What is a Tee Time in Golf? Everything You Need to Know
Written by Mike Noblin

Mike has been involved with sports for over 30 years. He's been an avid golfer for more than 10 years and is obsessed with watching the Golf Channel and taking notes on a daily basis. He also holds a degree in Sports Psychology.

Updated on January 25, 2024

I’ll never forget the first time I heard about a tee time in golf.

I was just learning the game and My Dad told me, “Hurry up, we don’t want to miss our tee time.” I thought ole Pops had surely lost his mind but he was simply using normal golf lingo.

If you’re new to the game of golf, you may not know what a tee time is. We cover all things related to tee times in this post.


What is a Tee Time?

A tee time is another way of saying that you have a reservation made for a particular time slot to begin your round of golf on the course.

To not be considered late, someone in your group of players must hit their first shot at your designated tee time. So it’s a good idea to make sure that your group is on the tee box a few minutes before the tee time.

Pro shops usually have a tee time policy where they space out their time slots with anywhere from 7 to 15 minutes between playing groups. This helps prevent excessive waiting on each hole during a round of golf. It also helps the golf course accommodate as many players as possible per day, which maximizes their revenue.


How to Setup a Tee Time

Setting up a tee time is quick, easy, and relatively headache-free. Find the golf course that you want to play at and call up their pro shop. Ask about their available tee times for the day you want to play.

Most golf courses also allow players to make online reservations via their course’s website or a booking app like GolfNow. After selecting which day you want to play, you’ll often be presented with several tee times to choose from. After finding the time you want, you’ll then be asked to enter the number of players in your group and provide payment information.

Though booking a tee time online is easy, some courses charge a convenience fee for doing this so look into that before completing the process. I’ve seen extra fees of $5 to $10 just for booking online, which doesn’t make much sense when it costs nothing to call the pro shop and book your tee time directly.


What Happens If You Don’t Show Up to Your Tee Time

In official tournament play, if you are anywhere from one to five minutes late for your designated tee time, you’ll receive a two-stroke penalty. Any golfer who is more than five minutes late for their tee time is disqualified according to the USGA rule book.

Though the rules of professional golf are pretty strict when it comes to tee times, recreational players usually aren’t penalized if they are a little late for their tee times.

If you are running a bit behind, call the pro shop and ask if you can have their next available tee time. As long as the course isn’t too packed, they should be able to let you tee off without too long of a wait.

That being said, different courses have different rules regarding tee times. You should make it a point to never be late for a tee time. Being late is considered improper golf etiquette and some courses may not even give you a refund if you prepaid for your round but show up late.


Do You Need a Tee Time to Play Golf?

It all depends on the golf course.

At most private courses, tee times are required. However, some courses don’t even take tee times and operate on a first-come-first-serve basis. Other courses may encourage tee times but will take walk-up customers if they have any time slots available for the day.

When in doubt, simply call the pro shop to find out whether tee times are required. It’s better to find out on the front end what the course policy is regarding tee times.


Most Popular Tee Times

Wondering when your favorite golf course will be at its busiest? If it’s golf season, your favorite course may stay packed even in the middle of the day. In the off-season winter months, you may be able to get a tee time at any time of the day.

On weekdays in the summer months, the most popular tee times are early in the morning before 9 AM to avoid the brutal heat and humidity. Some folks also like to sneak in a round of golf after work in the summer, so tee times after 3 PM are becoming more popular.

Due to most people’s work schedules, golf courses are busier on the weekends and will have fewer tee times available. If you are wanting to play when there are fewer golfers on the course, try to book a tee time on a weekday. The course will be quieter and you probably won’t have to wait to tee off on any of the holes.


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Mike Noblin

Mike has been involved with sports for over 30 years. He's been an avid golfer for more than 10 years and is obsessed with watching the Golf Channel and taking notes on a daily basis. He also holds a degree in Sports Psychology.