here. There are 11 comments on yesterday's blog.
For definition purposes: An undulating tee is not one where two flat areas are divided by a slope still cut at tee height – an undulating tee is one that offers intentional uneven lies usually in the form of a side-hill lie. Just to make sure we are on the same page.
OK, let’s look at both sides of the argument using a few comments I received.
First, I got this email for Jeff Mingay, “I was speaking with Dick Zokol today, and he asked me if I saw your blog this morning. Zokol says he loves the idea of uneven tees, and that he always looks for uneven spots on tees, created mostly through topdressing and maintenance of course, when playing. He chooses uneven lies depending on the type of ball flight he wants. He says other PGA Tour pros and high-caliber golfers he knows do the same.” (I got his permission to share this – thanks Dick). Dick clearly uses the opportunity of an uneven lie to shape the ball when it suits the situation. Kelly also mentions he does the same in a comment yesterday. So there is a case for good players taking advantage of this situation.
The second comment supporting the idea is from a man who has very strong architectural opinions. He believes that the game needed more variety and more shot-making opportunities. He felt that the use of undulating tees would allow the players a chance to use their imaginations - which touches on the above comments. His idea is that good players should be made to hit from un-even lies since this further identifies the abilities of a great player - which is the idea of a fade lie when a draw is required. I've identified that as an idea to generate pressure - but I'm not sure I like the idea of doing that intentionally with tee slopes.
The last comment came from a superintendent I saw last night and it was all about logistics. He mentioned that if you have uneven tees, you will need to treat the sites like greens to avoid localized drying and wet spots. He saw the need to drain the tees and liekly use non-native soils in most cases except with exceptionally well drained soils. He wondered how much bigger they would need to be to deal with wear since nobody would accept a downhill lie and most people would gravitate to the flat areas. He wondered if the extra maintenance would be worth the few players that would actually embrace the concept. He finally finished up asking me why anyone would want to build this when a vast majority of golfers can’t use the feature.
I think philisophically we should assume that uneven tees be restricted to only the back tees. But that’s not the case in each instance if I understand how it has been used. I had it pointed out to me by a friend that Bill Coore has used the idea at Bandon Trails – and I would love to have a confirmation from someone. I can point to Pete Dye using the idea intentionally at The Pete Dye Golf Club on the short par three – which I can remember the numbering. I would love for the architects to spell out whether it was for pressure, variety, shot-making or opportunity.
I work with quite a few clubs - most of them spending money to level tees (which means a fall in with the natural slope at just over 1%) but none of them have yet spent money to unlevel a tee