Who Tees Off First on the First Hole? (And Methods of Deciding)

On the second hole through the last hole of a round of golf, golfers traditionally tee off based on "honors" — the golfer with the best score on the preceding hole goes first, and golfers follow in the order of their finish on the preceding hole(s). But what about on the first hole — how is the order of play on the first hole determined? Who tees off first, second and so on?

There are various ways of deciding the order of play for a group teeing off on Hole No. 1. They are all easy, and all of them should be stress-free. Groups that argue over who tees off first on No. 1 are ... getting the round off to a bad start. Don't do that. It's one stroke, and in the end it really doesn't matter much who goes first on No. 1.

Methods to Set the Teeing Order on No. 1 Hole

  • By mutual agreement: Don't fight over it, it's just one shot. Just quickly agree among yourselves which of you is going first, second, third and fourth. It's silly to argue about it. And be quick about it, too.
  • Ready golf: The very basic concept in ready golf is that the golfer who is ready to play should play. So when your group reaches the first tee, the golfer who is ready to go needs to step into the tee box, put that peg in the ground, and swing away. No discussion about who goes first — if you are ready, you go first.
  • Draw lots: On the tee, or better yet, in the pro shop or clubhouse before you even get to the tee, mark four slips of paper 1, 2, 3, 4. Put them in a cap and draw them out. That's your order of play on the first tee.
  • Flip a tee: Golfers in your group huddle up into a loose circle. One of you tosses a tee into the air with a twisting motion. When the tee hits the ground, which golfer is it most closely pointing to? That's who tees off first. Do it two more times to set the rest of the order of play.
  • Ball toss: All the golfers in your group stand next to one of the tee markers and toss or roll a golf ball toward the other tee marker. Order of play off the No. 1 tee is based on the proximity of the balls to that tee marker — closest goes first, etc.
  • Flip a coin: Only two of you playing today? Teeing off the first hole as a twosome? Just flip a coin.
  • Score of last round: Does your group regularly play together? If so, you can base order of play off the No. 1 tee on the scores you had in your previous round.
Having said all that, remember, by far the easiest thing is to just agree beforehand who plays first, second, third and fourth on the first tee; or agree beforehand that you're playing ready golf today. And never, ever, delay any other golfers on the teeing area because your group is arguing or haggling or tossing balls or whatever trying to decide on the order of play on that first tee.

Also note that if you are playing in a tournament, order of play on the first tee might be set for you by the tournament committee. The official Rules of Golf include this statement: "On the first hole, the player listed first on the scorecard (as determined by the committee) tees off first; otherwise, the order is decided by lot or other fair means (e.g., a coin flip)."

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