Golfers of the 19th Century, in the living memory
of the early historians, all say that the 'tee' was the area where from which
you played and they 'tee'd' on the ground,
as laid down in the first
rules of golf 1744 - 'Your Tee must be upon the
Ground'. Golfers at this time used sand to make a tee within one
club length of the previous hole, later expanded to within two
and four club lengths.
The word tee itself is
derived from the Gaelic word 'tigh' meaning house
and is related to the 'house' in curling (the coloured circles). Of course, as the first golf tees
were within a 'circle' of one club length round the hole, this would make sense.
Nowadays the curling 'tee' is the
line through the centre
of the 'house' in curling and is in fact the target
not the release line, which is the 'hog' line.
It was not apparently until
after Old Tom Morris
separate teeing areas at St Andrews in the late 19th Century that this
defined area became common place.
Golfers continued to make tees
from piles of sand. This was messy and towels and water were provided to wash the
golfers' hands as they are today to wash golf balls.
Original sand boxes were still found
until recently on some old courses, such as Bruntsfield
Links, though today they contain fertilised soil for filling in divots on
the teeing ground.
Old Sandbox at BLGS on Eighteenth
Throughout the end of the 19th Century and the
beginning of the 20th Century, golfers began trying to create re-usable
tees, using cork, paper or rubber.
The Singular History of the Golf Tee by IR
Valenta (1995) documents that the earliest known portable golf tee was
invented by two Scots W Bloxsom and A Douglas in 1889, and was a small
rubber slab resting flat on the ground, with three vertical rubber
a hollow rubber tube to hold the ball in place.
The History says that the first known tee to penetrate the
ground was the "Perfectum" tee, for which a British patent was granted in
1892 to P Ellis, also a Scot. It comprised a rubber circle with a metal
spike that was pushed into the ground. A variation of this, the "Victor"
tee, with a cup-shaped rubber top connected to a ground spike was patented
by PM Matthews of Scotland in 1897.
The first United States patent for a golf tee was
issued to the Glaswegian David Dalziel on 8th September 1896. The
patent was for a rubber tee with a flat base and slightly concave top, in
combination with an artificial ground surface.
Dr George Grant
On 12th December 1899, an American dentist, Dr
George F Grant, one of the first black graduates of Harvard College,
was the first American to patent a tee that he had invented in 1898. It was a
peg with a rubber top and was pushed into the ground,
and is very close to the modern tee, but but it did not have a concave head. He did
not market it and neither this nor any other previous
tee inventions caught on.
The first commercial golf tee, which is the one
we know today, was the Reddy Tee
invented at Maplewood Golf Club in 1921 by another American dentist William
Lovell. First manufactured in wood and painted with red tops so that they
could be seen easily, they were soon produced in a variety of styles and
materials. The "Reddy Tee" made of white celluloid by the Nieblo
Manufacturing Company, was patented in 1924. Although plastic tees are
available, simple wooden tees similar to those made in the 1920s are still
the most common type.
Thus the final aspect of the game we know today
was put in place.
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