Golf Tees 101: Everything You Need to Know But Were Afraid to Ask

Are all golf tees the same? Does it make sense to mix things up? Before you throw a box of these in your shopping cart at the local sporting goods store, maybe it’s time to get to know them a little better.

Whether you’re a fresh-faced newbie or someone with a bit more experience, tees are more than just a plain old ball platform.

Let’s see what the buzz is about.

What are Golf Tees?

We know that most people are quite familiar with what these are, but if you’re new to the game it’s worth mentioning. 

A golf tee is a small, pin-like object used to elevate a golf ball above the ground before striking it with a club. Typically made from wood or plastic, the tee features a concave cup at the top to hold the ball in place and a sharp point at the bottom to easily penetrate the turf. 

Golf tees come in various lengths, with the most common size being 2.75 inches, although shorter and longer tees are available to accommodate different club types and player preferences.

The primary purpose of a golf tee is to facilitate better contact between the clubface and the ball, particularly when using longer clubs like drivers or woods. By raising the ball slightly off the ground, the tee promotes a more efficient transfer of energy from the club to the ball, resulting in increased distance and accuracy. 

This elevation also allows players to make cleaner contact with the ball, as the clubface is less likely to hit the ground before striking the ball, minimizing the risk of producing a "fat" shot.

Golf tees are most commonly used on the first shot of each hole, known as the tee shot or drive, where maximum distance is often desired. However, tees can also be employed on shorter holes or when using fairway woods or hybrids from the tee box. 

While not all shots require the use of a tee, such as those played from the fairway or rough, the golf tee remains an essential piece of equipment for golfers of all skill levels.

Types of Golf Tees


Wood tees have been a staple in the game of golf for decades, offering golfers a reliable and affordable way to elevate their ball for a better shot. There are two main types of wood tees: traditional wood tees and compressed wood tees. Each type has its own unique characteristics, advantages, and disadvantages that golfers should consider when selecting the best tee for their game.

Traditional wood tees are made from natural hardwoods such as maple. These tees are often hand-crafted and have a classic appearance. 

wood golf tee

They are biodegradable and decompose naturally over time, making them a moderately environmentally friendly choice. Traditional wood tees are also relatively inexpensive compared to other types of tees. However, they are prone to breaking more easily, especially when used with high-speed swings or when struck off-center. This can lead to inconsistency in ball placement and may require you to replace them more frequently.

Compressed wood tees, on the other hand, are made by compressing sawdust and wood fibers under high pressure. This process creates a denser, more durable tee that is less likely to break upon impact. 

Compressed wood tees often have a more uniform shape and a smoother surface than traditional wood tees, which can help reduce friction between the tee and the ball, potentially leading to longer, straighter drives. 

These tees are also weather-resistant and can withstand exposure to moisture and humidity better than traditional wood tees. However, compressed wood tees are typically more expensive than their traditional counterparts and may not have the same classic look that some golfers prefer.

Both traditional and compressed wood tees offer the advantage of being environmentally friendly, as they are made from renewable resources and decompose naturally over time. This is in contrast to (standard) plastic tees, which can take hundreds of years to break down and contribute to environmental waste. Wood tees also provide a softer surface for the ball to rest on, which can help reduce the risk of damaging the clubhead upon impact.

When choosing between traditional and compressed wood tees, golfers should consider factors such as their swing speed, budget, and personal preferences. Those with slower swing speeds may find that traditional wood tees provide sufficient durability, while golfers with faster swings may benefit from the added strength of compressed wood tees.

Plastic Tees

Plastic tees have become a popular choice among golfers due to their durability, affordability, and convenience. These tees come in two main varieties: standard plastic tees and newer biodegradable plastic tees.

Standard plastic tees are the most common type of plastic tee available on the market. They are made from durable, non-biodegradable plastics such as polyethylene or polypropylene. These tees are designed to withstand repeated use and are less likely to break than traditional wooden tees. 

They come in a wide range of colors, lengths, and designs, allowing golfers to choose the tee that best suits their preferences and playing style. Standard plastic tees are also very affordable, making them an attractive option for budget-conscious golfers.

However, the main drawback of standard plastic tees is their environmental impact. Since they are made from non-biodegradable materials, they can persist in the environment for hundreds of years after being discarded. This can contribute to plastic pollution on golf courses and in the surrounding ecosystems. Additionally, some golfers find that standard plastic tees can damage the clubhead of their driver over time, particularly if they have a tendency to hit the tee during their swing.

Biodegradable plastic tees offer an eco-friendly alternative to standard plastic tees. These tees are made from materials such as cornstarch, wheat, or other plant-based polymers that can break down naturally in the environment. 

They are designed to decompose quickly, typically within a few months to a year, depending on the specific material and environmental conditions. Biodegradable plastic tees offer similar durability and performance to standard plastic tees, making them a viable option for golfers who prioritize environmental sustainability.

The main advantage of biodegradable plastic tees is their reduced environmental impact. By breaking down naturally, they minimize the accumulation of plastic waste on golf courses and in the surrounding areas. 

However, biodegradable plastic tees can be more expensive than standard plastic tees, which may deter some cost-conscious golfers. Additionally, the rate of decomposition can vary depending on the specific material and environmental factors, such as temperature, moisture, and microorganism activity. This means that biodegradable plastic tees may still persist in the environment for some time before fully breaking down.

Bamboo Tees

Bamboo golf tees have gained popularity among golfers as a good alternative to traditional plastic or wooden tees. Made from renewable and biodegradable materials, bamboo tees offer a sustainable option for golfers looking to reduce their environmental impact on the course. 

Sometimes confused with wood tees, bamboo is quite different. Bamboo is a fast-growing grass that requires minimal water, pesticides, and fertilizers, making it an excellent choice for manufacturing golf tees without contributing to deforestation or harmful chemical use.

bamboo golf tee

In terms of durability and performance, bamboo golf tees have proven to be a reliable choice for golfers of all skill levels. The natural strength and flexibility of bamboo allow the tees to withstand repeated use without easily breaking or splintering. This durability not only saves golfers money in the long run but also reduces the number of broken tees littering the course. 

Additionally, the smooth surface of bamboo tees minimizes friction between the tee and the ball, potentially leading to improved accuracy and distance on tee shots.

However, there are some potential disadvantages to using bamboo golf tees. Some golfers may find that the hardness of bamboo tees can cause more wear on their clubs compared to softer plastic or wood alternatives. 

This issue can be particularly noticeable with drivers, as the repeated impact on a hard surface may lead to faster wear on the clubface. Furthermore, while bamboo is an eco-friendly material, the manufacturing process and transportation of the tees can still have some environmental impact, especially if the bamboo is sourced from distant locations.

Despite these potential drawbacks, the advantages of bamboo golf tees often outweigh the disadvantages for environmentally conscious golfers. In addition to their eco-friendly properties and durability, bamboo tees are often competitively priced, making them an accessible option for golfers of all budgets. Many golfers also appreciate the aesthetic appeal of bamboo tees, as their natural appearance can add a touch of style to their golf accessories.

As the demand for sustainable golf products continues to grow, it is likely that bamboo golf tees will remain a popular choice among golfers seeking to minimize their environmental impact while maintaining high performance on the course. 

With ongoing research and development in the field of eco-friendly golf accessories, it is possible that future innovations will further enhance the benefits of bamboo tees while addressing any potential drawbacks, ensuring that golfers can enjoy the game with a clear conscience.

Specialty Tees

Apart from the actual material that the tee is composed of, there are “speciality” ones that are also available on the market. Specialty golf tees have gained popularity among golfers looking to enhance their performance and improve their game. 

These tees come in various shapes, sizes, and materials, each designed to address specific aspects of the golf swing. Broadly, there are three common types of specialty tees: brush tees, anti-slice tees, and adjustable tees.

bristle tee

Brush tees, also known as bristle tees, feature a unique design that sets them apart from traditional wooden or plastic tees. Instead of a solid stem, brush tees have a cluster of bristles or prongs that support the golf ball. 

The primary advantage of using brush tees is their ability to minimize resistance during the club's impact with the ball. The bristles bend or compress upon contact, allowing the clubface to make cleaner contact with the ball, resulting in less friction and more consistent shots. Additionally, brush tees are durable and long-lasting, as the flexible bristles are less likely to break compared to traditional tees.

Anti-slice tees are designed to help golfers who struggle with slicing the ball, a common issue that causes shots to curve excessively from left to right (for right-handed players). These tees often have a curved or angled top that promotes a square clubface at impact. By encouraging a more neutral clubface position, anti-slice tees can help reduce sidespin and promote straighter shots. Some anti-slice tees also feature markings or alignment aids to help golfers position the ball correctly and align their clubface properly. 

While anti-slice tees can be helpful for some golfers, it's important to note that they are not a permanent solution to slicing, and golfers should still work on their swing technique and fundamentals.

Adjustable tees offer a solution for golfers who want to fine-tune their tee height for different clubs and shot types. These tees typically have a movable or telescoping stem that allows golfers to adjust the height of the ball to their preferred level. 

Adjustable tees are particularly useful for golfers who like to experiment with different tee heights to optimize their launch angle and trajectory. By setting the tee height lower, golfers can achieve a lower launch angle and more roll, which can be beneficial for hitting fairway woods or driving irons. 

Conversely, setting the tee height higher can promote a higher launch angle and more carry distance, which can be advantageous for hitting drivers or longer clubs. Adjustable tees provide golfers with the flexibility to adapt to different course conditions, personal preferences, and club selections.

While specialty golf tees can offer various benefits, it's essential to experiment and find the tees that work best for your individual swing and playing style. Some golfers may prefer the feel and performance of traditional wooden tees, while others may find that specialty tees help them achieve more consistent results. 

Ultimately, the choice of golf tee comes down to personal preference and what helps the golfer feel most confident and comfortable on the course.

Tee Sizes and Lengths

Choosing the right tee size and length can do a lot for optimizing your performance on the course. Tees come in various sizes and lengths, each designed to accommodate different club types and player preferences. 

different golf tee sizes

Understanding the standard tee sizes and how to select the appropriate length for your driver and irons can greatly enhance your accuracy, distance, and overall enjoyment of the game.

Standard Tee Sizes

Golf tees are typically available in three standard sizes: short, medium, and long. Short tees measure approximately 1.5 inches in length and are suitable for par-3 holes or shots requiring lower ball placement. 

Medium tees, also known as standard tees, are around 2.125- 2.75 inches long and are the most commonly used size. They offer versatility and can be used with a variety of clubs. 

Long tees, measuring 3.25 inches or more, are primarily used with drivers to achieve higher ball placement and increased distance.

For skilled golfers, the length scarcely makes a significant difference. What makes a difference, however, is how you fuel your body. Whole In One nutrition bars consumed in between holes can keep your energy levels high and help maintain performance on the course. 

Choosing the Right Tee Length

Driver Tees

When teeing off with a driver, it's necessary to choose a tee length that promotes optimal launch angle and spin rate. Most golfers prefer using longer tees, ranging from 2.75 to 4 inches, to position the ball higher on the clubface. 

This higher tee height allows for a more upward angle of attack, which can result in increased carry distance and a better overall drive. However, it's important to experiment with different tee lengths to find what works best for your swing and the specific driver you use.

Factors to consider when selecting driver tee length include clubhead size, loft angle, and personal swing characteristics. 

A general guideline is to tee the ball so that approximately half of the ball is visible above the top edge of the clubface at address. This positioning encourages a slightly upward angle of attack and promotes solid contact with the ball's mid-line or equator, resulting in straighter and longer drives.

Iron Tees

When hitting irons, the ideal tee length is generally shorter compared to driver tees. The primary goal with irons is to achieve a descending blow, making crisp contact with the ball and taking a divot after impact. Using a shorter tee helps position the ball closer to the ground, promoting a downward angle of attack and better ball-turf interaction.

For most irons, a tee length of 1.5 to 2.125 inches is recommended. This allows for a small amount of ball elevation while still encouraging a proper descending blow. When using shorter irons or wedges, some golfers prefer to tee the ball just slightly above ground level or even play it directly off the turf to maintain consistent contact and control.

It's worth noting that personal preference and comfort also play a role in choosing the right tee length for irons. Some players may find success with slightly longer or shorter tees depending on their swing style and ball flight preferences.

How Tee Height Affects Your Shots

Driver Shots

When using a driver, teeing the ball higher can help you achieve greater distance. A higher tee promotes an upward trajectory, which can result in lower spin rates and increased launch angles. 

This combination often leads to longer drives. However, teeing the ball too high can cause you to hit the ball on the upswing, leading to skied shots or losing control over the ball's direction.

Fairway Woods And Hybrids

For fairway woods and hybrids, a medium tee height is generally recommended. This allows you to make clean contact with the ball while maintaining a shallow angle of attack. Teeing the ball slightly higher can help you get the ball airborne more easily, especially when dealing with longer grass or challenging lies.


When using irons, you should typically tee the ball lower than you would with a driver or fairway wood. A lower tee height promotes a downward angle of attack, which is essential for making solid contact with the ball and achieving a more penetrating ball flight. Teeing the ball too high can result in thin or topped shots, as the clubface may strike higher than the equator of the ball.

Wind Conditions

Tee height should be adjusted based on wind conditions. In headwind situations, teeing the ball slightly lower can help keep the ball's trajectory lower and more penetrating, reducing the impact of the wind on your shot. Conversely, in tailwind conditions, a higher tee can help you launch the ball higher and take advantage of the wind's assistance.

Consistency And Repeatability

Regardless of the specific tee height you choose, maintaining consistency is key. Developing a repeatable routine for teeing the ball at your preferred height can help you achieve more consistent results and build confidence in your shots.

Tee Placement

One of the most important aspects of tee placement is the height at which the ball is teed. The general rule of thumb is to tee the ball so that the top of the driver's clubface is level with the ball's equator. 

This placement promotes solid contact between the clubface and the ball, resulting in optimal launch angle and spin rate.

inserting tee in ground

Teeing the ball on different surfaces also requires adaptation. When using a designated tee box, players have the advantage of a flat, well-maintained surface that provides a consistent foundation for their tee shots. 

In this situation, players should aim to position the tee in the center of the box, ensuring they have ample room to make their swing without any obstructions.

On the other hand, when teeing the ball up on the fairway, players may encounter various lies and surface conditions. In these cases, it is important to assess the lie of the ball and adjust the tee height accordingly. 

If the ball is sitting up on the fairway, players can tee it slightly lower than they would on a tee box. Conversely, if the ball is nestled down in the grass, players may need to tee it a bit higher to ensure clean contact with the clubface.

When it comes to tee placement, there are several common mistakes that golfers should avoid. One such mistake is teeing the ball too high, which can cause the player to hit the ball on the upswing, resulting in a loss of distance and accuracy. Another mistake is teeing the ball too low, which can lead to a downward strike and a loss of launch angle, resulting in a lower, less powerful shot.

You should also strive to maintain a consistent tee height and position relative to your stance. This consistency allows players to develop a repeatable swing and promotes better contact with the ball.

Lastly, it is essential to consider the specific club being used when determining tee placement. While the general guidelines for tee height apply to most clubs, players may need to make slight adjustments based on the club's loft and intended shot. 

For example, when using a fairway wood or hybrid, players may tee the ball slightly lower compared to a driver, as these clubs have a smaller clubface and are designed to make contact with the ball at a lower point.

Tee Maintenance and Storage

What do you do with tees when you’re not playing? Do you just toss them idly by and let them be? No. Proper tee maintenance and storage are essential aspects of golf that often go overlooked by many players. 

Tees, despite their small size, still require maintenance and. By taking care of your tees and organizing them effectively, you can ensure that you always have the right tee at hand when needed, allowing you to focus on your swing and overall performance on the course.

Cleaning And Storing Your Tees

After each round or practice session, you should clean your tees to remove any dirt, grass stains, or debris that may have accumulated on them. This simple step helps maintain the tees' integrity and prevents them from deteriorating prematurely. 

To clean your tees, simply brush off any loose dirt or grass with your fingers or a soft-bristled brush. For more stubborn stains, you can use a damp cloth or a mild cleaning solution, such as a mixture of warm water and dish soap. Be sure to rinse the tees thoroughly and allow them to air dry completely before storing them.

When it comes to storage, it's best to keep them in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight and extreme temperatures. Exposing your tees to excessive heat or moisture can cause them to warp, crack, or become brittle over time. 

Consider using a designated tee holder, such as a small pouch or container, or even a storage case, to keep your tees together and protected. Many golf bags come equipped with built-in tee holders, which provide a convenient and accessible storage solution while you're on the course.

When To Replace Your Tees

Even with proper maintenance and storage, tees will eventually wear out and need to be replaced. The lifespan of a tee depends on various factors, such as the material it's made from, how frequently it's used, and the force of impact during your swings. Wooden tees, for example, are more prone to breaking and splintering than their plastic or bamboo counterparts.

tee destruction

To determine when it's time to replace a tee, inspect it regularly for signs of wear and tear. If you notice any cracks, splits, or significant discoloration, it's best to discard the tee and replace it with a new one. Using a damaged or worn-out tee can negatively impact your shots, as it may not provide a stable platform for your ball or could break upon impact, resulting in inconsistent drives.

Organizing Your Tees For Easy Access During Play

Having your tees well-organized and easily accessible during a round of golf can save you time and help maintain a smooth pace of play. Start by sorting your tees by size, material, or color, depending on your preferences and the specific requirements of each hole or shot.

Some golfers may even prefer to keep a selection of tees in their pockets for quick access during play. You can use a small tee pouch or a specialized tee holder that attaches to your belt or golf bag for added convenience.

When organizing your tees in your golf bag, consider using a divided tee holder or a small, clear plastic container with separate compartments for different tee sizes and types. This allows you to quickly locate and grab the appropriate tee without having to rummage through your entire bag, saving valuable time and maintaining your focus on the game.

By implementing these tee maintenance and storage practices, you can extend the life of your tees, ensure they are always ready for use, and maintain a tidy and organized golf bag. Remember, a well-prepared golfer is a confident golfer, and having your tees in top condition and easily accessible is one small but important step towards improving your overall performance on the course.

Tees FAQ

Many golfers have questions about the value of expensive tees, the impact of tees on their game, the rules surrounding tee usage, or the number of tees they should carry. Let's address some of these frequently asked questions to provide some clarity.

Are Expensive Tees Worth The Investment?

Golf tees come in a wide range of prices, from basic wooden tees that cost a few cents each to high-end, performance-enhancing tees that can cost several dollars apiece. While some people swear by the merits of more expensive ones, others argue that they are an unnecessary expense.

Expensive tees often boast features like enhanced durability, reduced friction, and improved launch angles. These features can be particularly beneficial for golfers with high swing speeds or those who frequently break tees. 

If you find that you are constantly replacing broken tees or struggling with consistent tee shots, investing in higher-quality tees may be worth considering.

However, for most recreational golfers, basic wooden or plastic tees are sufficient. As long as the tee is the appropriate height and provides a stable base for the ball, it will serve its purpose. 

Can Tees Improve My Game?

While tees themselves cannot directly improve your golf game, they can help you optimize your tee shots. The right tee height and placement can promote a better launch angle, reduce spin, and increase distance. Experimenting with different tee heights and positions can help you find the optimal setup for your swing and club type.

In addition to tee height and placement, the material and design of your tees can also impact your tee shots. Some performance tees are designed to reduce friction between the ball and tee, promoting a cleaner release and reducing spin. Others feature a more flexible tip that can help absorb shock and promote a better drive.

While these features can be beneficial, it's important to remember that the impact of tees on your game is relatively minor compared to more significant factors like your swing mechanics, club selection, and course management. Focusing on these fundamentals will have a much greater impact on your overall performance than the type of tee you use.

Are There Any Rules Regarding Tee Usage In Golf?

Yes, there are several rules in golf that pertain to tee usage. The most important rule is that tees may only be used on the teeing ground of each hole. Once you have played your tee shot, you must play the ball as it lies and cannot re-tee it.

Another important rule is that your tee must not be placed in front of the tee markers on the teeing ground. The tee markers indicate the boundaries of the teeing area, and your ball must be played from within these boundaries.

It's also worth noting that while there is no restriction on the height of your tee, there are limits to the size of the tee you can use. According to the Rules of Golf, tees must not be longer than 4 inches.

How Many Tees Should I Carry In My Golf Bag?

The number of tees you carry in your golf bag is largely a matter of personal preference. Some golfers like to carry a large supply of tees to ensure they never run out, while others prefer to carry only a few to keep their bag lightweight.

As a general rule, it's a good idea to carry at least one tee per hole, plus a few extras in case you break or lose some along the way. For a standard 18-hole round, this means carrying at least 20-25 tees.

If you are prone to breaking tees or playing multiple rounds in a day, you may want to carry even more. It's always better to have too many tees than too few, as running out of tees can be a major inconvenience on the course.

Experiment with different numbers of tees until you find a quantity that meets your needs without weighing down your bag unnecessarily. You’ll be able to figure this out easily once you’ve been playing for a little while.

Final Words

There is much more to a tee than initially meets the eye. They are important, but do not depend on them to make or break you as a great player. Knowing the basics and what height to tee up are more than enough to take full advantage of their assistance on the course.