"The Tips" is a synonym for several other golf terms that describe the longest set of tees on a golf course.
“Playing from the tips” means to play from the farthest tee box on a golf course.
This term is used by Touring Professionals, and also by recreational players who are trying to play an “extremely long, tough course.”
The term “from the tips” is a synonym for playing at one of the course's longest tee boxes (the 18-to-20-yard back tees).
It also means to play from the farthest tee box on any given hole, which is often farther than the maximum distance of a regulation or "standard" tee box.
When the term is used, it means that all or most golfers are playing their pre-determined shots from the farthest tees on any given hole, which gives them an added degree of difficulty (i.e., longer and/or tougher holes).
What does playing from the tips mean?
When playing from the tips, golfers are either trying to lower their handicap index, or to play a course in which they can "really open up on the driver," “get some distance with the longer clubs” and perhaps add additional shots onto their score.
The term is also used colloquially (and jokingly) when playing a round at any course that is particularly long or difficult; again, either to lower one's handicap, to get more distance on the ball with longer clubs, or simply because the particular course is so difficult.
If you are trying to play an extremely difficult golf course and are having trouble keeping up with the group in front of you (or the group behind you), your golf partner might say, "Let's just play from the tips so we can even keep up!"
In some cases, members of a foursome will agree to allow one or more players to move their tee boxes farther back in order for all players to have an easier time.
This is a common courtesy afforded to players who are new to a course, as well as those whose games may be off that day.
When playing from the tips, it is good etiquette for golfers not to play their shots all the way down toward (or into) the fairway of the hole being played by other groups; or at least not to land in the fairway of a group behind them.
The best solution is to move back in the tee box just slightly, then hit one's ball into a space that is either out of view from the other groups' vantage point (if it can be determined), or to simply tap down an inch or two and let the ball roll forward until it is positioned safely out of view.
On many golf courses, there are certain holes designated as par 5s that can be played by everyone from the tips (when playing "from the tips" these holes are usually considered “par 6s”).
When this is the case, it becomes very important to assist other players who aren't familiar with the course, especially those who have their tee boxes farther back.
Often, experienced golfers will call out to other groups as they are approaching a par 5 tee box to let them know whether it can be played from that position or if they should proceed ahead and play the hole at their usual distance.
If possible, golfers playing from the tips should let other golfers know that every player will be playing from as far back as possible.
Another common courtesy is to let everyone in your group know whether you are going “from the tips” or not, so each golfer can decide whether they want to try their luck at hitting a distant ball; even if there is a par 5 that they can play from the tips, if their golfing partner isn't able to, they may elect not to.
If a recreational or inexperienced golfer is playing with a group of touring professionals who decide to go “from the tips” on difficult holes, it is good etiquette for them to let that player know before they tee off, so they can use their best judgment about whether to proceed.
If that player wants to try his luck from the tips (even though he may not be able to make it), it is polite for all golfers in the group to let him play his shot first and then decide whether or not they want to follow suit.
Being able to play from the tips isn't always about being better than the other players in your group; it's just another way of playing golf.
It may be easier said that done, but if a golfer can consistently play his ball out past all of the other golfers in his foursome, he is likely going to enjoy himself more than if he were playing at his regular distance.
It is up to the golfer, though, to determine whether or not it would be a pleasurable challenge for his game (and temperament) to play from the tips on every hole.
Those who frequently play “from the tips” will learn that any given ball is likely to come screaming back toward their feet if they don't watch where they are aiming.
It's helpful for a golfer to have his or her caddie line up the ball on most tee shots, as the golfer won't be able to see straight down the fairway in order to position his shot properly.
When playing “from the tips,” it is often best to try and hold back a little bit at impact -- even though the ball will more than likely be going farther than it would if it were played conventionally.
Players should also keep in mind that there is still plenty of room on a golf course to play from as far back as possible; however, it is much more difficult to play from the tips on par 3s due to the fact that one's ball will be traveling at faster speeds.
A golfer should never play a tee shot from as far back as possible in order to intentionally inconvenience any other group playing behind him or her; this is not only an extreme faux pas but also dangerous to all players involved.
If a player accidentally hits his ball into another group's fairway, he should immediately approach the group and apologize; if possible, the two groups should come to an agreement on where each golfer can play from in order to avoid further conflict.