What Is a Tee Time? How Do Tee Times Work?

And What Happens If You Don't Have One, or Miss the One You Have?

Woman placing golf ball onto tee
Tee times tell golfers when it's time to tee it up and tee off the round. (Tad Levine/Corbis/Getty Images)

A "tee time" is a reservation at a golf course to begin your round of golf at the specified time. If your tee time is 10:07 a.m., then at 10:07 a.m. you (or someone within your group) should be hitting the first tee shot of your round. (Hence the term: The tee time is the time at which you tee off.)

(In professional golf, a tee time is the designated time that a group of pros — typically playing in groups of two or three — begins its round of golf. Publicizing the groupings and their tee times is a way pro tournaments help golf fans follow their favorite golfers.)

The purpose of a tee time is to help organize golfers on the course, and to try to maintain a good flow of golfers around the course. Tee times are spaced at regular intervals — typically from 7 to 15 minutes apart, depending on a given golf course's policy—so that groups of golfers are beginning their rounds in an organized fashion.

Are Tee Times Required to Play Golf?

Whether or not a tee time is required to play any given golf course is entirely up to that course. Golf courses set their own policies when it comes to tee times, and fall into one of three categories:

  1. Tee times are required;
  2. Tee times are available but not required;
  3. Tee times are not available and not accepted.

If you are visiting a golf course for the first time and are unsure of its tee time policy, visit its website (or call the pro shop) well in advance to determine its policy.

If you show up at a golf course where a tee time is required, and you don't have one, you might well be turned away. So always know before you go.

How to Get a Tee Time

Visit the website of the golf course you wish to play. It might offer the ability to reserve a tee time online. If it doesn't, it will likely provide information on how to get a tee time, which, if online reservations are unavailable, will probably involve calling the course.

The most common practice is for golf courses to accept tee time reservations several days in advance, but that policy, too, is set locally. Those public courses golfers are most desirous of playing — Pebble Beach, for example — might accept tee times a year in advance or months in advance.

You Show Up Without a Tee Time

As noted, some golf courses don't require tee times, others don't even accept them. So there are plenty of golf courses where if you show up without a tee time, you'll probably be able to play golf anyway. But not always! Again, check in advance for tee time policies.

You Have a Tee Time But Show Up Late

You snooze, you lose. Miss that tee time you reserved and you risk not being able to play at all. Although most golf courses will try to fit you in at some point, even if you do get to play, it could be a long wait. So if you have a tee time, don't miss it