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Are Tilted Tees Costing You Strokes?

By Brian Whitlark, agronomist, West Region

| Dec 7, 2018

Crowned tees develop more rapidly when there is a narrow or obstructed path to the fairway, leaving little choice for tee marker location.

Every golf hole begins with a tee shot, and I bet you appreciate starting from a level lie. If tees become crowned over time, you may have to overcome an uphill or downhill lie or tee off with the ball above or below your feet. Severely sloped lies may encourage shots to slice, hook or launch at an undesirable trajectory.


Tees become crowned over time due to years of filling divots with sand in the center of the teeing ground.


Why do tees develop a crown?

Crowned tees develop after years of filling divots with divot mix. Since divots are usually concentrated in the center of tees, this area becomes raised and the teeing surface becomes crowned. Crowning occurs more rapidly on narrow tees, tees that receive the most golfer traffic and par-3 tees where short irons are the club of choice. Crowned tees also can develop rapidly when there is a narrow or obscured path to the fairway that limits tee marker locations. In general, crowned tees often develop after about 10 years of use. However, small par-3 tees may develop an excessive crown sooner than adequately sized par-4 or par-5 tees that may retain a level slope for more than 15 years.


How can golfers prolong the life of a tee surface?

Golfers can help prolong the need for tee leveling, which is a disruptive and potentially expensive process, by being mindful when filling divots. Judicious divot filling is one way to slow the development of crowned tees. Less is more when it comes to filling divots on tees. Divots should never be filled above the level of the soil. Over-filling divots accelerates tee crowning and creates excessive wear and tear on mowing equipment.  

Embracing the variety and challenge of varying tee locations is also helpful. Maintenance staffs move tees forward, back, left and right to spread out golfer traffic and delay the need for renovation. They may also move tee markers from one tee to another to allow for divot recovery, spread traffic and vary the golf experience.

Maintenance staffs may also use cultivation techniques such as aeration and sand topdressing on tee perimeters to help keep tee surfaces level for a longer period. Although these practices can cause temporary disruption to the golf experience, they help delay the need for extensive tee renovations.


Eventually, tee leveling will be necessary.

Although certain practices can help keep tees level, eventually tees will need to be releveled. Given their experience, expertise and familiarity with the specialized equipment that is often used to quickly and accurately complete the work, contractors specializing in golf course construction often are hired to level tees. Tee leveling can be done in house, but it is important to recognize that this work is labor intensive and will likely divert resources away from daily maintenance tasks.

Some courses level a few teeing grounds every year, thereby avoiding an expensive and disruptive large-scale tee leveling project. Staying on top of tee leveling requirements yields consistency and improved playability. Even though tee leveling causes short-term disruptions, we all benefit from it in the long run with a great stance and lie to begin each hole. 



Tee renovation projects are necessary to provide firm, level teeing grounds for golfers to enjoy.

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