What comes from Scotland, England and the United States after 500 years of playing golf? Golf lingo. Easier to say than terminology.
A dialect exceptionally rich and timeless in vocabulary. A tongue, sometimes so foreign a non-golfer may run for the hills screaming, “the aliens have landed!” A language so dear that even some golfers have been known to name their pets “Divot” and “Mulligan.”
As you begin your golf journey, here are a few classic terms to& start you on your way. Click on the alphabetical buttons in the drop-down menu above to view the terms within that alpha range.
ace – A hole in one
amateur – A golfer who is not paid for playing.
approach – Normally a short or medium shot played to the putting green or pin — “approach shot.”
attend the flag – To hold and then remove the flag while another player putts. A common courtesy performed when playing a round.
away – The player farthest from the hole is the first to play, as in “Who`s away?”
back – The tee position that makes the hole the longest. Also, the last nine holes of an eighteen-hole course.
ball – What you hit. Primarily comes in white.
ball-washer – A device to use for washing your golf balls.
bermuda – A type of coarse durable grass seen mostly on southern courses.
best ball (better ball) – The best score on a hole by two or more partners in a best-ball match.
birdie – A score of one under par on a hole.
bogey – A score of one over par on a hole.
break – In putting it is the curve due to the slope in a green. In a golf shot, a player may say, “I got a good break.” (a favorable or unfavorable sharp bounce/roll to the left or right.)
bunker – A sand trap on a golf course, defined as a hazard.
caddie/caddy – A person who carries clubs for a golfer, gives a golfer advice with club selection and course strategy.
carry – The distance a golf ball must traverse from impact to the point where it first hits the ground. Carry is especially important when judging the distance to the green over a hazard (water, bunker).
cart fee – The rental fee a player pays for using a golf cart during a golf round.
chip – A short, lofted shot from around the green.
compression – The degree of resilience of a golf ball. It is recommended that a beginner play with an 80 or 90-compression ball. One and two piece golf balls are not designated by compression.
course – Slang for golf course. An area of land designed for playing golf, occupying anywhere from 50 to 300 acres, and having fixed boundaries.
course rating – The comparison of playing one course as opposed to another in terms of difficulty, used in USGA handicapping.
divot – A piece of turf removed with a golf shot. It is proper etiquette to always replace the divot, and to step the turf back in place. Many courses provide a container of sand in golf carts to fill your divots.
dogleg – A left or right bend in the fairway.
drop – The act performed when a player has an unplayable lie or when the original ball is lost. The golf ball is dropped from a shoulder height on the course.
eagle – A score of two under par on a hole.
executive course – A shorter-than-regulation golf course predominantly featuring par-4 and par-3 holes. A good starter course for a beginning golfer to play before moving to a regular course.
fore – A warning yelled by a player when their shot threatens another player.
foursome – Four golfers playing together. Also a match in which two players play against another two players with each side playing one
GHIN – No, this is not part of your face… Developed by the USGA, to calculate handicaps, this nationwide system is called Golf Handicap Information Network.
gimme – A short putt very close to the hole that your playing partners award you. You don`t have to putt your ball. You`ll hear, “That`s a gimme!” during a casual and friendly round, but it is not within the rules of golf. Good on the “next” shot not the last.
grain – This term is important when determining your putting strategy on the green. It is the direction in which the blades of grass point on the green, which contributes to the speed and direction of your putt.
green – The area of a golf hole on the course designed for putting. The grass is extremely short and well-manicured.
green fee – A fee charged a golfer to play on a golf course. Prices do vary, a public course is usually less expensive than a golf resort.
grip – The top part of the club held by the golfer, usually made from leather or rubber. Also, the manner in which the club is held. The two most common grips are the “Vardon grip,” (or overlapping) after golfer Harry Vardon, in which the pinky of the bottom hand overlaps between the index and middle finger of the upper hand, and the “Interlocking grip” in which the the index finger of the top hand is interlocked with the pinky of the bottom.
gross score – The score before you apply the deduction of your handicap.
ground under repair – Often mentioned in the Rules of golf. It is an area on the golf course undergoing maintenance or repair. If your ball lands in this area, you are allowed to remove your ball without penalty.
handicap – Designed to allow golfers of all levels (beginners to advanced) to compete together on an equitable basis. This is an allowance in strokes given to a player based on their past and current performance.
hazard – Any obstructive or difficult feature of a golf course such as lakes, ponds, fences, molehills, or bunkers.
hole – Where you want your golf ball to end up eventually. A small cylinder cut into the ground and measuring 4 1/4 inches in diameter and at least 4 inches deep, located on the green of a golf course. hole in one – A score of one on a hole — an amazing feat!
honor – The privilege of teeing off first on a hole, usually given to the player who scores the lowest on the previous hole.
hook – A golf shot that curves strongly from right to left. For the right-handed golfer this shot usually lands left of their target (the direction would be opposite for the left-handed golfer). In the past this term was often likened to draw. A draw is a controlled right to left shot with a moderate curve.
hosel – The hollow portion of the clubhead where the shaft is attached, also referred to as the neck.
layout – Refers to the design of the golf course.
lie – The position of the ball on the course. You`ll often hear a player say, “I have a good/bad lie.” It is also used when a player has played a certain number of strokes on that hole — “She is lying three, and she still has the chance to par the 17th.” With equipment, it is the angle at which the clubhead is set on the shaft.
links – A golf course situated on a seaside terrain. Also slang for golf course.
lip – The rim around the hole.
LPGA – The Ladies Professional Golf Association. This organization includes tournament operations and a teaching and club professional division.
LPGA Tour – Ladies Professional Golf Association of America for touring women golf professionals. The Ladies Tour conducts over 40 events a year.
majors, major championships – The Professional tournaments considered the most important within the golf community. For the Women`s Tour: Dinah Shore Classic, the LPGA Championship, the du Maurier Classic, and the U.S. Women`s Open. For the Men`s Tour: The Masters, the U.S. Open, the British Open, and the PGA Championship. Note: Golf purists refer to the British Open as “The Open.”
marker – An item used to mark the position of your golf ball. Used on the green to indicate the position of the ball. This may be a coin or a small object. Many clubs provide markers. Also, a term referring to a person who keeps score during stroke competition.
match play – A competition by holes between two parties/players. One player defeats the other one by winning more holes than there are holes left to play.
medal play – A competition where the player wins with the lowest number of strokes. Also known as stroke play.
mulligan – The chance to replay your last shot.
nassau – A golf betting game consisting of three parts during a round. Players establish a wager on the front nine, back nine and the entire 18.
niblick – An old term for a nine iron, Scottish in origin. ob – Short for Out of Bounds. The area lying outside of the defined golf course.
par – The standard score in strokes assigned to each hole on the golf course. The par for each hole is given on the scorecard. You`ll have a great round if you score “the par” on any course.
penalty stroke – An additional stroke added to a player`s score for a rules violation
PGA of America – The Professional Golfers` Association of America, the governing body of American professional golf.
PGA Tour – Based in Ponte Verdra Beach, FL. This group governs the PGA TOUR, Senior PGA TOUR and the Nike Tour. The Tour conducts almost 150 tournaments a year.
pin – Slang for flagstick.
pin-high – Reference to a ball on the green that is even with the pin but off to one side.
pitch – An approach shot to the green. The player does not use a full swing during a pitch shot. This shot is shorter than a normal swing, but longer than a chip shot.
play through – When a group or player will pass a group of slower golfers playing on the hole ahead. In terms of proper etiquette, it is recommended you ask permission before moving ahead.
professional – A player, usually called a Pro, who receives payment for teaching or playing in tournaments.
putter – The club specifically designed for putting. It has very little loft and is usually shorter than other clubs.
quarter shot – A golf shot with a greatly reduced swing.
range – A common slang word used to describe the course practice area.
recovery – Referring to a player`s shot. A shot played back into a good position from a hazard, rough, or a generally unfavorable position.
relief – Referring to the Rules of Golf. Permission to lift and drop the ball without penalty.
rough – The area on the golf course where the grass is longer and thicker than the fairway.
Royal and Ancient – One of the two governing bodies in golf along with the United States Golf Association.
scramble – A tournament and/or format of golf play. All golfers hit the ball, starting at the tee. The best ball is picked after each shot and the process starts all over again until the ball is putted out. This format is good for beginners, as it alleviates the pressure of playing with better players.
scratch – Not something you do when you have an itch. Used when referring to a player`s handicap. A scratch golfer is a player who has a 0 handicap. A person who plays “par golf”. A good place to be.
semi-private course – A course that has members but is still open to the public.
shank – A shot struck by the club`s hosel that travels dead right (for a right-handed player). Considered the worst golf shot to perform, other than a “whiff.”
slice – A shot that curves violently to the right. This is the most common ball flight for a beginner.
slope – Adjusts your handicap to the difficulty of the course you play. The more difficult the slope rating on the course, the more strokes the player will need. See the USGA web site for further information.
tee – A peg on which the ball is placed for driving (wooden or plastic). The tee is also the point from which the play of a hole begins, usually referred to as “the tee” or the “teeing ground.”
threesome – Three players playing a round together. Also, a match in which two players play the same ball and alternate strokes and play against a single player.
tiger tee – Slang for the back tee.
top – To hit the ball above its center. A shot that will dive downward and roll or hop on the ground rather than rise.
turn – The halfway point on an 18 hole course. After playing nine holes, a player is at the “turn.”
twosome – Two golfers playing together.
USGA – United States Golf Association. With the Royal and Ancient Society of St. Andrews, one of the ruling bodies of golf.
whiff – To swing and miss the golf ball completely, counted as a stroke.
yips – A chronic condition of missing short putts due to nerves.