Explaining the 'White Tees' on a Golf Course

The term's traditional meaning, plus who should play from those tees

A golfer hits his drive from the white tees at a golf course.
Playing from the white tees. Arctic Warrior/Flickr/Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic

When you hear a reference to the "white tees" in golf conversation, the speaker is probably referring to the middle tees (sometimes called the "men's tees" or "regular tees") on a teeing ground.

White Tees In Golf Tradition Equals Middle Tees

Traditionally, many golf courses used three sets of tees on each hole. Those tees were designated by color, and the colors were usually red, white and blue. Red tees were the forward tees, white tees were the middle tees, and blue tees were the back tees - also known as, respectively, the ​ladies tees, men's tees (or regular tees), and the championship tees.

Today, golf courses might have double the traditional number of ​tee boxes on each hole, and might use any number of colors in any combination and in any order. White tees today (if the color white is used at all) might be at any point on the teeing ground, from front to middle to back.

But as noted at the start, generic references to the "white tees" harken back to the traditional 3-color teeing grounds, where white meant the middle or men's tees.

Who Should Play the White Tees?

Don't let the traditional meaning of "white tees" as "men's tees" fool you. Any golfer, regardless of gender or age, whose playing ability best matches the length of the golf course from the white tees (middle tees) should play those tees.

The whole reason for having multiple sets of tee boxes on each teeing ground (designated by tee markers and distinguished, usually, ​by color) is to provide options for golfers fo different skill levels.

Playing the golf course from the middle tees on each teeing ground means playing the course at its middle length. A golfer who finds the golf course not challenging enough from the forward tees, but too difficult from the back tees, should play the middle tees.

    All golfers should play the tees that are appropriate for their skill level. The bonus for you: You'll score better, which usually means having more fun. And the bonus for the other golfers on the course around you: You'll play quicker from the appropriate set of tees, keeping the pace of play moving.