The 'Ladies Tees' in Golf (and Why They Shouldn't Be Called That)

Woman tees off from the forward tees at a golf course
Playing from the 'ladies tees,' or forward tees. Isaac Lane Koval/Corbis/VCG/Getty Images

"Ladies tees" is a term many golfers still apply to the forward set of tees on each hole of a golf course. Playing from those tees means playing the course at its shortest length.

Golf courses use multiple tee boxes on each hole, usually designated by differently colored tee markers. Depending on how good a golfer is, how far he or she hits the ball, the golfer selects the most appropriate set of tees for his or her abilities. That's the way it's supposed to work, anyway.

The forward tees are also often referred to as the "red tees." Ladies tees, forward tees, red tees — those terms are synonyms.

Why Are They Called 'Ladies Tees'?

The average male golfer hits the ball farther than the average female golfer, which means that women are more likely to choose a set of tees that is more forward (or shorter in terms of distance from tee to green).

If we go back in time, we'll eventually reach periods in golf history when most golf courses had only three sets of tees: forward, middle and back. Women most often played from the forward tees — and were expected to play from the shortest tees — and so those forwardmost tees came to be known as the "ladies tees."

Should They Be Called the 'Ladies Tees'?

No! Let's repeat: No! It's long past time to stop referring to those tees as the "ladies tees." It's a term we wish would disappear from golf.

The term really isn't appropriate anymore, because, of course, not all women play from the "ladies tees" and not only women play from the "ladies tees." A low-handicap female golfer is going to play from middle or rearward tees; a mid-handicap woman might choose a longer set of tees, too.

It's entirely appropriate for beginner golfers and junior golfers of both genders to start out playing the forward tees, and many senior men play the forward tees.

Ladies can play any set of tees they want, and anyone — male, female, young, old, beginner, experienced — can play the "ladies tees" if they want. So the more appropriate way to refer to the forward tees is ... forward tees.

And calling them "ladies tees" discourages male golfers who should consider playing from the forward tees (such as beginners, juniors, short-hitting high-handicappers, older golfers, or anyone else who would have more fun and a better score playing from a skill-appropriate set of tees) from doing so.

But, alas, the term "ladies tees" is still very common.

Moral of the story: Whether male or female, young or old, highly skilled or not, play from the set of tees that is appropriate to your skill level.