Here's how to make a tee time at a golf course and how to check-in at arrival
CMC Golf Culture

Here’s how to make a tee time at a golf course and how to check-in at arrival

A photo of golfers

For new and beginning golfers, golf can be intimidating in a lot of ways. From learning the basic rules of golf, to figuring out which clubs to buy, to finding people to play with, to golf etiquette, there's a lot to learn. And that's to say nothing of how to actually make a reservation to play golf -- or, as most golfers would describe it: how to make a tee time.

What is a tee time in golf?

A tee time is a reservation to play golf at an appointed time. It's like making a reservation for a table at a restaurant.

Most tee times are just a reservation and require no payment to make. If you have to cancel the tee time, there's no financial penalty to doing it. However, there are also a variety of services, including GolfNow, which will require you to pay for the tee time when you make the reservation.

Golf courses have what's called a tee sheet, so they know who is playing at what time and with which people. It's also important so that all of the golfers playing that day know when they're supposed to be playing.

Every golf course has a slightly different tee sheet, as they decide the amount of time between tee times. Some courses send golfers out every 8 minutes (which you should usually avoid because they're trying to cram in as many golfers as possible), while others space out tee times every 15 minutes. Some private clubs don't even have a tee sheet or tee times at all -- their members just show up and organize games in order of arrival.

How to make a tee time at a golf course

Making a tee time is not difficult, and you don't even have to talk to a person to do it. How you'll make your tee time really depends on whether you're looking to play a specific course or might not have a particular course in mind.

At the overwhelming number of public golf courses in the United States, you can make a tee time by going to their website. They'll likely have a tee times link somewhere on the site, and then you can search for tee times based on when you want to play and how many people are playing. From there, you'll find a tee time you like, click on it and go through the reservation process to secure your tee time. You'll get an email confirmation for your tee time.

Of course, you can also call the golf course, too. You'll tell them that you're looking to make a tee time, how many people in your party and approximately when you'd like to play. The pro shop staffer will give you some options (or tell you some alternatives), and then you can pick the time. You'll be asked to give a name for the reservation and, in some cases, a credit card number to secure the time.

If you don't know exactly where you want to play, tee time portals like GolfNow are great. You can search for available tee times at many golf courses in a geographic area, searching for specific time ranges and certain party sizes (1-4 people). They'll show you options based on price or proximity to the time you want to play. You'll select the tee time at the course you like, and then you'll go through the reservation process that includes payment.

Arriving at the golf course

You should arrive at the golf course at least 10 minutes before your tee time, if possible. Ideally, you'd show up at least 30 minutes ahead of time -- even longer if you want to practice ahead of time on a driving range, practice putting green or both. That could be an hour, if you're especially interested in a lot of preparation.

You'll want into the clubhouse or the pro shop (sometimes they are separate buildings, but the pro shop is usually part of the clubhouse) and let them know your name and tee time. They'll check you in, and, if needed, take payment. At that point, you're free to go about getting ready for the round by practicing, grabbing food and drinks or just relaxing until it's time to go.

Usually with about 5 minutes until your tee time, you'll show up to the first tee and check in with a person known as the starter. They'll confirm your tee time and direct you to the first tee when you're ready. They make take down your cart number, if you're using one, or give you some background information about the course.

Then, it's time to play golf!

About the author

Ryan Ballengee

Ryan Ballengee is founder and editor of Golf News Net. He has been writing and broadcasting about golf for nearly 20 years. Ballengee lives in the Washington, D.C. area with his family. He is currently a +2.6 USGA handicap, and he has covered dozens of major championships and professional golf tournaments. He likes writing about golf and making it more accessible by answering the complex questions fans have about the pro game or who want to understand how to play golf better.

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