Tiny but mighty, the golf tee is an important piece of golf gear. Tees have been a part of the game almost since the beginning, evolving throughout the centuries into what we use today. In this guide, we’ll share a brief history of the golf tee, discuss when and when not to use a golf tee, and explain how to pick the perfect tee for your game.
A Brief History of the Golf Tee
The earliest form of the golf tee can be traced back to the 17th century in Scotland, where the modern game of golf originated. In those times, golfers would play on natural terrain and would create small mounds of sand or dirt to elevate the ball for the tee shots. These mounds were known as "teeing grounds."
As the game evolved, players began using pegs or nails to prop up the ball instead of natural mounds until the first patent for a rubber tee was granted to Dr. William Lowell in 1899. This invention provided a more convenient and reusable alternative to pegs or nails. Rubber tees allowed golfers to easily place the ball at a consistent height, reducing variability and increasing consistency in tee shots.
In the early 20th century, golf tees made of wood became popular. These tees were typically made from birch wood and were designed to be disposable after a single use. The advent of plastic materials later in the mid-20th century led to the development of durable, reusable plastic tees, which are widely used today.
Over time, golf tees have undergone various design modifications and innovations. Modern tees are available in different lengths to accommodate different club and player preferences. They have become an essential and standardized part of the game, enabling golfers to achieve consistent tee shots and optimize their performance.
When Should You Use a Golf Tee?
You might be surprised to learn that using a tee is actually optional, depending on both golfer preference and situation. Golfers typically use a golf tee when starting a hole on the tee box. The tee helps elevate the ball from the ground and makes it easier to hit. In general, golfers use a tee for their tee shots on par-3, par-4, and par-5 holes, where they are allowed to hit the ball from a tee box. The tee provides a consistent height for the ball and allows you to achieve maximum distance and control.
Learn more: What is the Average Distance for Each Golf Club
Can You Use a Golf Tee Outside of the Tee Box?
No, golf tees are not used outside of the designated tee box. The purpose of the tee box is to provide a consistent starting point for all golfers on the hole.
Once you’ve hit your tee shot from the tee box and are progressing down the fairway, the use of a tee is no longer allowed. You are required to play the ball as it lies on the fairway, rough, or other areas of the course without the assistance of a tee. The only exception would be if the ball ends up in a temporary situation, such as being embedded in the ground or coming to rest on a closely mown area that is deemed to be a "teeing ground" by local rules or tournament regulations.
Golf Tee Lengths
Golf tees come in a variety of lengths that work best with certain clubs in specific situations. Tee height is generally a personal preference, but a good rule of thumb is to choose a tee that elevates the ball halfway above the clubhead.
The maximum length allowed for a golf tee is 4 inches. A 4-inch tee raises the ball high above the grass, allowing golfers to get the club directly under the ball for maximum lift. For this reason, 4-inch tees are best suited for driver shots, especially ones with large clubheads like a 460cc driver.
A 3.25-inch tee is also commonly used with drivers as it lifts the ball higher above the grass. A 3.25-inch tee is also ideal for longer holes where distance is necessary.
1.5-inch and 2.125-inch Tees
Smaller golf tees like the 1.5-inch and 2.125-inch tees are ideal for smaller clubs and shorter holes where distance isn’t as important. Though these tee lengths aren’t as common, you may want to keep a few around, just in case.
Learn more: How to Hit High and Low Golf Shots
Types of Golf Tees
Golf tees can be made of a variety of materials, each with its own set of benefits.
Traditional golf tees have been made from wood for many years. The most common wood used is birch, but tees can also be made from other types of hardwood. Wooden tees are biodegradable and offer a natural feel.
In recent years, plastic tees have gained popularity. They are often made from durable materials like polycarbonate or polypropylene. Plastic tees tend to be more durable than wooden tees and can withstand repeated use without breaking as easily. They are also available in a variety of colors and heights. However, plastic tees are not biodegradable, so it’s not ideal to lose these tees on the course.
Bamboo tees are an eco-friendly alternative to traditional wood or plastic tees. They are considered more sustainable than wooden tees because bamboo is a fast-growing and renewable resource. Bamboo tees provide a similar feel to wooden tees but with added strength and durability, comparable to plastic tees.
Rubber golf tees are still around, though these are most commonly used on driving ranges and practice facilities, or by golfers who prefer a reusable tee option. Rubber tees are styled differently than traditional tees. Instead of a pointed end, rubber tees have a flat bottom. For this reason, rubber tees are ideal when the ground is too hard for traditional wooden or plastic tees.
How to Choose the Right Golf Tee
Choosing the right golf tee involves considering several factors to optimize your game. Here are some key considerations when selecting a golf tee.
The height of your golf tee influences the angle of attack and launch conditions of your tee shots. The tee should allow you to strike the ball at the optimal height for your swing and the club you're using. Generally, for driver shots, the ball should be teed up higher to promote an upward strike. For irons, a lower tee height or no tee at all may be appropriate.
Wooden tees are traditional and offer a natural feel, while plastic tees tend to be more durable and reusable. Bamboo tees provide a healthy mix of both, with the benefit of being eco-friendly. Choose the material that suits your preference and playing style.
Ultimately, personal preference plays a role in choosing a tee. Some golfers may prefer the feel of a certain material or have a preferred tee height based on their swing characteristics and comfort.
Learn more: Ultimate Guide to Golf Course Layout
Tee Off With Confidence
Don’t get too caught up trying to figure out the best golf tee for your game. As far as golf equipment goes, tees are the most inexpensive. There’s plenty of opportunity for you to experiment with different tee lengths and types to find one that works for you.
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