Golf Terminology

golf terminology / how to play golf better

Golf Terminology ~ A Colloquial Vernacular

This is a list of the colloquial expressions or the vernacular of golf.  These terms are used by golfers to describe what occurs on the golf course.  Golf, like most esoteric endeavors, has a language and vocabulary all its own. This language has evolved over the last 150 years and continues to this day with new phrases and descriptions coming up frequently as the game grows in popularity.

ACE – An ace is when you make the score of 1 on any hole.  Usually associated with par 3’s because they are the shortest, but an ace can occur on any hole with any par designation.

ADDRESS – This is the stance a golfer takes to position himself in relation to the ball before a stroke.

ALBATROSS – On a typical golf course of 18 holes there is usually 4 par 3’s, 4 par 5’s, and 10 par 4’s with a resulting par 72.  An Albatross is taking one less stroke than an eagle on any particular hole.  An eagle is one less stroke than birdie, and a birdie is one less stroke than par.  So in essence an albatross is taking 3 less strokes than par on any particular hole.  These really help the score.  Ultimately the objective of the game of golf is to score the LEAST number of strokes around the designated 18 holes.

APPROACH – An approach is the stroke played to the green.  This would be the second stroke typically on a par 4 hole and either the 2nd or 3rd stroke taken to a par 5 hole.

APRON – The apron is the closely mown collar or area surrounding the green which is slightly longer than the green and slightly shorter than the fairway.

BACK-SPIN – This is the spin imparted on a golf ball when taking a stroke.  It produces a higher ball flight and a shorter roll once the ball strikes the ground.  Also it is usually the result of an outside to inside stroke path (along the intended target line) and an open club face.  Back-spin is opposed to top-spin which typically flies lower and hits the ground with a greater amount of roll.

BACK-SWING – This is the part of the swing that moves the club from the ball to the top of the back-swing, i.e. that position from which the club reverses it’s direction and begins it downward motion toward the ball and ultimately sending the ball toward the cup.

BAIL OUT – A safe way to play a stroke when confronted with danger on a hole, either water, sand, out of bounds or a perilous pin.

BALL MARKER – A coin or other small usually round object used to mark the position of the ball on the green.  Most players mark their ball while on the green to clean it and to allow other players to putt without distraction from their ball.  In days gone by this was not allowed even if a fellow competitor’s ball lay directly between them and the hole.  This was known as a stymie.

BALL RETRIEVER – A device to allow a golfer or caddie the ability to recover balls gone astray in water hazards or other unlikely places.

BALL WASHER – A device used to clean the golf ball usually found on the tee box.

BANANA BALL – This is a term for either an accentuated curve of the ball either left or right.

BANDIT – A shot stolen or one that usually would not have gone in.  “Rub” of the green.

BASEBALL GRIP – This term is used for holding the golf club with all 10 fingers on the club as opposed to using a Vardon Grip (pinky finger overlapping the index finger of the hand above) or an interlocking grip (when the pinky finger hooks underneath the index finger of the hand above).

BEACH – Term used to describe a sand bunker.

BENT GRASS – A strain of grass typically found in cooler climates which is very smooth and fast without a lot of grain to influence a putt.

BERMUDA GRASS – Another strain of grass that is usually found in warmer climates and is very grainy and can influence putt to a great extent.

BIRDIE – Term used to describe a score of one less than par, i.e. scoring a 4 on a par 5, scoring a 3 on a par 4, or scoring a 2 on a par 3.

BITE – A term golfers use to tell their golf ball to stop quickly.  Usually used when the golfer thinks he has hit the ball to far.

BLADE – A blade or a skull is when you hit the ball in or around the equatorial region of the ball.  This usually results in a low, hot trajectory and blazes across your intended landing area.  It is usually associated with an iron and around the green.

BOGEY – Term used to describe a score of one to many strokes on a hole, i.e. scoring a 5 on a par 4, scoring a 4 on a par 3, or scoring a 6 on a par 5.

BUNKER – Another name for a sandtrap.

CADDIE – A person who carries a player’s clubs during play and offers assistance in accordance with the rules.

CARRY – The distance in the air that a ball must travel before it hits the ground. (i.e. you need 160 yards to carry the water means you need to hit the ball at least 160 yards in the air to clear the water)

CASUAL WATER – A term used to describe water on the course other than a water hazard that would not otherwise be there except for a large amount of rain and the inability of the course to drain completely.  A player gets free relief under the rules from this circumstance although the golfer must notify his playing competitor of his intent to take relief.

CHICKEN ON THE BONE – A long putt for par.  Usually one where your approach putt was left either long or short and still a lengthy putt remaining.

CHILE DIP – This is a shot when you hit the ground before striking the ball and usually lay the sod over.  The shot is short and uneventful.

CHIP SHOT – A short approach shot with a low trajectory and lots of roll usually hit from close to the green.  This is opposed to a pitch shot which usually flies high and hits the green with less roll.

CHIP IN – This term describes chipping the ball into the cup.  “Not having to putt – priceless”.

CHOKE – This word has two meanings. One is to grip lower on the club than normal (you may hear the term “choke down” on the club) The other definition in golf (and most other sports) means to collapse under pressure (i.e. he “choked” under the pressure of the Master’s).

CHOP – To hit the ball with a hacking motion or the word immediately after “pork”.

CLUB-HEAD – Term used to describe the large hitting part of a golf club.

CLUBHOUSE – The main building at the golf course where players usually go to have refreshments and tell about their 2 under par round (note: at times, you can actually see their noses grow!)

CLUTCH – a must make putt, or one just made.

COURSE RATING – The difficulty of a course. Usually the higher the course rating the harder it is.

CUP – Term used to describe the hole in the green where every golfer endeavors to get their ball.  The end of each of the 18 holes of golf is the cup.  The objective of golf is to get the ball in the cup from the tee with the fewest number of strokes.

DEAD SHEEP – when a player doesn’t lose his turn on the putting green you say “still ewe” pronounced as “you”

DEUCE – Hmmm, now lets see, if an ace is a hole in one, then a deuce must be a hole in two! That’s right Sherlock! It is a score of 2 on a hole!

DIMPLE – The small round indentations on the golf ball designed to make the ball fly more aerodynamically and with less resistance.

DIVOT – A piece of ground that is taken up by the club after hitting the ball. A good golfer ALWAYS takes his or her divot after striking the ball while the less experience player will frequently take his divot before striking the ball.  Also known as a chilly dip or hitting the ball fat.

DOGLEG – This is one of two things. It is either one of four things that Rover walks on or it is a hole that goes straight for a while then has a bend (or “dogleg”) to the left or right. You decide which fits here!

DOUBLE BOGEY – A score of two over par for one hole. Something every golfer tries to avoid.

DOUBLE EAGLE – Also known as an albatross.  Having a score of 3 under par for one hole.

DOWNHILL LIE – The ball is on the downslope of a hill. When a right handed player addresses the ball his right foot will be higher than his left foot.

DRAIN – To make a putt (“drain it”).

DRAW SHOT – This is when a right handed player hits a controlled hook, which goes from right to left.

DRIVE – This is the term which means your tee shot. It is also usually the way you get to the golf course.

DRIVER – This is the club known as the 1 wood. It is usually the club that hits the ball the farthest. It is also a person that very rich people have to haul them around.

DROP – This is a way that you get the ball back in play after hitting a shot into the water or out of bounds. This also happens to waitresses when they carry too many plates.

DUB – A poorly hit shot. I “dubbed” that shot.

DUFFER – One who hits a lot of bad shots. Can also be called a “hacker”.

EAGLE – This is a bird in real life, but in golf it means a score of 2 under par on a hole. (I.e. a score of 3 on a par 5 hole)

FACE – This is what you see when you look in the mirror and it is also the part of the clubhead that makes contact with the ball.

FADE – This is a shot (for a right-handed golfer) which curves gradually from left to right.

FAIRWAY – This is the area on the golf course which lies directly between the tee box and the green and is cut really short and maintained really nice. You want to hit from this area if at all possible.

FAT  – The club hits the ground behind the ball and results in a poorly struck shot that usually doesn’t go very far.  Otherwise know as a Chilly-Dip.

FLAGSTICK – Come’on, you gotta know this one.

FLUB – See dub above.

FOLLOW-THROUGH – The continuation of the golf swing to the end.

FORE – This is spelled differently than the number 4. This is the term yelled when one hits a shot toward another person on the golf course to alert him/her of impending doom from being hit by the ball.

FOURSOME – A term given to a group of… come’on how many do you think players? (hint: 4!)

FREE DROP – A drop that you don’t have to pay for, really that is correct, you get to drop the ball and don’t have to add a stroke to your score. This can happen when there is casual water on the course or ground under repair.

FRIED EGG – Term used for a lie in a bunker where the ball has created a crater around the ball because of the impact.  This is typically a difficult lie to play from and usually results in less spin on the ball coming out and more roll on the green.

FRINGE – The closely cut area just around the edge of the green.

FRONT SIDE – The first nine holes is usually referred to as the “front side”.

GIMME – A term for a putt that is close enough to the cup that it will certainly be made so the other player says “it’s a gimme” and the player doesn’t have to putt it. However, he does need to add this stroke to his score!

GRAIN – This is the direction that the grass on the green is growing. A golf ball will roll faster with the grain and slower against it.

GREEN – This is a color and also the term used to describe the putting surface on the golf course.

GRIP – This refers to either the part of the shaft by which the club is held by the golfer or the manner in which the golfer holds the club. (i.e. an overlapping grip)

GROSS – The total number of strokes a player takes on his round. This is opposed to the net strokes taken which is the gross stroked taken minus the players handicap.

GROUNDING THE CLUB – Placing the clubhead on the ground behind the ball at address position.

GROUND UNDER REPAIR – An area on the golf course that is being repaired. Golfers are able to take a “free drop” if their ball ends up in ground under repair.

HACKER – A golfer who is not very skilled. Same as a duffer.

HANDICAP – The number of strokes a player may deduct from his actual (or gross) score to adjust his score to that of a scratch golfer.  This is roughly equal to the average strokes over par a player plays.

HAZARD – A hazard is any sand trap, lake, pond, bunker, etc. that may cause problems on the golf course. It is normally a good idea to avoid a hazard on the golf course.

HEEL – What you tell your dog to do when walking him/her OR the part of the clubhead nearest the shaft.

HITLER – Taking two or more strokes to get out of a bunker.

HOLE – A 4 inch round receptacle on the green that you try to get your ball into.

HOLE HIGH – An approach shot which is even with the hole but off to one side.

HOLE-IN-ONE – See ACE above.

HOLE OUT – the process of a player completing the hole.

HONOR – the privilege of hitting first on the next tee. The “honor” is gained by having the lowest score on the preceding hole.

HOOK – To hit the ball and have it curve gradually from right to left (for right-handed golfers).

HOSEL – The part of the club head that is between the club face and the connecting part or the club head where the shaft connects to.

INTERLOCKING GRIP – A type of grip where the little finger of the lower hand is interlocked with the index finger of the upper hand.

IRON – A club with a metal head which is not a wood!

JAIL – A golfer’s term for a ball hit into a lot of trees which makes it very difficult to hit your ball out of…”in jail”

JUNGLE – A golfers term for heavy rough or in the woods. (i.e. in the jungle)

KICK – A golfer’s term for bounce. (I got a bad kick means I got a bad bounce)

KICK-IN – A short putt that is so close to the hole it could be kicked in.

LAG – To putt the ball with the intention of leaving it short of the hole so that the golfer is able to have a very easy putt on the next shot.

LATERAL HAZARD – Any hazard that runs parallel to the fairway.

LIE – This is what you tell your wife when she asks if you went to work and you really went golfing OR it is the position that the ball ends up when it comes to rest on the ground.

LINKS – Another word for a golf course. This originally meant a seaside course.

LIP – The top rim of the cup.  This is when you “lip out” a putt or “I lipped that one out”.

LOB SHOT – A shot that goes straight up in the air and stops very quickly on the green.

LOCAL RULES – A set of rules for a particular golf course as determined by that executive committee of the course.

LOFT – This is an apartment in England OR it is the angle of the clubface from vertical.

LOOPER – Another word for caddie.

MARADONNA – nasty little five foot putt – Maradonna was a nasty little five footer also known as Dennis Wise for the same reason

MATCH PLAY – This is a form of competition by holes. Each hole is worth one point no matter how many strokes one player beats another by.

MEDAL PLAY – This is a form of competition decided by the overall number of strokes. This may also be referred to as stroke play.

MULLIGAN – An extra shot which your opponent MAY allow you to take if you hit a really bad first shot. NOTE: this is NOT the way we suggest to play golf.

MUNICIPAL COURSE – Also known as a MUNI which is a public course which is owned by a local government agency.

NASSAU – A form of competition which breaks down the play into front nine, back nine and overall 18 holes. A point is allowed for each nine and the total 18.

NINETEENTH HOLE –The bar at the clubhouse.

OFFSET – A club with the head slightly behind (or offset) from the shaft.

OUT-OF-BOUNDS – The area outside of the golf course limits in which play is prohibited. If you hit the ball out of bounds you must hit again from the same spot and take a penalty stroke.  Also simply “OB”.

OVER-CLUBBING – Using a club that will hit the ball farther than necessary.  Opposed to “under-clubbing”.

PAR – The number of stokes that is prescribed on each hole (or 18 holes).

PENALTY STROKE – An additional stroke which is added to a golfer’s score for a rules violation, going out of bounds, losing a ball, or various other situations.

PIN – This is the flag-stick or the pole that is in the cup.

PITCH – A short high arcing shot that lands on the green and usually stops quickly.

PITCH AND RUN – Same as a pitch but hit with a lesser lofted club which causes it to roll farther.

PIVOT – The rotation of the shoulders, waist, and pelvis during the golf swing.

PLAYER – This is a term for a low handicap golfer.  Stay away from these guys when the bets start flowing.

PLAYING THROUGH – The process of slower players in front of faster players allowing the faster players to move ahead of the slower group.

PREFERRED LIE – A lie that may be improved by a player.

PRO SHOP – The golf course shop operated by the golf pro.

PROVISIONAL BALL – An additional ball which is hit in case the first ball can not be found. If the first ball is found, it is played. If the first ball is not found, the provisional must be played and the player is assessed a penalty stroke.

PULL – A ball that is pulled (or hit) to the left of the target (for right handers).

PUNCH THE GREENS – No we’re not mad and hitting the greens… this is another way to say the greens are being aerified.

PUSH – A ball that is pushed (or hit) to the right of the target (for right handers).

PUTT – A shot that rolls on the green hit with the putter.

PUTTER – The club with a flat face used to putt. Often called the “flat stick”

PUTTING GREEN – The surface area around the hole that is specially prepared for putting.

RANGE – This is the area where you go to practice. It usually has many stations to hit practice shots.

READING THE GREEN – Determining which way the putt will curve based upon the slope of the green.

ROUGH – Long grass area adjacent to the fairway. Normally you try to avoid the rough.

ROUND – Complete 18 holes of golf. (i.e. a round of golf is the playing of 18 holes)

RUB – Usually used as “rub of the green” and refers to either a good bounce or bad bounce.  A good shot that turns out bad or a bad shot that turns out good.

RUN – The distance the ball will travel along the ground after it lands.

SALLY – A shot that never gets off the ground but runs forever, named after a British athlete Sally Gunnell.  The term basically means its an ugly runner.

SANDBAGGER – This is a golfer who purposely tells others that he is a worse golfer than he really is in order to gain an edge in competition.

SAND TRAP – The common name for a sand hazard. These are areas that are filled with sand and should be avoided.

SAND WEDGE – An iron normally used to hit the ball out of the sand. It can also be used on short pitch shots.

SANDY – A player makes a sandy when he hits a shot out of the sand and sinks the following putt.

SCRATCH GOLFER – A player who has a handicap of 0. This player will theoretically shoot even par or better every time out.

SHANK – A shot off the hosel of the club and the strangest feeling imaginable.  It will usually bear off low and hot and to the right.  Golfers beware!  Also called the “S” word because some golfers won’t even utter the word, kinda like “Valdemort.”

SHERMAN TANK – Another term for the shank.

SHORT GAME – The part of the game made up of chipping, putting and other shots around the green.

SHOTGUN START – A method of starting play where players go to every tee box on the golf course and hit their tee shots at the same time. Sometimes a horn is sounded to start play.

SIDE – This is a term, which is interchangeable with the word “nine” as in front side which means the front nine or front nine holes. Now if you are really smart, you can also figure out that the back side is the back nine or last nine holes!

SIDEHILL LIE – This refers to a lie when the ball is resting on a slope and the golfer’s feet are either above or below the ball.

SKULL – This is when you strike the ball in the middle (usually with an iron) and propel the ball in any number of different directions and is usually hot, low, and screaming across your intended target.  It is easily accomplished with a wedge or sand iron when around the green.  Oouch… also known as a blade or bladed shot.

SLICE – This is either a piece of bread or a shot struck by a golfer which curves pretty severely from left to right (for a right handed golfer).

SLOPE RATING – USGA term that represents the difficulty of a course for bogey golfers relative to the USGA Course Rating (which represents the difficulty for scratch golfers). The higher the slope, the more difficult the course plays for bogey golfers. Slope ratings range from 55 to 155 and 113 is considered average.

SNAKE – A long putt, usually one that breaks in several directions before falling in the hole.  A long putt made.

SQUEAKY ZONE – A longish putt of 4 or 5 feet, one that can be missed.  Usually referring to a par putt.

STARTER – The person who is responsible for sending the groups of players off the first tee. Usually the starter is located somewhere close to the first hole.

STICKS – Another word for clubs.

STIMPMETER – This is a device which is used to calibrate the speed of the greens. Often referred to as ‘stimp’. A reading of 5 to 11 is the normal range with 5 being slow and 11 being extremely (PGA) fast!

STONY – You just stuck it next to the pin… congratulations on the stony. This is the shot you wiggle and grunt to try and make it go in because you hit it so close to the hole.

STROKE – The objective of the game of golf is to play 18 consecutive holes with the least number of strokes.  A stroke is the swinging motion of the golf club with the intent of striking the ball to advance it on each hole and ultimately hole out or roll the ball into the cup.

STYMIE – No longer an issue, but in times gone by this was when one player’s ball blocked a direct line to another players access to the cup.  In the game of golf the player that is furthest from the hole is obliged to play first.  In 1952 both the USGA and R&A changed the stymie rule and allowed players to mark their golf balls while on the green.

SUDDEN DEATH – This is a method of breaking a tied match by playing extra holes. The first player to win a hole is the winner.

SUMMER RULES – Ordinary rules according to the rulebook.

SWEET SPOT – The center point on the face of the club. When you hit it here it feels really good!

TAKEAWAY – This is what a golfer does when he starts the back swing.

TEE – This term is used to describe the area from which a golfer begins a hole or the teeing ground.  A tee is also used to describe the peg with which golfers use to prop up their ball when hitting from the teeing ground.

TEXAS WEDGE – The term for using the putter from off the green.

THE DOUGLAS BADER – This is a shot that looks good in the air but is short on legs.  Douglas Bader was a famous war time pilot who lost both legs when he was shot down.

THE SISTER IN LAW SHOT – This is a shot where you have hit a bad shot but got away with it.  Basically its up there but it shouldn’t be.

THIN ~ Hitting a ball in the middle of the ball or not connecting with it completely.  Otherwise known as a skull.

THREESOME – Three players playing in the same group.  This of course is opposed to a two-some, four-some or five-some.  Five-somes are usually prohibited from playing.

TIGHT FAIRWAY – A narrow fairway one typically found at U.S. Open Championships.  It can also describe a fairway lined on both sides with tall trees.

TOE – This is a term used to describe that part of the golf club head that is farthest from the shaft.

TRAJECTORY – The flight path of the ball. If it goes way up in the air it is referred to a high trajectory.

TRACK – Another word for golf course.

TURN – To start the back nine holes. To “make the turn” means you have finished the 1st nine holes and are “turning” to the 2nd nine.  This term can also be used to describe the back swing or the turn from the golf ball.

UNDER-CLUBBING – Using a club that does not provide enough distance to hit the ball to the intended target.

UNPLAYABLE LIE – A lie, deemed by the player, to be unplayable.   Usually occurs because of a tree root or obstruction which prevents a swing or contact with the ball.  This of course is not a free drop.  See Rules of Golf for full explanation for relief.

UP & DOWN – This is the term used for getting the ball on the green and in the hole in 2 strokes.  Usually used when a player misses the green in regulation and still saves par.  Also can be used anytime a player gets the ball on the green and in the hole in 2 strokes from off the green.

WAGGLE – The movement of the club-head just prior to the player taking a stroke.  Used to relax tension and preview the swing to come.

WEDGE – An iron with a high loft used for short shots requiring a high trajectory.

WHIFF – Swinging and missing the ball.

WINTER RULES – Local golf rules that permit the player to improve the lie of the ball in the fairway. There may be additional winter rules allowed depending on the golf course condition.

WOOD – A club (either wood or metal) which is used for shots requiring a lot of distance.

WORM-BURNER – A shot which skims very low along the ground. Thus killing any worms that may be poking their heads up.

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golf terminology / How to play golf better

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