Origins and Use of the Tee Box in Golf

Tee Box Is the Site of the First Stroke on Each Hole in Golf

Golfer Madge Saunders on the tee box in a photo from 1921.
In the early history of golf, golfers reached into a box to retrieve sand and used that to form a tee. Hence the term, 'tee box'. Brooke/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images

In common usage, "tee box" is just another term for the teeing area (called the teeing ground prior to the 2019 rules revisions), which is the starting point on each hole of a golf course and the area covered by the space in-between two tee markers and two-club-lengths back from the tee markers.

Key Takeaways

  • "Tee box" is a vernacular term used by golfers; the term used by the governing bodies of golf (the R&A and USGA) is "teeing area."
  • The tee box is the starting point of every hole on the golf course, the place from which golfers play the first stroke of each hole.
  • The tee box is the space between two tee markers (set up by the golf course) and two club-lengths behind those markers.

Golfers began referring to the teeing area as a "tee box" because — in the days before wooden golf tees — the most common method of teeing a ball was on top of a small mound of wet sand. The sand was made available to golfers inside boxes placed on each teeing ground. And what's a box that contains sand used to tee the ball? A tee box.

Like the term "teeing area" is used to refer to one specific set of tees, the phrase "tee box" is also used to refer to one specific set of tees but is also used to refer to the full complement of teeing areas on any given hole.

A golf course might have three, four, five or more sets of tees of varying yardages, and often, several of those teeing areas are grouped together, wherein "tee box" refers to that grouping as well.

The definition of "teeing area" that appears in the Rules of Golf (and which is generally interchangeable with "tee box," although the governing bodies use only "teeing area") is this:

"The area the player must play from in starting the hole he or she is playing. The teeing area is a rectangle that is two club-lengths deep where:
*The front edge is defined by the line between the forward-most points of two tee-markers set by the Committee, and
*The side edges are defined by the lines back from the outside points of the tee-markers."

Tee Markers and Yardage

One notable fact about the tee box is that golf courses often use their own tee markers to give golfers details about the course: most often courses use markers to denote the yardage of each hole, but sometimes courses will use fun tee markers to simply make golfers smile instead.

Typically, championship matches use a standard black or gold tee marker at each tee box, but outside of championship play, courses also use white markers to denote the "men's tees," which are most often used by middle or high handicap players.

Red markers can mean different things depending on whether or not they're in front of or behind white markers: behind white markers, red markets denote championship play, and in front of white markers, red markers are often referred to as "women's tees" and offer the shortest yardage on the course.

Green markers usually denote both the starting point for beginners and junior players and a shorter yardage than even the red markers. Alternatively, green markers can be used to denote senior tees, but so can gold or yellow (when gold is not being used for championship play). This position offers the same yardage as the green markers.

In short, a golf course can use any colors it wants for its tee markers. The key is that the specific tee box you use on the first hole (for example, the white tees) is the one you'll use throughout the round.