Club bans the use of plastic tees

A historic club cites the tee's harm to wildlife and maintenance equipment. Will more clubs follow suit?
The many shapes and styles of the plastic golf tee. Is there a future in golf for them?

In the golf industry, the innovative spirit can be found even in the most utilitarian of tools: the tee.

Each year at the PGA Merchandise Show, new designs and models of tees pepper the show floor. They promise some combination of longer-lasting design or even added distance. While wood has been the go-to material for generations, tees made of plastic appear to have taken up more market share, at least on shop racks if not in golf bags.

But according to the Telegraph, a historic club in England has decided to ban them, citing potential hazards to its wildlife and damage to mowing equipment. Royal North Devon, England's oldest club, will ban them on the grounds starting Jan. 1, 2020.

The Telegraph reports the committee made the determination with the following logic:

"We have all seen golf tees lying around the course, both wooden and plastic. The simple fact is that plastic tees are more likely to harm the birds and animals we share our wonderful course with. The greenkeepers will also tell you that they can do a great deal more harm to their equipment than a wooden tee."
- Statement from Royal North Devon via Telegraph

Royal North Devon, also referred to as "Westward Ho!", is a course I visited back in 2008. Members and club officials share a heightened awareness for the environment. Not only have its coastal holes been eroding in recent years, but the golf course also shares its grounds with scores of sheep.

Golfers share holes with sheep on many of the holes at England's oldest links, Royal North Devon Golf Club.

Don't let the "Royal" in the name fool you; this is a club whose membership I found to be delightfully friendly and laid-back the day I visited. Combined with the history on display in the clubhouse and rugged and animal-filled grounds, it's a must-visit along with the charming St. Enodoc, as well as Trevose, 36-hole Saunton Golf Club and Burnham & Berrow. (see my review on GolfEurope.com).

I'm reminded of a recent outing at Austin Golf Club, where a member remarked to me how Ben Crenshaw, member and co-founder of the club, is often admonishing the membership to pick up their tees. Considering North Devon's unique environment and historic place in the game, perhaps the next logical step is to go back to the very beginning: tees that are simply clumps of dirt.

Do you prefer plastic or wooden tees? Let us know in the comments below!

Brandon Tucker is the Sr. Managing Editor for GolfPass and was the founding editor of Golf Advisor in 2014, he was the managing editor for Golf Channel Digital's Courses & Travel. To date, his golf travels have taken him to over two dozen countries and nearly 600 golf courses worldwide. While he's played some of the most prestigious courses in the world, Tucker's favorite way to play the game is on a great muni in under three hours. Follow Brandon on Twitter at @BrandonTucker and on Instagram at @btuck34.
61 Comments
Commented on

My tee of choice is a composite “brush” tee with plastic base. On average I probably play around 50+ rounds before they break resulting. If it breaks, which is hardly ever I throw it away. I would prefer to see most plastic tees banned and wood tees only allowed for iron shots as they clutter the course and no one picks them up.

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Commented on

I use plastic tees both for regular holes and par threes and always pick mine up. Can't say the same about many with wooden tees as I see them laying around both on the course and the driving range. Plastic tees last longer and I have rarely seen one laying around. If I see one I pick it up and may use it sometime. There are too many wooden tees laying around to pick up. It would take up too much time out of the round. Every par three is littered with half tees. Broken tees are usually just left on the other holes. Makes no sense to ban plastic tees.

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I used the same Martini tee all last season and a third of this. The only reason I have a new one is because I forgot to pick it up. Did it ruin the environment, no whoever found it picked it up and still uses it. Regular tees break, and people don’t police them because they have a bag full. Don’t despair- I use the broken ones on par threes.

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I am old school and always have use the wooden tees. They last long enough and when broken I use them on par three's if they are long enough. I guess I maximize there use. I never leave a tee inthe teeing area.

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Played on Maui 5 years ago, and the course supplied tees made of (compressed) cornstarch. I found them a little flexible, and they don't break as often as wooden tees. Plastic tees do break sometimes, but more often I see them left behind by golfers that don't consider it a necessity to clean up after themselves. Same with wooden tees. Considering the cost of everything else in the game, buying a few biodegradable tees would seem incidental.

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I prefer plastic tees because I was always breaking the wooden tees. I ALWAYS pick up my tee.

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I LOVE THEM AS I ONLY BREAK ONE ABOUT EVERY THIRD ROUND, THUS VERY COST EFFECTIVE.

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Commented on

Could tee be made of a hardened fertiliser that would be beneficial when left on the ground.

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I prefer a good quality wood tee.. Gotta agree with Crenshaw about picking them up too.

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Instead of a ban, why not collect yours and any others you see.
on the same lines as repair your pitch mark as well as any you see.

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Club bans the use of plastic tees