Origins and Use of the Tee Box

The Site of the First Stroke on Each Hole in Golf

Golfer Madge Saunders on the tee box in a photo from 1921.
In the early history of golf, golfers reached into a box to retrieve sand and used that to form a tee. Hence the term, 'tee box'. Brooke/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images

In common usage, "tee box" is just another term for teeing ground, which is the starting point on each hole of a golf course and the area covered by the space in-between two tee markers and two-club-lengths back from the tee markers.

Golfers began referring to the teeing ground as a "tee box" because — in the days before wooden golf tees — the most common method of teeing a ball was on top of a small mound of wet sand. The sand was made available to golfers inside boxes placed on each teeing ground. And what's a box that contains sand used to tee the ball? A tee box.

Like the term "teeing ground" is used to refer to one specific set of tees, the phrase "tee box" is also used to refer to one specific set of tees but is also used to refer to the full complement of teeing grounds on any given hole.

A golf course might have three, four, five or more sets of tees of varying yardages, and often, several of those teeing grounds are grouped together, wherein "tee box" refers to that grouping as well.

Tee Markers and Yardage

One notable fact about the tee box is that courses often use their own tee markers to give golfers details about the course — most often courses use markers to denote the yardage of each hole, but sometimes courses will use fun tee markers like these to simply make golfers smile instead.

Typically, championship matches use a standard black or gold tee market at each tee box, but outside of championship play, courses also use white markers to denote the "men's tee," which are most often used by middle or high handicap players.

Red markers can mean different things depending on whether or not they're in front of or behind white markets — behind white markers, red markets denote championship play, and in front of white markers, red markers are often referred to as "women's tees" and offer the shortest yardage on the course.

Green markers usually denote both the starting point for beginners and junior players and a shorter yardage than even the red markers. Alternatively, green markers can be used to denote senior tees, but so can gold or yellow (when gold is not being used for championship play). This position offers the same yardage as the green markers.

A History of Tee Boxes

Before the advent of the modern wooden tee in 1889, golfers teed off of small mounds of sand that were carried to the teeing ground in small wooden boxes, giving birth to the terms "tee box" and later "teeing ground," as it's called today.

Over the next 10 years, inventors around the golf world perfected the tee until Dr. George Franklin Grant patented an "improved golf tee" in 1899 consisting of a rub sleeve atop a wooden cone that offered support for the ball.

Since then, minor adjustments have been made to the design but the rules of the game have updated to accommodate the core concept — allowing for fair play across tournaments.