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Golf Terms

Golf Terms and Definitions


Ace: A hole-in-one

Address: Your position in relation to the ball as you prepare to strike

Airmail: A shot that flies over the green

Albatross: A score of three under par on a hole

Alignment: How your body is aligned in relation to an imagined ball-to-target line

Approach shot: One whose target is the green

Approach putt (lag putt): A long putt played conservatively to make sure that the ball ends up near the hole

Apron: A fringe of low grass surrounding the green


Backspin: When the ball lands and spins backward

Back swing: The first part of the swing, when the club is taken away from the ball to behind the shoulder

Baffler: A four-wood

Ball mark: The indentation where the ball lands on the green

Banana ball: A looping slice

Barber: A player that talks to the point of annoyance

Barranca: A deep ravine, hole or steep cliff

Birdie: One-under-par

Blind: A hole or shot where you can’t see your target

Bogey: One-over-par

Borrow: How much you have to aim right or left when putting to allow for the slope of the green to bring the ball back to the hole

Brassie: A wooden club, usually called a two-wood

Bump-and-run: A shot purposely hit short of the green (usually a chip) that bounces onto the green

Bunker: A sand trap


Caddie: A helper who carries a player’s bag around the course and may advise on the course or the game

Casual water: Any accumulation of water, which is not permanent; must be visible before or after a player takes stance to get relief

Chili dip: To hit “fat” or behind the ball

Chip: A lofted shot played from around the green. Usually played with a pitching wedge or a sand wedge

Chip and Run: A low shot that runs towards the flag played from near the green

Chunk: Same as chili dip

Clubface: The area of the club that you use to hit the ball

Clubhead: The part of the club attached to the lower end of the shaft, and used for striking the ball

Collar: Edge of a sand hazard

Cup: The tubular lining sunk in the hole. Also the hole itself


Divot: Turf dug up during a shot

Dogleg: When the layout of a hole curves left or right

Dormie: When a player or team leads by as many holes as remain

Double-bogey: Two-over-par

Double-eagle: Three-under-par; also called an albatross

Downswing: The part of the golf swing from the top of the back swing to striking the ball

Draw: A shot with a slight, controlled curve through the air, from right to left from a right-handed player and right to left for a left-handed player

Drive: A shot, which is played from the tee, usually with a driver (a 1 wood)

Driver: The 1 wood, the most powerful club in the set, used for getting maximum distance off the tee

Drop: When a ball must be lifted under penalty or otherwise, the player, standing erect, holds the ball at arm’s length and shoulder height and drops it making sure that it does not land any nearer the hole

Duck hook: a shot that curves sharply downward to the left for a right-handed player, to the right for a left-handed player


Eagle: Two-under-par

Embedded ball: When a ball plugs in its own divot (usually on fly)


Face: The surface of the club head that strikes the ball

Fade: When a ball moves slightly left to right for a right-handed player, right to left for a left-handed player

Fairway: The cut grass, and proper route, between the tee and green

Fairway Woods: 2,3,4,5, and sometimes higher-numbered woods designed to be used when the ball is in play after the tee shot

Flag Stick: Also called the pin, flag, or stick, the flagstick marks the hole

Fluff: Mishit; also called a duff

Flyer: A shot that shoots off the clubface (usually out of the rough) and carries further than normal

Follow-through: The part of the swing beyond impact with the ball

Fore: A warning yell when a ball is hit toward another player or spectator

Fourball: A match in which four players take part, each hitting his own ball

Foursome: A match play or stroke play game between two sides of two players each, the partners striking the ball alternately

Fried egg: When a ball lands in a bunker and stays in its own pitch mark

Fringe: The collar of slightly longer grass around the close-mown putting surface of the green


Get Legs: A term shouted by a golfer when a shot just made is assumed to be short of the intended goal

Gimme: A can’t-miss putt

Ginty: A wooden club, usually called a seven-wood

Grain: The angle at which the grass of a green grows. Putting “against the grain” requires more effort than “with the grain”

Green: The closely mown, carefully manicured target area in which the hole is cut

Greenie: The player who hits the tee shot closest to the hole on a par-3 (ball must be on the green)

Grip: The part of the club you hold, and the way you hold it

Gross Score: The number of shots taken to complete the course before deduction of handicap to give the net score

Ground Under Repair: area of a course temporarily out of play, from which a ball may be removed for a drop without penalty. A ball outside the area may also be moved if the lie would cause the player to stand in it


Halve: To tie.

Handicap: A system devised to make play between golfers of different standards an even match. Your handicap is the number of strokes over par you average over four rounds at a golf course.

Hardpan: Firm dirt surface off the fairway.

Hazard: A bunker, stream, ditch, lake, or pond is all hazards. A course committee defines hazards.

Heel: The part of the club nearest the shaft.

Hole: This can mean the actual hole that you putt into or the entire area between tee and green.

Hole Handicap: Each score card indicates a handicap number for each hole. The lower the number, the harder the hole is to play. Some courses split odd and even handicap numbers between the front nine and back nine while others handicap all eighteen holes together.

Hole-in-one: When a ball goes into the cup on the first shot on a par-3 hole.

Honor: A rule that the player with the lowest score hits first on the next hole.

Hook: When a ball moves right to left for a right-handed player, left to right for a left-handed player .


Iron: Irons are metal-headed clubs used for most shots between tee and green. Sometimes you can use them from the tee at holes where accuracy is more important than distance. The sand and pitching wedges are also irons


Jigger: A traditional short pitching iron


Lag: A long putt played conservatively to make sure that the ball ends up near the hole

Lateral Water Hazard: A ditch, stream, or pond roughly parallel to the line of the hole. A ball picked out may be played from either side, with a one-stroke penalty

Lie: Where the ball is in relation to the ground it is resting on. The more embedded in the grass or sand the ball is, the worse the lie. Lie also refers to the angle of the sole of the club head to the shaft

Links: A seaside golf course, typified by sand, turf, and course grass, of the kind where golf was originally played

Loft: The angle of the clubface to the ground. The more loft a club has (indicated by how high the number is on the club) the higher the ball goes and the shorter distance it travels

Long Game: Shots over about 180 yards (164m) long, played from the tee or on the fairway with woods or low-numbered irons

Loose Impediments: Twigs and leaves, not actually growing, and not stuck to the ball, which may be removed from around it without penalty. The ball must not be moved

Lost Ball: If after a five-minute search, a ball cannot be found, a competitor is penalized one stroke and plays another ball from the spot where the first one was hit, counting as the third shot


Mark: To identify the spot on the green where a player has picked up a ball for cleaning or to clear the way for another player’s putt

Mashie: A five-iron

Mashie-niblick: A seven-iron

Match play: A form of competition where each hole is worth one point

Medal play: A tournament or competition, which is decided by counting the total strokes taken

Mulligan: A take-over shot


Nassau: A common golf bet

Net Score: A player’s score for a round after the handicap allowance has been deducted

Niblick: A nine-iron


Out-of-bounds: when a ball goes beyond the white stakes bordering a hole; the shot must be replayed with a one-stroke penalty


Par: The average score based on how a professional would play the hole

Penalty: In stroke play, a rule infringement usually costs two strokes; in match play, the hole is generally lost

Pin: Informal name for the flagstick in the hole

Pitch: A reasonably high shot onto the green, traveling anything from a few yards to 120 yards (110m). You generally use a 9 iron, a pitching wedge, or a sand wedge

Pitching Wedge: A short iron with a large degree of loft, used for pitching high but short shots onto the green

Play-off: If a competition ends with a tie, the winner is decided by playing further holes. Currently, the winner is usually the first competitor to win a hole

Preferred lies: The local rule allowing players to “bump” or improve the lie of the ball in their own fairway; also called winter rules

Press: Doubling a bet

Provisional: A ball played when it seems likely that the preceding shot is lost or out of bounds. It will count, plus a penalty

Putt: The rolling shot taken on the green, with a putter.


Quadruple-bogey: Four-over-par


Rabbit: A common bet where each hole is worth a predetermined wager.

Reading the Green: Looking at the slope and contours of the green to decide the line and speed of your putt.

Rough: Grass left to grow so that off-line shots are made more difficult. Also called ‘deep stuff’.

Rub of the green: Any chance happening while a ball is in play.


Sandbagger: A player who consistently scores better than their handicap; also called a cheater

Sandy: Getting the ball up and down from a bunker

Sand Trap: Alternate name for a bunker

Sand Wedge: The shortest, most lofted iron used for playing out of bunkers and for very short pitch shots

Scramble: Team competition in which all players play from the site of their team’s best drive, best second shot, and so on

Scratch Player: A golfer with a handicap of zero

Shaft: The length of the club down to the club head

Shank: When a ball flies off the club at a 90-degree angle

Short Game: Chipping, pitching, bunker play and putting on the green and around it up to a distance of 100 yards (90m) away

Skin: A common bet where each hole is worth a predetermined wager; usually, the wager is carried over to the next hole if nobody wins outright

Skull: To hit the upper part of ball, causing a fast, low shot

Slice: Same as fade

Slope System: a system whereby handicaps are adjusted at each course every time you play

Smother: To hit a ball with a closed clubface

Snipe: A sharply hooked ball that dives quickly

Spoon: A three-wood

Stableford: A popular system of scoring by points for holes completed: par = 2 points, 1 under par = 3 points, 2 under par = 4 points, 1 over par = 1 point

Stance: The position of your feet just before playing a shot

Stroke: A shot in golf

Stroke and Distance: The penalty of one stroke and the return to the site of the shot before, when a ball is unplayable

Stroke Index: The numbers on a scorecard indicating the order of the holes at which a handicap player receives strokes

Stroke play: A competition in which a player’s total strokes for a round are recorded to be compared with the scores of other competitors. ‘Stroke play’, the correct term, is often referred to as ‘medal play’

Stymied: An obstructed shot

Sway: Lateral movement of head, shoulders or body in the back swing

Swing weight: The weight and balance of a club. All the clubs in your set should be the same swing weight


Tagged It: Used to refer to a good golf shot. Usually a tee or fairway shot that is long and on target

Takeaway: The start of the back swing

Tee: The area of a hole from which you play the first shot

Tee Off: the golfer on each hole plays the first shot that

Tee Peg: You can put the ball on this device for your first shot to help raise the ball off the ground. It is then much easier to attain height

Tempo: The timing and rhythm of your swing, which should be even and smooth throughout

Texas wedge: Using a putter from off the green

Thin: A long, low shot hit by mistake with the leading edge of the club (blade)

Three Off the Tee: If a ball is lost, out of bounds, or unplayable from the tee shot, the player is penalized one stroke and tees off again – the third shot

Through the green: The whole area of the course, except for greens, tees and hazards

Tiger: Someone who is playing unusually well

Top: A shot mistakenly hit with the bottom edge of the club, so that the ball is embedded in the ground before popping up, and in most cases traveling only a short distance

Trap: A sand bunker

Triple-bogey: Three-over-par


Unplayable Lie: When a ball is unhittable; a one-stroke penalty

Uphill Lie: When a ball is positioned on ground sloping up ahead of the player

USGA: United States Golf Association; organization which, along with the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of Scotland, determines the rules of the game


Vardon grip: The most universally used golf grip, in which the little finger of the right hand overlaps the forefinger of the left hand


Waggle: To swing the club back in a short, sweeping motion above the ball at address

Wedge: A club with an extremely lofted face (pitching and sand irons).

Whiff: When a player swings and misses the ball completely

Wood: A club normally used for distance shots. It can be made of wood, metal, or graphite

Worm burner: A low shot, usually dribbles along the ground


Yardage Chart: A plan of the holes on a course showing the distance from one point to another

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