Definition: 'Championship Tees' on the Golf Course

On a golf course, the "championship tees" are the set of tees on the teeing ground that are the farthest from the green. Playing a golf course from the championship tees means playing the course at its greatest length, its most-challenging distances.

Each hole on a golf course begins with a "teeing area," formerly known in the rules as the "teeing ground" and commonly referred to as the "tee box." The tee box on each hole typically includes multiples sets of tees, designated by colored tee markers (e.g., painted cones or blocks of wood pinned into the ground).

The championship tees are the set of tees farthest back on each tee box. What color are the tee markers that designate the championship tees? That is up to each golf courses, but the colors corresponding to each set of tees should be noted on the scorecard. Decades ago, blue was commonly used for championship tee markers. Today, gold, black and yellow are also commonly used. It is up to the golf course. But the championship tees are the longest tees available.

How did the term "championship tees" originate? As the longest set of tees, they are also the most difficult set of tees. A golf course that is staging a big tournament, an important tournament, typically uses the back tees, the longest set of tees, for the tournament. The tees used for championship tournaments, therefore, became known as the championship tees.

An issue of Golf Illustrated published in 1900 referred to a golfer setting a course record and noted that the golfer "is certainly entitled to this credit that his performance was done in a Championship competition from the Championship tees."

(Championship tees are also sometimes called tournament tees, back tees, rear tees, or, in slang, the Tiger tees or "the tips.")

The term "championship tees" originated in the U.K. and was in use at least by the late 1800s. It quickly spread to America and elsewhere as golf grew around the globe.

Photo credit: "The Masters 2011" by ShanMcG213 is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 .

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