Explaining the Golf Term 'Tee Shot'

Ryan Moore hits a tee shot during the 2016 Tour Championship
Every hole in golf begins with a tee shot. Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Every hole a golfer has ever played or will ever play starts with the tee shot.

The "tee shot" is the first stroke played from the teeing ground of a golf hole. The term originates from the fact that the ball is struck from the teeing ground, not necessarily because such a ball is usually placed on a tee. Whether the ball is placed on a tee or not, if the stroke is played from the teeing ground, it's the tee shot.

Other Names for the Tee Shot, and Usage Examples

"Drive" is the most common other term for the tee shot: "Hey, nice drive," or "which club did you hit for your drive on No. 6?" "Drive" is most appropriate when driver is the club used, but many golfers use the term regardless of club.

"Tee ball" is another alternate term for "tee shot," as in, "he hit his tee ball into the rough on the second hole."

Does the Tee Shot Have to Be Hit Off a Tee?

No, you don't have to use a tee - the small peg used to hold a golf ball up off the ground - for tee shots. But most golfers do. All golfers use tees for tee shots hit with the driver. Some golfers - a small number - prefer to hit off the ground (no tee) on tee shots played with the irons. The thinking in such cases is that you play every other iron shot off the turf, why change for a tee shot? Lee Trevino liked to hit tee shots played with mid- and short irons off the ground.

But golf is hard enough. The teeing ground is the only place on the golf course where using a tee is allowed in the rules. Take advantage of that. As Jack Nicklaus once explained, air provides less resistance than ground. So prop your golf ball up on a tee for the tee shot.

Is There Any Limit on Clubs Used for Tee Shots?

No, you can use any golf club you want for your tee shot. Even the putter! (But don't use the putter.) Your choice of club is determined first by the length of the hole, then by the shape of the hole and the hazards on it. Confidence in your ability to hit various clubs is very, very important, too. Choose a club that you have the most confidence will get your golf ball where you are aiming.