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The Tee

KaPow! The sound of balata meeting steel rings through the air. The small white ball takes off like a fighter plane, rising above the trees. The crowd cheers, and your ball continues to soar, until it finally falls and rolls to a stop, far, far down the fairway. This is your moment, bask in it.

A voice chimes in: "Ahem.I just noticed something." Your smile turns into a grimace. Your competitor, who should now have given up all hope of winning your match game, is always there to spoil your moment. You glance up to see a finger pointing at the wooden tee, still in the ground before you, smoke rising off its cusp.

What could be wrong with the tee? Then you realize what the pointing is about. Five inches further back and you could be triumphantly walking down the fairway - now you have to hit another ball.

Teeing up the ball is one of the easiest rules in golf to follow, though it is frequently broken by the overly eager looking to shorten a 504 yard hole by about an eighth of a yard. The teeing ground is a rectangle marked on one end by the two tee markers and on the other by an imaginary line two club-lengths (of whichever club you choose) back. That's often 40 square feet to play in.
The Teebox

If you tee up the ball inside the box (you may still be standing outside), you will be set to go. If you tee up the ball outside the box, you will be required to hit again (this time from within the box), and, depending on the type of match you are playing, you may incur a two stroke penalty. That's all there is to the rule.

There are a few other important notes about the tee:
  • The most familiar tees you will see on a course are red, white, and blue, which often (but not always) correspond to the ladies', men's, and men's long tees, respectively. Most male golfers will choose to play from the white tees, though lower handicaps will often play from the blues. Each set of tees will have a different rating and slope, as the difficulty of the course will be dependent upon where you play. Of course, you may also see other color tees on the course, such as silver for seniors or gold for experts. You may even see chartreuse tees, though we somehow doubt it.

  • For groups playing from different tees (say white and red), the golfers on the tee farthest from the green hit first. On the same tee, the player with the lowest score on the previous hole has ‘the honor’ of hitting first. But on the first hole, if everyone plays on the same tee, who goes first? An easy way that adds flavor to the game is to flip a tee. Stand around in a circle, and have one player toss up a tee. When it lands, whomever the sharp end points to hits first. Repeat to see who plays second, third, and last.

  • You don't have to actually use a tee on the tee. You can chip up the ground to make a makeshift tee, or can just hit the ball off of the grass.

  • Sometime you'll see players settle up to the ball, and as they are doing so the ball will fall off or be knocked off the tee. Inevitably a friend will call out 'That's a stroke.' It's not. You can re-tee the ball without penalty. Of course if you swing and miss, that's a different story.
For More Information
For further details on the teeing ground, take a look at Rule 11 in the Official Rules of Golf. The above article is meant to help clarify some of the basics above the rules of golf. If the above comes into conflict with local rules or the USGA, the latter two should always be taken as correct.

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