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Rules of Golf Review: To get more height on his drives, my buddy uses a pencil to tee his ball. Is that a penalty?

July 10, 2024
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Photo by Stephen Denton

What do you do when you're playing with someone who thinks they are the municipal-golf version of Bryson DeChambeau, always trying to find a hack that makes the game a little easier? Well, in the case of the guy who wants to break off an eraser and use a pencil as a tee, you let him do it.

It's within the rules to use any object to prop a ball up in the teeing area—provided it complies with the definition of a tee in the Rules of Golf and can be used in a way that complies with Rule 6.2(b) and the Equipment Rule outlined in Part 6 (1.). The most important is that a tee can be no longer than four inches. That doesn't mean the part sticking out of the ground; it means four inches total. So if he's using the old No. 2 pencil from second-grade handwriting, it better be whittled down to four inches or shorter. Scorecard pencils are generally no longer than four inches, by the way.

Two other things to remember about whether a tee is legal is that it can't be designed or manufactured in a way that would let it indicate line of play, nor can it unduly influence the movement of the ball or assist in making a stroke. There are a few tee manufacturers that sell products that cup the backside of a golf ball, like a chair back. The backing reduces sidespin, they claim, which is why they are illegal to use.

Penalty for using a non-conforming tee is two strokes or loss of hole in match play for the first offense. You get DQ'd if you do it twice.

Since we're on the topic of conforming and non-conforming tees, you might wonder if you can prop a ball up on a pile of dirt or smack the turf with a club to raise it up a bit. The answer is yes, it's legal. You also can make repairs to the teeing area before swinging away. That includes sweeping away water or pulling weeds.

And if you're wondering about the times John Daly has ripped a drive off the top of a beer can, well, let's just say those were non-sanctioned events.

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