Wooden Tees are Grounded in Tradition

Wooden Tees are Grounded in Tradition

Business and family decisions between my dad and me almost always begin with him saying, “Let’s not put the cart before the horse.” I thought about that the other day while leafing through a popular golf magazine. Inside were advertisements for irons and drivers, bags, shoes and just about every other piece of equipment imaginable. What wasn’t displayed inside the glossy pages was the wooden golf tee — a seemingly simple gadget that has become so commonplace that it is often taken for granted.

Which is kind of surprising when you really think about it.

Golf wouldn’t be, well, be golf without the tee. Tee times. Tee boxes. Tee markers… TeeTime Golf Pass.    -Bud Key

From the White Tees - Branding Block

Golf wouldn’t be, well, be golf without the tee. Tee times. Tee boxes. Tee markers… TeeTime Golf Pass. Forget A through S. Golf begins with the letter “T” and yet we give it little or no thought or respect. Sure, there are now all kinds of fancy, plastic “game-improvement” tees on the market. But real golfers — or at least the beer-chugging, hats on backwards, let’s see if we can hit the young assistant pro in the cart picking up range balls — I play with wouldn’t be caught alive placing one in the ground. Heck, it would probably bend like Gumby anyway since we often play on old munis with rock-hard tee areas. Nope. Dig into our bags and you’ll find nothing but good ‘ole’ American shreds of lumber. No worry when one breaks. They’re sold by the gross, or worst case, you can always find an abandoned one laying near by.

So why do I firmly believe the wooden golf tee deserves our praise and adoration? Consider: when golf was first invented, players would scoop out dirt from the hole of the green just played, walk no more than two club lengths from it, and build a mound or “tee” out of the dirt with their hands. Eventually a box of sand and water was kept beside each tee area to be used instead. I can only imagine the slow play problem they must have had because of all the construction.

It wasn’t until 1920 that Dr. William Lowell of Maplewood, NJ, patented a wooden golf tee similar to the one we use today. The “Reddy Tee,” as it was called for its bright red paint color, was described as a “sharp pointed peg with a concave top.”

It seems that Dr. Lowell was also the first inventor, slash entrepreneur, to realize the marketing power of big-name athletes. The “Reddy Tee” didn’t gain acceptance until the popular Walter Hagen began using them on Tour in the summer of 1922. The rest is, well, easily forgotten history.