In golf, a tee is normally used for the first stroke of each hole, and the area from which this first stroke is hit is informally also known as a tee (officially, teeing ground). The word tee is derived from the Scottish 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. Thus, for example the ninth hole of a course is played from the ninth tee to the ninth green, and similarly for the other holes. Normally, teeing the ball is allowed only on the first shot of a hole, called the tee shot, and illegal for any other shot; however, local or seasonal rules may allow or require teeing for other shots as well, e.g., under "winter rules" to protect the turf when it is unusually vulnerable. Teeing gives a considerable advantage for drive shots, so it is normally done whenever allowed. On short par 3 holes where the first shot is a chip, the tee shot may be played without a tee.
A standard golf tee is 2.125" (two and one eighth inches) long, but both longer and shorter tees are permitted and are preferred by some players. Now, designs of these golf tees have a slight adjustment with the holster for the ball, better known as zero friction or more trajectory tees. These generally have a tri-holster, which some people find hard to balance the ball on.
The earliest golf tees rested flat on the ground and had a raised portion to prop up the ball. The first patent for this kind of tee is dated 1889, and was issued to Scotsmen William Bloxsom and Arthur Douglas. The first known tee to pierce the ground was a rubber-topped peg sold commercially as the "Perfectum." This was patented in 1892 by Percy Ellis of England.
These and other variations failed to catch on, as most golfers—whether because of tradition, habit, or concerns about the rules—continued using heaps of sand. It took a strong marketing effort by Dr. William Lowell, Sr. in the 1920s to bring manufactured tees into widespread use. Sales of his "Reddy Tee," a simple wooden peg with a flared top, took off after Lowell hired professional golfers Walter Hagen and Joe Kirkwood, Sr. to promote the product during exhibition matches. It was copied around the world, and remains the most common type of golf tee.
An alternative view sees the golf tee as the invention of an African-American dentist, Dr. George Franklin Grant, in 1899. Mary Bellis at the website inventors.about.com writes that Grant's 1899 patent "was the world's first patent for a golf tee." This tee was a wood cone with a rubber sleeve to support the ball. It is not known to have been marketed.
In American football and its variants, a tee may be used on kickoffs to raise the ball slightly above the playing surface (up to one inch, by NFL and NCAA rules). The CFL and some high school leagues also allow the use of tees on field goal and extra point kicks, where another player (the holder) places one end of the ball on the tee (usually just a rubber block) and holds the opposite end.