A Brief History Of The Golf Tee: What You May Not Know

Tuesday, September 19th, 2017
Little known facts about the golf tee with the academy of golf dynamics

The Official Rules of Golf state a tee is a device that raises the golf ball above the ground. Tees must be longer than four inches and cannot be used in a manner that influences the movement of the ball.

The tee itself enables the golf ball to stay above ground for the initial shot of each hole. Golfers aren’t required to use a tee, but it is a commonly used item. Having the ball above ground offers less resistance than taking a shot on the turf.

The governing bodies of golf have agreed upon the conformity of the tees, just as they do on other equipment. Golf tees that are made today are made from wood or plastic. Typically, the top end of the tee is concave in order to hold the golf ball and stabilize it before impact by the driver. However, the design of each golf tee can differ from each company.

These items can only be used when playing the first stroke of each hole. The lone exception is when there is a penalty that requires a golfer to return back to the tee box and replay a stroke.

What are golf tees?

Tees made their debut in the sport right around the late 1800s. Unconfirmed reports tell of several golfers experimenting with different devices before tees became the norm. Before these products, golfers would create a mound of dirt and place their ball on top before taking the opening shot.

As golf became a more organized game, the majority of the players were using sand tees. If you are unfamiliar with sand tees, they are a handful of wet sand that is formed into a mound. Sand tees hung around the sport until the early 1900s. Golfers often found a small box filled with sand near the tee box. Some courses also provided water for the golfers to wet their hands in order to shape the sand into a tee. This became a very messy process, so it didn’t surprise anyone when other tee designs began showing up at the patent office.

Golf’s first patent tee

Many golfers began developing and creating different ways to elevate the ball off the turf for the opening shot of each hole. The first patent application for a golf tee was submitted by two men named William Bloxsom and Arthur Douglas, both from Scotland. Their product had a flat, wedge-shaped base with several prongs near the narrow bottom of the base. This allowed the tee to stand above ground instead of being pressed into the turf.

The first known tee that was designed to be stuck into the ground was called The Perfectom. It was created and patented by Percy Ellis of England in 1892. This golf tee was essentially a nail with a rubber ring added to the head.

George Franklin Grant’s golf tee

If you research who invented the golf tee, Dr. George Franklin Grant would be the name that shows up first. Others know him for the device he invented to treat cleft palate. Many argue that Grant had the patent for a wooden peg that could pierce the ground, but not a golf tee. His wooden design was very similar to today’s tees, except it didn’t have a conclave top. Grant never manufactured or marketed his design to leading golf manufacturers. In fact, no one saw his invention except a small group of his friends.

The Reddy Tee

The modern version of the golf tee is called The Reddy Tee. The inventor is Dr. William Lowell Jr., a dentist, who patented his design in 1925. Even before the patent was finalized, a deal was struck with the Spalding Company to begin manufacturing the Reddy tee.

Lowell’s tee pierced into the ground, and it had a conclave platform on top to keep the ball in a stable position. Unlike his predecessors, Dr. Lowell marketed his product very well. His biggest gain was signing Walter Hagen to use the tee during his exhibition tour in 1922. This exposure allowed for the Reddy Tee to take off as the Spalding Company began mass-producing the product. The majority of tees used on golf courses today are very similar to the original Reddy Tee model.

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