Wooden golf tees, or plastic? It’s the eternal question, one that has pitted golfer against golfer, brother against brother, and father against son for generations. In fact, from the point of view of game play, both wooden and plastic golf tees work perfectly well. Some manufacturers of new, ultra-modern plastic tees claim their products will add a few yards to your drive, and others brag that their tees are essentially indestructible, but the difference between standard wooden golf tees and their plastic counterparts seems to be negligible. Most estimates are that somewhere between eighty and ninety percent of all golfers use wooden tees, meaning something like 400 million rounds in the US alone.
However, game play isn’t quite everything, and many golfers have definite opinions on the subject, as even a cursory review of the online golfing forums will illustrate. One argument on the side of plastic tees is that they break less often, which makes them cheaper in the long term, even if they’re more expensive on a per-tee basis. Supporters of wooden tees counter, however, that a broken plastic tee (bent, twisted, and misshapen) is truly good for nothing, while a broken wooden tee (snapped cleanly in half) can often be re-used. In fact, quite a few golfers brag that they get by without purchasing any tees at all, simply roving from tee box to tee box, collecting all the broken but usable wooden golf tees like latter-day hunter-gatherers.
In addition to cost, there’s an environmental issue to be considered as well. Plastic tees are generally not biodegradable, though some new models claim to be. In theory, this makes them less environmentally friendly, and also could contribute to litter problems around less well-maintained courses. Additionally, some plastic tees can damage the blades of lawn mowers, which makes them a real problem for groundskeepers. On the other hand, wooden golf tees are made of—you guessed it—wood, and that means that their manufacture entails cutting down a lot of trees. Some estimates are that as many as three billion trees are felled every year to produce wooden golf tees.
Further, some golfers claim that plastic tees can leave dents in the face of a driver, while others argue that the paint from wooden tees leaves ugly marks. Finally, and not surprisingly, quite a few golfers admit to not caring particularly and simply using whichever variety of tee happens to be available.