Explaining Golf's Teeing Ground, Plus Its Rules and Etiquette

Tiger Woods hits a drive from the teeing ground
A golfer (this one happens to be Tiger Woods) tees off from between two tee markers, which designate the 'teeing ground.'. Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

A "teeing ground" on a golf course is that area from which you play your first stroke on each hole: It's where every hole starts. It is, in other words, the area from which you "tee off."

Golf courses typically offer multiple teeing grounds on each hole, designated by different colors of tee markers (the blue tees, white tees, red tees and so on). You play from the same teeing ground on each successive hole; that is, if you begin from the area designated by, say, blue tee markers, you continue playing the "blue tees" on every hole.

You must play your first stroke on each hole:

  • from in-between the tee markers that designate the teeing ground;
  • never from in front of the tee markers;
  • but anywhere up to two club-lengths behind the tee markers.

The areas where several sets of tees are grouped together are called "tee boxes." So tee boxes are groups of teeing grounds. "Tee box" is an informal term, a colloquialism; "teeing ground" is a term used in the rules.

Definition of 'Teeing Ground' in the Rules of Golf

The official definition of "teeing ground," as written by the USGA and R&A and appearing in the Rules of Golf, is this:

"The 'teeing ground' is the starting place for the hole to be played. It is a rectangular area two club-lengths in depth, the front and the sides of which are defined by the outside limits of two tee-markers. A ball is outside the teeing ground when all of it lies outside the teeing ground."

Dimensions of the Teeing Ground

Width: There are no limits within the rules on how wide the teeing ground can be. How far apart the tee markers are placed is determined by golf course staff and based on the design of each golf hole's starting point.

Depth: The teeing ground extends from an imaginary straight line connecting the fronts of the tee markers backward two club-lengths. What's a "club length?" It's the length of the longest club in your golf bag, typically your driver. If your driver is, for example, 46 inches long, then the teeing ground, for you, extends 92 inches back from the tee markers.

Teeing Grounds in the Rule Book and Penalties

In the rule book, Rule 11 is titled "Teeing Ground," so be sure to read that rule for the in-depth picture. (And Decisions on Rule 11 can be found on the USGA and R&A websites.)

But, to summarize, Rule 11 says:

  • Golfers must begin each hole playing from within the teeing ground (between the tee markers, up to two club-lengths back). Golfers can either place the golf ball on the ground or on a tee.
  • A golfer can stand outside of the tee markers and play a stroke so long as his golf ball is inside the tee markers. You are not allowed to move a tee marker on your first stroke on a hole.
  • If you tee off from outside the teeing ground, there is no penalty in match play but your opponent can make you replay the shot. But in stroke play, teeing off from outside the teeing ground (including in front of the tee markers) results in a 2-stroke penalty, and you must then re-play from inside the teeing ground.

Related FAQs:

Golf Etiquette on the Teeing Ground

  • Order of play on the teeing ground is based on "honors," which means golfers tee off in the order of the best scoring on the previous hole. The golfer with the lowest score tees off first on the next hole, and so on. (Choose randomly on the first tee.)
  • Before playing from the teeing ground, make sure any golfers playing ahead of your group are out of range. And be very careful when taking practice swings and playing strokes that none of your fellow-competitors or opponents are close enough that you might hit them.
  • Likewise, make sure when others are hitting their tee shots you are safely apart from them.
  • Don't stand directly behind a golfer's line of play when they are teeing off; stand off to the side, remaining quiet and still during other golfers' play.
  • And don't tee up your ball on the teeing ground until it's actually your turn to play.

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