What is the Rule of 85 in Golf? Explained!

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There are a few non-official rules in golf. You won’t see these listed on the USGA website but are often used in local golf clubs.

One of these is the Rule of 85 – but what is this in golf and what other information should you be aware of that relates to this long-standing rule?

Let’s firstly tackle this rule and then move on to other important information relating to tee position, handicaps, and age.

What is the Rule of 85 in Golf?

The rule of 85 is explained as a simple maths equation to determine what tee position you should hit from. The 85 golf rule formula is that if your age + current handicap is greater or equal to 85 then you should use the senior tees or the next closest set of tees.

The senior tees are usually marked as yellow or gold on the golf course and it is often a good idea to check with the club pro in advance if you are unsure about the rule of 85 and if it applies to you.

Many local clubs use this rule in an informal way or groups of friends decide on this rule when playing together and as stated it is important to remember that it’s not a legally enforceable rule as indicated by either the R&A or USGA handbook for golf rules.

The idea behind the rule is to properly assign a player to a tee box position who has both a high handicap and senior in age or a mixture of both.

When you are younger, your muscles are stronger and so you have the ability to hit the ball further distances.

As you get older, your muscles don’t work as well anymore and so they will pull less on the clubhead which reduces distance.

The rule of 85 in golf helps to bridge the decline in age by helping with a more forward tee position.

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How Do You Know What Golf Tee Box to Use?

Golf tee box positions are usually indicated by colors and you should play a tee position based on how far you hit an average drive. The USGA does not have set rules on tee positions but advises that players shoot from a tee box that closely matches their ability.

That’s not really that helpful though is it?

Thankfully the color system works quite well in golf where you tee off based on the color box tee area. The following color is used in most golf clubs across North America:

  • Green Tees (closest to the hole, some courses do not have green tees): Junior golfers.
  • Red Tees (the 2nd placed tees closest to the hole): Women golfers.
  • Gold or Yellow Tees (second after red tees in position): Senior golfers.
  • White Tees (usually placed in the middle of the tee area, meant for middle to high handicappers: Men’s golfers.
  • Blue Tees (one tee position back from the furthest away): Men’s tournament golfers or low handicappers.
  • Black Tees (furthest tee position from the hole): For PGA professional golfers, also known as the “tips” position.

This system reduces arguing both in the clubhouse and out on the course and has proven to be an effective way of determining tee box positioning in golf.

What Tees Should I Play Based on My Handicap?

You should play the white tees if you are a high to mid handicapper and better players who have a low handicap should play on the blue tees. Women golfers nearly always play on the red tees and seniors should play on the yellow/gold tees.

You can also use your driving distance as a viable alternative to the handicap-based tee box position system.

This tee position by distance method works by using the base drive distance of 200 yards. This figure is then used to determine your tee position, if you drive the ball 200 yards then you start on the red tees.

The increments go up in 25 yards so if you shoot 250 yards off the tee then you would play on the blue tees with a final figure of 275 yards plus would enable you to qualify for the black tees.

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Normal men’s golfers who have a high handicap shoot around 225 yards off the tee and this would mean that they are classed as white tee box drivers.

At What Age Do You Hit from Senior Tees?

There is a club rule that you use the senior tees when you are aged 70 years old. This is called the age rule, most golf clubs in the US and Europe adhere to this non-official agreement and this has proven to be quite effective in regulating tee positions for older players.

This rule can change though depending on what state you play your golf and it’s always best to get in touch with your local state golf association for further clarification on the age rule.

Some clubs lower the age to 60 or even 50 depending on how difficult the course is or if there are specific tournament rules that apply to individual competitions.

How Far Behind the Tee Markers Can You Hit the Ball?

The simple rule of two club-lengths maximum applies to how far back you can place your tee behind the tee markers inside a tee box. Many players like to give themselves more room depending on what par the hole is and other factors like slope and weather conditions can influence tee position.

What about pacing the ball in front of the tee markers – is this allowed?

Not, you cannot place your ball ahead of your designated tee box position. This will result in a penalty stroke of two shots as stated by rule 6.XX by the USGA.

Doing this is also considered to be bad sportsmanship and can get you banned from your local golf club so always stick to the rules when playing from your tees!

The Undefined Rules of Golf

Yes, golf has some non official rules that are widely accepted such as the rule of 85 in golf. Hopefully, this guide has given you a sufficient understanding of these less known golf rules to make your rounds more fun and enjoyable.

At the end of the day, stick to the rules, have fun, and don’t argue with your playing partners about what is in fact right and wrong – it’s golf after all!