What Do Split Tees Mean in Golf and When Are They Used?

Efficiency is essential for the organizers of golf tournaments to maximize revenue.

There are various ways to achieve this objective. One option is to set up a shotgun start. However, in this guide, I discuss a second choice called a split tee, explain what they mean in golf, and when they are used.

 

What Are Split Tees in Golf?

Split tees refer to scenarios when a golf course starter sends the players off the 1st and 10th tees. Golfers with a tenth tee block time will finish their round on the 9th. Conversely, those playing their first tee shot on the first hole end their long

The main objective is to increase the number of golfers who get through 18-holes on scheduled long days. Two sets of tee boxes are helpful when there are 140 plus golfers in a field, and there is limited daylight for everyone to tee off the 1st.

It is an effective way to increase the field’s capacity, leading to a growth in revenue from green fees and other tournament-related revenue.

In addition, more foursomes of golfers get to tee off on a scheduled day. Given its rise in popularity, a starting time has been hard to come by at some clubs. This is one way to ensure more of us get to play.

Furthermore, a two-tee start alleviates a backlog if bad weather leads to a delay. It enables competitors to complete their rounds without being affected by less daylight.

As a junior, I played many Provincial 36-hole strokeplay league events. The field usually consisted of 80 odd players.

Where I grew up on the East Coast of South Africa, we had plenty of sunlight. However, getting all those youngsters to finish up 36-holes in a day required serious logistics. That is why split tees were employed.

Especially since we were traveling from across the province, which was a 3 to 4-hour drive for some.

The tournament couldn’t start excessively early because of the long-distance travelers, nor could it end at sundown. Somehow, the organizer managed to pull it off and throw prize-giving into the mix.

 

When Do Professional Tournaments Use Split Tees?

You typically see split tees used in professional tournaments where fields reach as many as 156 professionals. This is commonly found in National Opens. These events extend invitations to International stars and amateurs.

If you watched the PGA Championship last weekend, you would have noticed that split tees were employed on Thursday and Friday. You will also witness this in the upcoming British Open. They use two tees to maximize daylight, and the first group is penciled in for an early tee time.

 

What Are Double Tees?

Double tees refer to when a golf course sends groups of players off the 1st and 10th tee simultaneously during an allotted period. For example, the starters assign a tee time between 7 and 9am to the 1st of 10th holes.

A challenge that arises with this setup is the pace of play. If players complete the back 9-holes faster than those on the front, you experience delays at the turn. However, when foursomes of golfers are playing at a consistent speed, it flows seamlessly.

 

What Is The Average Tee Time Interval?

The average schedule allows for 7 to 10-minute intervals. This is determined by the local club and is often based on the time it takes for the group ahead to play their second shot and clear the fairway or green.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, some courses increased the interval time to 12 minutes, ensuring social distance protocols.

 

Other Start Types in Golf Tournaments

Standard

The standard start is where every golfer tees off the first and completes their round on the 18th. This is common in instances where fewer golfers are on the tee sheet, and there is ample time to complete 18-holes.

You will find that regulation PGA Tour events follow this procedure because the tournaments are restricted to exempt players. The only major tournament to use this start is the Masters. The system works differently at Augusta National compared to the other majors.

Shotgun

A shotgun start is an efficient approach for 72 golfers to complete 18-holes simultaneously. Each fourball is assigned to different tees around the golf course at the same starting time.

For example, the organizer decides that the event starts at 1pm. So, you meet your foursome at the clubhouse and walk over to your assigned tee box.

When you hear the starter’s horn, you commence your round and follow the layout until you have completed 18 holes. If you start on the 4th hole, your 18th will be the 3rd.

Every shotgun start I have played in has been a charity event with a post-round auction. The idea is that everyone finishes simultaneously to keep the participants around for the auction.

A standard start or split tees leads to some players finishing hours before the rest of the field. As a result, some participants leave early, and organizers limit their upsell potential.

Besides extracting cash from the field, a shotgun start works wonders during the time of year with less daylight.

Double Shotgun

A double shotgun start is the same as a single, except that every tee box is assigned two groups of foursomes. Let us call them group A and B. The 18 foursomes from group A tee off at 8:00am, while those in group B hit the links at 12:00pm.

Reverse Shotgun

Reverse shotgun is based on the premise of the original idea. However, it is crafted to cater to fewer players. Instead of the participants teeing off on every hole simultaneously, golfers are assigned to holes 18 and backward. For example, If there are 9 foursomes, they will tee off simultaneously on holes 10 through 18.

This frees up non-tournament players to enjoy a round of golf without being held up or interfering with the pace of play.

 

Matt Stevens

Matt Callcott-Stevens started playing golf at the age of 4 when Rory Sabattini's father put a 7-iron and putter in his hand. He has experienced all the highs and lows the game can throw at you and has now settled down as a professional golf writer. He holds a Postgraduate in Sports Marketing and has played golf for 28 years.