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."
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.
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!