Definition of 'Championship Tees' or 'Back Tees' on a Golf Course

Brandt Snedeker tees off from the championship tees at the Sony Open
Playing from the championship tees, or back tees. Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

The "championship tees" or "back tees" are the most rearward set of tees on each teeing ground of a golf course. Taken together, the 18 back tees on an 18-hole golf course are the tees from which the golf course plays the longest.

Golfers may use the terms in sentences such as, "The golf course measures 7,210 yards from the back tees," or "It's a par-73 course from the championship tees."

Back Tees vs. Forward Tees and Other Tees

Most golf courses provide multiple sets of tees on their teeing grounds. Most common is three sets of tees, which can be referred to as forward, middle and back, or by a color-coding system employed by the golf course (for example, the red, white and blue tees). A highly skilled golfer is most likely going to play the course at its maximum yardage, and, therefore, will play from the back tees, or championship tees, on each teeing ground.

(Just to make it clear, "back tees" and "championship tees" are interchangeable terms.)

In addition to being called the back tees or championship tees, these most rearward sets of tees are often called, in slang, "the tips" or the "Tiger tees." If a golf courses identifies its different sets of tee boxes using colors (red tees, blue tees, and so on), then golfers at that course probably know the back tees by the color that golf courses assigns to them. On a golf courses that uses only three sets of tee boxes, the back tees/championship tees most often are identified with blue.

What It Means to Play from the Back Tees

If you play from the championship tees, you are playing the golf course at its maximum length. And that means that only highly skilled golfers should play from the championship tees. A 24-handicapper who tries to play from the back tees is only making things much harder for himself and probably for others, as well, by slowing down play.

Moral of the story: Choose the set of tees that are most appropriate to your skill level, whether that is the back tees, middle tees or forward tees. You'll probably enjoy your round more because you'll be scoring better.

(The term "championship tees" derives because the back tees are often the ones used in tournament play — club championships, for example. Hence, "championship tees.")