Rules Guy: If you have the honor on the tee, do you *have* to hit first?

group of golfers on tee

What do the rules say about employing honors on the tee?

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The Rules of Golf are tricky! Thankfully, we’ve got the guru. Our Rules Guy knows the book front to back. Got a question? He’s got all the answers.

My understanding is that the current USGA guidance is to play “ready golf” in stroke play, except when it creates a risk of injury. Does that apply when players are teeing off, or is there a rule that the player with the honor goes first? —Michael Konner, Bonita Springs, Fla.

Michael, your understanding is correct: Rules 5.6b and 6.4b indeed encourage “ready golf” in stroke play. This concept of playing out of turn safely and responsibly to save time extends to anywhere on the course — start, middle and finish of holes. There is a caveat: Players should not play out of turn to gain an advantage over another player. If the player who has the honor wants to play in order, the other player(s) should respect that and do so.

For more tee box guidance from our guru, read on …

Rules Guy: Is there a penalty for accidentally teeing off on the wrong hole?
By: Rules Guy

I know that you’re allowed to tee up a certain distance behind a tee marker — but how far, exactly? Also, some tee markers can be quite deep — I’ve seen rectangular plates a foot long. Is the marker defined by its front end (the side closer to the hole), or its back end? Obviously, one needs to know so as not to tee up ahead of the marker, but I also have a playing partner who feels his irons are so precise he wants to use that foot to his advantage. — Randy Feldner, McLean, VA

Though it is neither here nor there and, as Tiger would say, it is what it is, your playing partner is either a Tour pro in disguise or suffering from delusions of grandeur often associated with narcissistic personality disorder.

As to what defines the teeing area, see Definition of Teeing Area: It’s a two-club-length rectangle measured and bounded by the front and outside edges of the tee markers.

To anticipate a follow-up, “club-length” is always defined as the longest club in your bag that isn’t a putter. Now your knowledge is as precise as your playing partner’s irons (ironic cough implied).

Need help unriddling the greens at your home course? Pick up a custom Green Book from 8 AM Golf affiliate Golf Logix.

Got a question about the Rules? Ask the Rules Guy! Send your queries, confusions and comments to We promise he won’t throw the book at you.

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