Golf Slang & Terms: A Beginner’s Guide

If you are new to golf and feel lost among the many slang terms and phrases used by professionals, this guide is for you! In it, we will define some of the most common and confusing golf slang words and explain their meanings.

At its core, golf is a game of precision and strategy. To play well, you need to know the correct terminology for each aspect of the game. This guide will help you get up to speed with some of the most important terms used by golfers everywhere.

Whether you’re just starting out or you’ve been playing for a while, this guide will help improve your understanding of golf jargon.

A-Z Golf Slang and Terms

A

A-Game – Your best game of golf.

Ace – A hole in one – When a golfer sinks their ball in one shot. Tradition is to buy drinks for the house

Address – The position of one’s feet when preparing to swing at the ball.

Airshot – When a golfer swings and fails to connect with the ball, usually resulting in air contact.

Angle of Approach – The angle that the club is trying to make with the golf ball.

Albatross – A score of three under par on a hole.

All Square – A term used when both players are tied after a given number of holes or rounds have been played

Amateur – Someone who plays golf as a non-competitive hobby.

Amen Corner – The difficult stretch of holes 11, 12, and 13 at Augusta National.

Arnie – Arnold Palmer

Arnie’s Army – Nickname for the fans of Arnold Palmer, who follow him and support his play on the tour

Approach shot – A shot played toward the green.

Apron – The area around the green that is cut shorter than the fairway, but not as short as the green itself.

B

Back door – The back of the hole

Back Lip – The rear edge of the cup.

Back Nine – The final nine holes in a golf course.

Backspin – When the ball spins backwards to the player.

Bad Lie – When the ball is in an unfavourable position, such as being in a divot mark or too close to the rough

Backswing – The part of swing from the top of the swing to the point where the club makes contact with the ball.

Baffy – Is short for baffy spoon. This is a term for a higher-lofted wood, such as a 7-wood.

Ball Marker – A small, round marker used to mark the position of a ball on the green before it is lifted.

Ball Retriever – This is an object used to retrieve balls from

Bail Out – To play from the rough or behind a tree in order to miss the hazard.

Banana Ball – A ball that has a very large curve from left to right (hook).

Bandit – A golfer who plays without a handicap and plays better than he claims to be playing.

Bare lie – When there is very little grass between the ball and club.

Beach hole – A hole located

Banana Ball – When a player hits the ball high in the air with a lot of curve.

Baseball Grip – The grip where the hands are placed side by side on the club grip.

Belly Putter – A putter that is traditionally used to rest on the golfer’s stomach during the putting stroke.

Ball Washer – A device on the course which is used to clean golf balls.

Birdie – A score of one under par on a hole.

Blade – The thin part of the clubface that makes contact with the ball.

Blind shot – A shot where the player cannot see the target.

Blob – Is term used when you can’t score any points on a hole.

Bogey – A score of one over par on a hole.

Bounce – The angle between the ground and the sole of the club.

Break – The curvature of the ball’s path caused by the spinning of the ball and the slope of the green.

Bunker – A hazard consisting of a large sand trap.

Bump and Run – A shot that is played with a low trajectory in order to keep the ball close to the ground.

Buried ball/lie – Lie where part of the ball is submerged in the sand.

C

Caddie – Someone who carries a player’s bag and provides information about the course.

Caddie Master – The person in charge of assigning caddies to players.

Carry – The distance that a shot must travel between the tee and green.

Cart – A motorized vehicle used to carry golf clubs and players around the course.

Chip In – A situation where the golfer hits the ball into the hole from off of the green with a short-range shot.

Choke – A situation where a player has difficulty performing well during an important event.

Choke Down – To grip the club lower on the shaft in order to hit the ball shorter.

Closest to the pin – A contest that is usually held after a group has finished a hole. The golfer who comes closest to the pin wins a prize.

Closed Face – A face angle in which the clubface is pointing to the left of the target at impact.

Club – A device consisting of a shaft with a clubhead that is used to strike the ball.

Club Fitting – A process by which a golfer is matched with the appropriate club for their body type, swing, and ability level.

Clubhead – The part of the club that makes contact with the ball.

Clubface – The part of the club that comes into contact with the ball.

Clubhouse – The building on the golf course where players can relax, eat, and be entertained before or after their rounds of golf.

Club set – The collection of clubs that a player has for their use on the course.

Coming Over Top – When the golfer swings from outside of the target line to inside of it.

Compression – The amount that a golf ball compresses on impact.

Course Rating – A number that indicates the difficulty of a golf course for a scratch golfer under standard conditions.

Cut – When a certain number of golfers are eliminated from the tournament.

Cup – The hole in which golf balls are to be placed for scoring.

Cut shot – A shot that is hit with a high degree of spin in order to make the ball stop quickly.

D

Dance Floor – My favourite spot – Green

Dead – When a player is having a very poor round.

Divot – A piece of turf that is cut out by the club when hitting the ball.

Draw – A ball that starts out to the left of the target and curves to the right.

Driver – A club that is designed for the longest shots from the tee box.

Drive for Show, Putt for Dough – The saying goes that you make your money on the green, not off the tee.

E

Eagle – A score of two under par on a hole.

Embed – When the ball is placed so that part of it is below the surface of the green.

Even Par – A score of par for the course.

Eye Line – The line that the golfer is looking down when they are hitting the ball

Extra Holes – Holes that are played after the 18th hole in order to determine a winner.

F

Face – The part of the club that comes into contact with the ball when it is hit.

Fairway – The well-groomed area between the tee box and green.

Fairway Wood – A club used for long shots from the fairway.

Fat Shot – A shot that hits the ground before reaching the green.

First Tee – The first hole on the golf course.

Firm Lie – A lie where the ball is sitting on hard surface such as the fairway.

First Cutt – The first of the shorter grass on a course.

Flop Shot – A shot used when you must get the ball into the air quickly.

Flyer Lie – A lie where the ball is sitting on soft grass such as a green.

Follow Through – The portion of the golf swing after the club has made contact with the ball.

Fly the Green – When the ball is hit so far that it goes over the green.

Fore – The shout that indicates that a ball is potentially dangerous to play.

Founder – When the bottom of the club hits the ground before making contact with the ball.

G

Gap Wedge – A club used to hit a medium range shot.

Gimme – A putt that is so short that it is considered to be an automatic make.

G.I.R – An acronym for the term ‘Greens in regulations’. When a player hits the ball onto the green in the number of strokes allowed

Green – The area of short grass around the hole where the cup is located.

Green Jacket – The jacket that is awarded to the winner of the Masters Tournament.

Greenside Bunker – A bunker that is located near the green.

Grip – The way in which you hold the club.

Gross Score – The score for a hole or round without taking into account any handicaps or strokes.

Ground the Club – When the bottom of the club hits the ground before making contact with the ball.

Ground Under Repair – The area of a course that is closed off for maintenance or repair.

H

Handicap – A number of strokes that are subtracted from a player’s score in order to level the playing field.

Hazard – A feature on the golf course that can make the game more difficult.

Heel – The part of the club that is opposite to the toe.

Highlands – A slang term for a hilly area on the golf course.

Hit it Fat – When you hit the ball with the fat part of the clubface.

Honor – The privilege of hitting first on a hole.

Hook – A ball that starts out to the right of the target and curves to the left.

Hosel – The part of the club where the head meets the shaft.

Hustler – A person who makes a living by gambling on their golf game. Plays better than their handicap.

Hybrid – A golf club that is a cross between two clubs such as a long iron and fairway wood.

I

Impact – When the club strikes the ball.

In Play – As opposed to Out of Play, when a player hits their ball on the course and it is still able to be played.

Inside the Leather – When you are so close to the hole that you can reach out and touch it.

Interlocking Grip – A grip that places the pinkie finger of the bottom hand over and under the index finger of the top hand

In the Rough – An area of the course that has longer grass than the fairway

Iron – A club used to hit medium-range shots.

J

Jail – A slang term used to describe a situation where the ball is trapped between two hazards.

Juicy Lie – A lie where the ball is sitting on soft grass such as a green.

Jungle – A slang term for the deep, wooded areas of the golf course.

K

Kick – A bounce or rebound of the ball following a shot.

Kill – A slang term used to describe a very long shot.

Knockdown Shot – A low-flying shot that is hit with a lot of backspin.

L

Ladies day – A day when when the course is reserved for female golfers only.

Lag Putt – A shot used prior to the green in order to set up an easy putt.

Lash – A slang term used to describe a very long shot.

Lay Up – To position the ball in a good spot to make play easier, typically when approaching the green.

Leader Board – A scoreboard that displays the scores of the leaders in a tournament.

Lie – The position of the ball in relation to the ground.

Loft – The angle that the club face is at delivery.

Long Game – The portion of the game where you hit the ball the longest distance, from the tee box to the green.

Long Iron – An iron that is used to hit a long-range shot.

Links – A course that is located on the beach, generally in Scotland and England.

Low Handicapper – A player with a handicap of 10 or lower.

M

Mark – To place a ball marker on the green to mark your position.

Marker – The person who keeps track of the score for a group of golfers.

Match Play – In golf, match play is a competition between two sides in which the side that wins the most holes wins the match.

Medal Play – A type of play in which the score for each hole is added up to give a total score for the round.

Mulligan – A second chance to hit a shot after making an error.

Municipal Course – A course that is owned and operated by a city or town.

N

Net Score – The score after being adjusted for any handicaps.

Nine – A golf course that is nine holes long.

Nineteenth Hole – A slang term for the clubhouse, where golfers go after a round to relax and have a drink.

O

O.B. – Abbreviation for Out of Bounds.

Open – A tournament that anyone can enter, regardless of their ability.

One Up – When two players are tied and one player wins the next hole.

One-putt – When a player only needs one putt to finish the hole.

Order of Play – The order in which players tee off.

Out of Bounds – When a ball is hit off of the course and cannot be played.

Over the Green – When a player is on the wrong side of the green.

Overclub – When a player hits a shot with a club that is too powerful for the distance.

Overlapping Grip – A grip that places the pinkie finger of the top hand slightly above the index finger of the bottom hand.

Overpar – When you have a score that is higher than par.

Over the Top – A bad swing in which the club head travels too far above the ball.

P

Par – The number of strokes that a player should take for each hole, based on the length and difficulty of the

Penalty Area – An area on the course that is marked as undesirable, such as a water hazard.

PGA – The Professional Golfers’ Association.

Pin – Another word for the flagstick.

Pitch Shot – A shot where the ball is hit high into the air and lands softly.

Pitching Wedge – A type of wedge that is used to hit a pitch shot.

Playing Through – When one group of golfers allows another group to play through.

Plugged Lie – A lie where the ball is embedded in the ground.

Point – A unit of scoring, typically used in match play.

Practice Green – An area where golfers can warm up before their round.

Preferred Lies – When a course allows golfers to move their ball, or the grass around their ball, in order to make the lie more playable.

Professional, Pro – A person who plays or teaches golf for money.

Pro Shop – An area in a golf facility where golfers can purchase equipment and apparel.

Pro-Am – A tournament where professional golfers are paired with amateur golfers.

Provisional ball – A second ball that is hit when a player is unsure if their first ball is out of bounds or lost.

Public Course – A course that is open to the public.

Pull – A shot that veers to the left of the target.

Punch Shot – A low shot that is hit with an iron.

Push – A shot that veers to the right of the target.

Putter – A club that is used to hit short, slow shots on the green.

Q

Q-school – A tournament where players can earn their way onto professional tours.

Quadruple Bogey – A score of four over par on a hole.

Qualifier – A tournament in which golfers with the lowest scores earn a spot to play in a professional tournament.

R

Rake – A tool that is used to smooth the sand in a bunker.

Range – Another word for a driving range.

Range Ball – A type of golf ball that is used on a driving range.

Range Finder – A device that measures how far away a target is.

Ready Golf – A practice where players hit their shots as soon as it is safe to do so, regardless of who is away.

Recovery Shot – A shot that is hit from a difficult lie in order to get the ball back into play.

Reed the Green – When a player uses the flagstick to help determine the break of the green.

Regular Grip – A golf grip that is used by most players.

Regular flex – A type of golf club shaft that has a medium amount of flex.

Release – The point in the golf swing where the hands release the club.

Relief Area – An area in which a player can drop their ball

Rhythm – The timing and tempo of your swing.

Rough – A long area of grass that surrounds the fairway and greens.

Round – A game of golf that consists of 18 holes.

Rub of the Green – When a ball hits a tree or other object and is deflected onto the green.

Run-Up – Hitting the firm ground before the ball in order to increase the distance that the ball travels.

S

Sandbagger – A golfer who purposely plays poorly to lower their handicap.

Sand Trap – Another word for a sand bunker.

Saved Par – When a player scores a par after hitting a poor shot.

Scratch Golfer – A golfer who scores par or better for every hole in a round.

Scramble – A type of competition where players work together to hit their best shot from each shot.

Scuff – The area of the clubface that is not directly on line with the target, causing a slice or hook.

Semi-Private Course – A course that is open to the public, but has a limited number of members.

Set – A complete set of golf clubs.

Shaft – The long metal part of the golf club that connects the grip to the clubhead.

Shank – When a player hits the ball off of the hosel, causing it to go sharply to the right.

Short Game – The part of the game that is played within 100 yards of the green.

Shotgun Start – A type of start where players tee off at different holes, rather than all starting at the first hole.

Single-Digit Handicap – A handicap of 9 or less.

Sink – To make a putt.

Slice – A ball that curves sharply to the right.

Slope – The measurement of how much a golf course’s fairways and greens are tilted toward the hole.

Slow Play – The opposite of fast play; taking too long to play a shot.

T

Takeaway – The first part of the golf swing, where the club is pulled back away from the ball.

Tap-In – A short putt that considered almost certain to be made.

Target Golf – Playing each shot with the intention of leaving yourself an easy second shot.

Tee – The small wooden (or plastic) platform that a golfer hits their ball off of.

Tee Box – The area from which players tee off.

Teeing Ground – The area where a player tees off.

Target Line – The direction that you are aiming at when hitting the ball.

Temporary Green – Temporary greens are used when the regular greens are being renovated or too wet to play on.

Three-Putt – When a player needs three putts to get their ball into the hole.

Tight – A golf course that has very little room for error, and requires precise shots

Tight Lie – A lie where the ball is sitting up on short grass, making it difficult to hit.

Topped Shot – When a player hits the top half of the ball, causing it to go lower than intended.

Tour – A professional golf tour, such as the PGA Tour.

Triple Bogey – A score of three over par on a hole.

U

Under club – Hitting a club that is one or two clubs too short to make the shot.

Up and Down – When a player chips their ball up onto the green and then makes their putt, without missing the green.

Unplayable Lie – A lie that is so bad that the only choice is to declare your ball unplayable.

Urethane – Material used to make golf balls that have a softer feel.

USGA – The United States Golf Association, which is the governing body of golf in the US.

U.S. Open – National Men’s Golf Championship of America

U.S. Women’s Open – National Women’s Golf Championship of America

V

Vardon Grip – The most common grip used in golf, named after Harry Vardon.

W

Waggle – Repeatedly moving the club away from and back to the ball before making a shot.

Water Hazard – A hazard that is marked with yellow or red stakes, and usually contains water.

Wedge – A type of club that is used for very short shots, due to its high loft.

Wood – The name given to long-headed clubs that are designed to hit the ball a long distance.

Y

Yardage – The distance from the tee to the hole.

Yardage Book – A small book that golfers use to keep track of yardages on the course.

Conclusion

As you can see, there are many golf slang terms and phrases that can be confusing for beginners. This guide should help you get started understanding the basics of golf terminology. If you are looking in getting started in golf, check the following articles below:

What do I need to Play Golf – And Where to Start

What is Fun About Golf

What Should I Know Before Playing Golf for the First Time

How to Teach Yourself Golf – Tips for First Time Golfers

Golf Clubs for Beginners: What Do I Need in My Bag?

Is Golf an Easy Sport to Learn – Golf is a Hard Game

Golf Jargon: A Comprehensive Guide to Golf Terms

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