First Tee Nerves

by About Golf

First Tee Nerves

If you are a golf beginner the first tee can be a daunting, intimidating place to be.  You feel that the eyes of the world are looking at you and judging you by your performance.  Don’t worry everyone feels the same, those of us who have played a bit just get better at hiding it.  Look at this video and listen to the best players in the world describing their first tee nerves at the Ryder Cup. 

Now you are probably not playing in the Ryder Cup but a busy Saturday morning at your local club can feel intimidating to say the least.  The good news is that almost everyone is feeling the same and most golfers want you to play well and are wishing you good luck.  Most won’t laugh at you if you don’t make it past the ladies’ tee especially if they are playing after you they wouldn’t want to tempt fate!

I am a strong believer in the principle that you get what you focus your attention on.  If you think about the bad shot, then its highly likely that you will get the result you have been thinking about. The best way to get over the first tee nerves is to know the rules and have a set routine to focus on, rather than worrying about what other people will think if you hit a howler.  

Rules of Golf

The Tee box is described in the R&A Rules of Golf as “the starting place for the hole to be played. It is a rectangular area two club-lengths in depth, the front and the sides of which are defined by the outside limits of two tee-markers. A ball is outside the teeing ground when all of it lies outside the teeing ground”.  Other sections of the rules relating to the tee you should know are:

  • “You may change your ball before playing your tee shot, but it is good practice to advise a player in your group if you are changing your ball”.
  • “Play your tee shot from between, and not in front of, the tee-markers. You may play your tee shot from up to two club-lengths behind the front line of the tee-markers”.

Types of Golf Tee

Golf holes can have a variety of tees for each hole so that they can vary the distance of the hole and the position it is played from. They can use a variety of methods to denote which of the tees players of various abilities should use. Generally, the tees are denoted by colored tee markers as follows:

  • White are competition tees and are normally the furthest from the hole.
  • Green are members tees to played from by club members.
  • Yellow tees are allocated for normal play by visitors.
  • Red tees are normally ladies’ tees.

These colors can change depending on the country so always worth checking before you play to ensure you are using the correct tee area.

Correct Golf Tee Height

Golf tees can be used only on the teeing ground and must not be used anywhere else on the course to improve the position of the ball.  The rules state:

  • “A ‘tee’ is a device designed to raise the ball off the ground. It must not be longer than 4 inches (101.6 mm), and it must not be designed or manufactured in such a way that it could indicate the line of play or influence the movement of the ball.”

The ideal height of tee that you should use depends the type of club that you are going to use for the tee shot.  The longer the club – driver being the longest, the wedges being the shortest – then the higher the ball should sit on the tee.

The golf club you select will depend on a combination of distance and the level of accuracy required to get the ball into play but avoid any of the course hazards. The type of club is important when selecting the tee height because they are built differently and require a different point of contact during the swing path.  Drivers need to impact the ball on the upswing; fairway woods and hybrids sweep into the ball and irons require a descending blow ball before ground.

I use a plastic tee with height variety set by color.  This allows me to ensure that I have the ball setup at the correct and consistent height for each club type.

Tee Heights

Tee Heights Summary

  • For the driver the ball height should be at a height that the midpoint of the ball is level with top of driver. Therefore, use the silver or pink tee depending on the face height of your driver.
  • For the 3-wood set the ball height about half to a third of ball above the top of clubhead, yellow tee is ideal.
  • Other fairway woods and hybrids you want to sweep into the ball the blue tee is a good height for this.
  • For the irons the ball should be struck with a descending blow, ball before the ground so the red tee is my ideal height.

You will need to adjust your tee selection depending on your swing mechanics, but I am sure that with a little time spent on the range you would be able to make your tee selection.  This is one less thing that you will need to worry about on the tee. 

Selecting Your Tee Shot

In the Selecting Your Tee shot lesson, I go through my thought process when selecting the tee shot.  I would strongly advise you to formulate your own process as it will greatly improve your ability to deal with tee shot nerves and help you hit better shots.  You can check out all our teaching videos as a member of the website  


The key to dealing with tee shot anxiety is process.  You often here the top players talking about going through their process, it sounds a little corny I know but it works.  If the best players in the world are doing it so should you.  Having a good process (sometimes referred to as routine) will be one of the best golfing decisions you will make. Apart from working yours out and a little practice and commitment, its free.

Len Stanley

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