The first golf tee can be one of the most intimidating adversaries in all of golf.
The first tee sets the tone for the rest of the day. Will you make a good shot, or will your shank it off into the distance?
Many golfers step up to the tee, make a practice swing or two, make their actual swing, and are then surprised that it doesn’t go as well as they had hoped.
Many of the most common golf mistakes are made on the first tee due to poor preparation or nerves at the tee.
You can work on your swing as much as possible, but golf is a mental game as well as a physical one. You have to work on all aspects of your game in order to really improve.
So if you struggle in the tee box and the sight of the first fairway of the day can set your mind racing, keep reading as we go over how to prepare for the first golf tee of the day.
Let’s get started!
What is the first golf tee?
If you’re very new to the sport, some of the terms in this article might not make a lot of sense to you.
The first golf tee is what you use to make your first shot of a game of golf.
A tee is the small wooden or plastic peg that you push into the ground for your ball to sit on when you make your first shot on a course.
The purpose of a tee is to help you get the ball off of the ground with your swing.
This is because you are most likely to use a driver with your first shot, as this club yields the most distance, however, it also has the lowest loft, which can make it difficult for some to get the ball in the air with their swing.
When you are setting up your tee, you ideally want the tee to have around 1.5 inches of height. This is roughly the optimum position for your ball to be sat for your driver.
For other woods, like the 3-wood or 5-wood, you want the ball to be around half an inch lower down than with your driver.
Similarly, if you choose to use your irons with a tee, you want the tee to be around a quarter of an inch in height.
Who tees off first in golf?
Now you know how to set up your tee, someone has to make a shot. If you’re playing in a group, the chances are someone will know what to do, but just in case, there are a few different rules, formal and informal, that you need to know.
Usually, the golfer with the lowest handicap will tee off first.
The order of who plays afterward will be determined in order of handicap.
However, if you’re playing a more informal game, or if you’re playing in a group without handicaps, there are a few different ways you can decide who tees off first in golf.
For example: the Tee Toss
- All golfers playing the round stand in a circle facing each other.
- One golfer will toss a tee into the air.
- When the ball lands on the ground, whoever it is pointing to will tee off first.
- Repeat until the order of the day has been established.
You can also decide by order of age, perceived ability, or just whoever is ready first.
While golf has a lot of rules, if you’re playing an informal game with friends, there’s no reason why you can’t break a few of them.
After the first tee, many golfers will play with ‘grace’, which means that whoever shot with the lowest score on the last hole will tee off first for the next one.
Tips for the first golf tee
Now you now how to set up your tee and who tees of first in golf, it’s time to cover how you can make sure you’re prepared for your first tee of the day.
1. Warm up
Considering that golf is a sport, it’s baffling how many golfers don’t warm up before they play a round.
You don’t have to hit the gym or run a mile before you step up to the first golf tee, but a proper stretch routine is invaluable.
You just want to loosen up really. Many golfers hold a lot of tension in their swing, assuming that a rigid stance will help with a more consistent swing, which actually untrue!
After you’ve had a stretch, there is nothing more useful to do before your first golf tee than hitting some balls.
That’s right, the best way to prepare for the first tee is to make sure that it is not your first tee.
All it takes is turning up to the course half an hour earlier than your competitors and spending some time in the driving range.
Nothing prepares you for playing golf more than playing golf!
2. Have a pre-shot ritual
To put it bluntly, if you step up to the tee, get into position, and take your shot, you’re likely not going to be a great golfer and you’re not going to improve.
Having a pre-shot ritual is a great way to get yourself in the right frame of mind before you make your swing.
It’s like a mantra that your repeat with your body.
If you watch the PGA tours, you’ll notice that all of the pros have their own pre-shot routine that they run through before every shot, including Tiger Woods.
Ideally, you’ll develop a pre-shot routine that is unique to you and easily repeatable, like the golf waggle.
You perform the waggle by, quite literally, waggling your club as you’ve stepped up to the tee. The club should move through what looks like a half swing to perform the waggle.
The purpose of this is to keep you loose for your swing but there are plenty of other techniques you can use, like lining up your shot from behind along the shaft of your club, or stepping away for a final look at your target before your swing.
It’s up to you, and it’s about what works for you!
3. Swing Thoughts
While swing thoughts aren’t exactly a substitute for good form and practice, there’s no denying how helpful they are to many.
Swing thoughts are, like a pre-shot ritual, a mantra that you can repeat in your head to help you with your swing.
Some of our favorites are ‘low and slow’ which can help with your backswing, ‘keep on plane’ to help with your downswing, and ‘laserbeam’ to help with your takeaway.
These are best used to help with the problem areas in your swing. If you know you struggle with any specific part of your swing, gear the swing thought you use towards that part of your swing.
If you try to double up on swing thoughts, it’s just going to get a bit muddy and you’ll lose track of what you’re focusing on, so keep it simple.
4. Pick the right club
If you’re stepping up to the first golf tee with a club that won’t get you to the green, even with the most perfect swing, you’re setting yourself up for failure.
Making sure you’re using the right club for the job is the first thing you need to get right for the first golf tee.
Knowing club distances is the first step to getting this right, you can use our golf club distance chart to make sure you’re getting it right.
You also want to make sure that your clubs are correctly sized for you, as an incorrectly sized golf club is just begging for problems.
Just like teeing off with a 7-iron for a shot that requires a 3-wood would be setting yourself up for failure. Get to know your clubs well and the distances that each club yields for you.
Some clubs work for some golfers better than others, so learning to gap your golf bag can be a really important skill to take out with you on the course.
5. Do your Research
If you’re stepping out onto a course and looking at each distance or par for the first time, you might have a lot of fun hitting tricky recovery shots, but you’re not likely to play the best game of your life.
If you want to save your scorecard, plan ahead and do your research!
It always helps to be prepared for the first golf tee – you don’t want to have to overswing to get the ball where you need it to be.
Look up some reviews of the course you’re planning on playing on at the weekend, look up the distances and the pars, and if you have the time, hang around the 19th hole and ask for some tips from the local club expert!
Golfers love to talk about golf, so it never hurts to ask!
So, that’s our guide to the first golf tee!
hopefully next time you step up to the tee box, you’ll know what you’re doing, and you’ll be confident enough to hit great shots straight away.
As we said at the beginning of this article, golf is a mental game as well as a physical sport, so make sure you’re prepared!