No Tee Time? You Can Probably Still Play Golf ... After a Wait

What happens when you show up at a golf course without a tee time

Golfers in carts pass in front of the clubhouse
No tee time? How long you'll have to wait to tee off depends on how busy the golf course is. PNC/DigitalVision/Getty Images

If a golfer shows up at a golf course without a tee time reservation, will that golfer get to play? Probably. But how long a wait you might have depends on how busy the golf course is, and how many golfers are in your group.

Remember, not all golf courses require tee times. (Some even refuse to issue them.) So, obviously, if you want to play a course that doesn't allow or doesn't require tee times, your odds of playing are good.

But when a course requires golfers to make tee time reservations, and you show up without one, then you're at the mercy of the course staff to try to fit you in.

Single Golfers Without a Tee Time Have the Best Chance

If you show up at just about any public golf course without a tee time but as a single, you'll almost surely get to play. The personnel in the pro shop, or the golf course starter if there is one, will try to fit you into another group. Say the group with the 11:42 tee time booked that tee time for four golfers - but one of them couldn't make it. There you go - a spot just opened up for you.

You can even show up as a single at places such as Pebble Beach Golf Links and The Old Course at St. Andrews, without a tee time, and have a decent chance of teeing off. But the wait might be long, and there are no guarantees.

Of course, if you show up without a tee time at a golf course that is lightly trafficked, there shouldn't be a problem playing.

Groups Without Tee Times Will Wait Longer ... If They Get to Play At All

What about if you aren't a single - if you want to play golf with a friend, or two friends, or three? The more golfers in your group, the lower the odds are of playing when you show up without a tee time at a busy course. Arrive as a group of four without a tee time at a very busy golf course, and you'll most likely either be turned away or told to expect a very long wait. Your group could wait hours to tee off, or could wait and wait and never get to play.

So the moral of the story is: Know the golf course's tee time policy, and if it requires tee times then make one.

You can always call golf courses right before you leave the house, too, to ask if any tee times have opened up (perhaps a group canceled or failed to show up), or to inquire how long it might take to fit in you or your group.