Golfers at all levels should familiarise themselves with well known golfing terms. Otherwise they might scratch their heads at the some of the following sentences:
“I played a good bump-and-run and managed to get up and down for my par. Not bad after shanking my tee shot”
“I was three off the tee after a nasty duck hook. My provisional landed in the rough and I had to choke down the shaft and lay up on my fourth shot.”
“I gave my boss a mulligan after he sliced his drive at the fifteenth. It was dormie anyway so I had nothing to lose.”
There’s no doubt that players will hear many more golf terms over the years, especially when travelling to different regions or countries. The following are fairly well known internationally and will give golfers a solid grounding in the language of golf.
For brevity, assume that any terms relating to shots are for right handed players.
I split out the sections into different categories and tried to put the better known terms at the start of each category. If you’re looking for a specific term you can hit Ctrl + F and enter it into the search bar.
Golf Terms Relating to Shots
Drive; shot from the tee, usually referring to the Driver but including iron and hybrid shots.
Tee Shot; any shot from the tee. Interchangeable with Drive and usually used when hitting an iron or hybrid.
Chip; a short shot with a higher lofted club, usually referring to an approach to the green.
Punch; a low penetrating shot usually used to control distance in windy conditions.
Draw; a shot where the ball moves from right to left.
Fade; shot where the ball moves from left to right.
Hook; a severe shot to the left. Also referred to as a Pull or Tug
Duck Hook; even more severe than a hook causing the ball to go immediately left after impact.
Slice; a severe shot to the right.
Push; a shot that goes right but not a slice or a fade.
Block; similar to a push but caused by the arms not getting through the the shot and causing a ‘block’ to the right.
Sky; hitting underneath the ball causing it to pop-up high in the air, usually from a tee-shot.
Flier; a shot hit from the rough that goes a lot further than expected because of the lack of spin generated.
Texas Wedge; using a putter from way off the green.
Bump and Run; approach shot to the green played along the ground.
Lob; a high shot played with a lob or sand wedge, usually to the green.
Pitch; usually refers to an approach shot to the green with a wedge but also used to describe general wedge shots.
Lay-up; intentionally hitting a shot short of the green, usually to avoid trouble.
Flop Shot; similar to a Lob shot but with less distance. Usually referring to a high shot over a bunker next to the green.
Three-Putt; when a player takes three putts to hole out on the green.
Check; referring to the spin on a chip shop. Check will cause the ball to stop after two or three bounces.
Backspin; a shot played with backspin will cause the ball to spin back towards the player after landing.
Topped; a mis-hit shot where the club face hits the top half of the ball causing the ball to roll forward without much distance.
Attack Angle; the angle at which the club face approaches the ball before impact.
Fat/Heavy; taking too much turf/sand when hitting the ball. Fat or heavy shots will lose distance.
Thin; hitting the ball with the bottom edge of the club, often causing it to run along the ground.
Mulligan; taking another shot from the tee with no penalty. Akin to a second serve in tennis.
Breakfast Ball; interchangeable with Mulligan
Provisional; hitting another shot from the tee, usually when the first shot (or subsequent shot(s)) is in danger of being lost.
Lost Ball; a ball that can’t be found. Must be distinguished from a ball lost in a ‘lateral’ hazard.
Ball Below the Feet (or Above); referring to a shot where the ball sits below (or above) the level of the players feet at address.
Uphill or Downhill Lie; referring to a shot where the ball sits on an uphill or downhill lie at address.
Blind Shot: a shot where the target is obstructed, such as the green not being visible from the fairway.
Recovery Shot; where a player is out of a position, such as in the rough or trees, and has to hit a shot to get back on the fairway.
Playing out Sideways; where a player can’t hit in the direction of the hole because of a bad lie or awkward stance.
Unplayable; where a player’s ball lies in such a position that no shot is possible (i.e. in a bush or up a tree).
Take a Drop; when a player opts to lift his ball and drop it within two club-lengths of the ball, usually where his shot is unplayable or very difficult.
Plugged Lie; where the ball is firmly pressed into the fairway, usually because of the soft or moist conditions of the grass.
Fried Egg; a bunker shot where the ball lies deep in the sand, looking like a fried egg from above.
Golf Terms Relating to Scoring
Par; when a player scores the given number of shots allocated to a hole such as par 3, 4 or 5. A par is decided on the number of shots it should take to reach the green plus two for the number of putts on the green.
Birdie; scoring one shot less par.
Eagle; scoring two shots less than par.
Albatross/Double Eagle; scoring three shots less than par.
Bogey; scoring one shot more than par.
Double-Bogey; scoring two shots more than par.
Triple-Bogey; scoring three shots more than par.
Quadruple-Bogey or worse; scoring four or more shots than par.
Level; can mean a player’s score to par or the score in a matchplay event.
Under/Over Par; when a player is cumulatively under or over par for a number of holes or the round.
Scramble; to score well on a hole from a difficult position.
Stableford; a type of scoring system where a player earns 1 point for a bogey, 2 points for a par, 3 points for a birdie, 4 points for an eagle and 5 points for an albatross.
Strokeplay; a type of scoring system where the cumulative total of a player’s score over the round is added up.
Matchplay; style of competition where each hole is worth 1 point. Can be between 2 or 4 players (i.e. 1v1 or 2v2) and matches can be won, lost or drawn.
1 Up (or 1 Down); scoring system in matchplay. Refers to the number of holes a player is up or down.
All Square; scoring term in matchplay used when players are tied.
Dormie; scoring term in matchplay where a player is ahead by the same number of holes left to play, and therefore can only win or draw. E.g. three up with three to play.
Stroke Index; system used to determine the difficulty of each hole based on the average score to Par. Each hole on a scorecard will have a stroke index between 1-18, with 1 being the hardest and 18 the easiest.
Stroking Hole; where a player is awarded an extra shot on a hole where the stroke index number is lower than their handicap. (Only applicable in matchplay, stableford or net strokeplay competitions).
Standard Scratch Score; a measure of the difficulty of a golf course and the score a scratch golfer would be expected to shoot.
A Half/Halved Hole; in a matchplay competition where players shoot the same score on a particular hole, a half is awarded to each player or team.
Three off the Tee; where a player loses his first shot off the tee, the provisional shot is counted as the third because of a one shot penalty, hence three off the tee.
Up and Down; when a player gets the ball in the hole in two shots from off the green.
Slope Rating; a measure of the difficulty of a golf course invented by the United States Golfers Association.
Gimme; in a matchplay situation where a player awards his opponent a shot automatically without it being played. Usually awarded for very short putts.
Tap-In; a very short putt next to the hole.
Clubhouse Leader; in a strokeplay competition, the player with the leading score who has completed the round.
The Cut; in a strokeplay competition, the process of removing a certain number of players from progressing further. The Cut can also mean the score needed to progress to the next stage.
Missed the Cut; in a strokeplay tournament, where a player doesn’t progress to the next stage.
Course Record; the lowest score posted in the course’s history.
Hole-in-One/Ace; taking one shot from the tee to get the ball in the hole.
Handicap; a system to predict a player’s score to par. Can be used to level the playing field in strokeplay, stableford and matchplay competitions.
Golf Terms Relating to Equipment
Iron; club named after the material originally used to make the club. Iron’s range from 1-iron to 64 degree wedge but a usual set of irons will contain 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 irons, Pitching Wedge and Sand Wedge. The different numbers indicate the different lofts on the clubs and hence the different distances an iron shot will travel.
Wood; named after the material used to make the original heads of the clubs. Woods are used more for distance than accuracy although some players are more comfortable hitting a 9 wood than a 5/6 iron. The Driver is the longest hitting wood.
Driver; the longest club in a player’s set with the biggest head. The Driver is primarily used for gaining distance from the tee.
Hybrid/Rescue Club; a cross between a wood and a long-iron.
Wedge; a high lofted iron used for full shots from around 100-130 yards or short chips or pitches from closer range.
Putter; used for putting on the green. The face of a putter is flat with almost no loft.
Blades; type of iron, most suitable for better players who like more feel and accuracy rather than power.
Cavity Backs; type of iron distinguished by the reinforced clubhead and used mainly by amateurs looking for more forgiveness and power.
Graphite Shaft; type of shaft in a golf club. Usually found in woods and drivers but also in some iron shafts for players with slower swing speeds.
Steel Shafts; type of shaft material. Usually found in irons and can be regular, stiff or extra stiff.
Sweet Spot; area in the centre of the clubface that will generate more power when striking the ball.
Grooves; indented horizontal lines in the face of an iron, designed to give more control to iron shots.
Toe; right edge of the clubface. A toe-strike is sometimes referred to when hitting off this part of the club.
Heel; left part of the clubface, next to the hosel. A heel-strike is referred to when hitting from this part of the club.
Hosel; section of the club where the club shaft joins the club-face.
Shank; a mis-hit shot where the contact with the ball is with the Hosel of the club.
Flex; a measure of the stiffness of a shaft. Flex is recommended for players with slower swing speeds.
Regular; measure of the stiffness of a shaft. Regular is for players with a swing faster than Flex but slower than Stiff.
Stiff; measure of stiffness of a shaft. Stiff is for players with fast swings and above Flex and Regular.
Extra-Stiff; the stiffest of shaft options for players with the fastest swing speeds including many professionals.
Loading the Shaft; the action of getting the club in a position in the backswing that is sufficient to transfer enough speed in the follow through.
Swing Speed; measure of the speed a player swings the golf club and used to determine the type of shaft a player should use.
Torque; referring to a golf shaft, torque is the degree of resistance a shaft has in the downswing. When being custom fit for clubs, a player’s swing speed will determine the level of torque they need in the shaft.
Lie Angle; when setting up for a shot, the angle at which the bottom of the club sits on the ground. Different players will suit different lie angles depending on their technique and posture.
Custom Fit; the process of choosing golf clubs based on the golfers unique characteristics, such as height, swing speed, tempo, flex point, lie angle.
Scotty Cameron; a brand of Titleist Putter, used by many Tour Pros.
Mid-Size Grip; measure of grip size.
Soft Ball; a golf ball designed for more feel and control.
Distance Ball; a ball designed for distance.
Spin Rate; the rate at which the ball spins and a measure that is important when selecting equipment. An optimum spin rate and launch angle is required for distance.
Launch Angle; the angle a golf ball leaves the clubface at impact.
Choke Down the Shaft; hitting a shot with the hands further down the grip than a normal shot.
Golf Terms Relating to Technique
Full/half/three quarter swing; measure of the length of swing. Different lengths are used for distance control.
Posture; the way a player’s body is set up over the ball at address.
Target Line; the direction a player is aiming when hitting a shot.
The Line; usually reference to the direction a player should aim. Can be from the tee, the fairway or on the green.
Tiger Line; a very aggressive line from the tee. Usually only for the best players who can hit long, accurate shots.
Middle of Stance; position of the ball in the set-up, exactly in the middle between the feet.
Backswing; the first part of the golf swing immediately preceding the downswing.
Downswing; part of the golf swing starting after the club has been fully taken back.
Follow Through; the motion of getting the golf club through the golf ball.
Overswing; swinging the club too far in the backswing.
Swing Plane; the line or path that the club face takes on a shot.
Open Face; describing the angle of a clubface at address. An open face is often used to generate more height.
Closed Face; describing the angle of clubface at address where the club is ‘de-lofted’ to reduce the height of the shot.
The Yips; condition developed by nervous putters causing them to twitch and shake when hitting putts.
Reading the Green; process of studying the green before a putt to determine the direction and speed to hit the putt.
Miss-Read; incorrectly judging the line and/or speed of a putt.
Golf Terms on The Course
The Tee; the starting point for each hole on a golf course. Also the name for the piece of wood or plastic a ball is placed on to hit a tee shot/drive.
Fairway; the target for a player’s tee shot and usually a smooth piece of grass compared to the semi-rough or rough.
Semi-Rough; grass next to the fairway that is slightly longer and more difficult to play from.
Rough; even longer grass than semi-rough where players balls may be hard to find and difficult to play from.
Green; the putting surface where the pin/hole is located.
Fringe; short grass around the green, only slightly longer grass than the green.
OB; out of bounds. Players will have to hit another shot if their ball goes out of bounds.
Gorse (British Courses); thick, prickly type of bush usually found on British Links courses.
True Greens; a measure of quality of green. A true green indicates the surface is in great condition and the ball will roll as expected.
Divot; patch of grass taken from the fairway, tee or rough caused by the club hitting the ground.
Pitch Mark; an indented mark on the green created by the ball.
Pitch Mark Repairer; tool used to repair pitch marks.
Fore; golfers will shout “FORE” as loud as they can when their shot is heading towards another group of players.
19th Hole; referring to the clubhouse (usually the bar).
Bunker; a sand-filled hazard or trap found by the green and on fairways.
Stint Meter; a tool used to measure the speed of greens.
Firm (greens); referring to the firm feel of the green.
Soft (greens); referring to the soft feel of the green.
Pin Placement; location of the hole/pin on the green. Some golf clubs will provide locations on a card for each hole.
Flag; a flag is placed in each hole to help golfers see where they should be aiming. Interchangeable with the pin.
Pin; same as the Flag.
Cup; same as the hole. Can also be used by a caddy when describing where to aim, i.e. “a cup to the left” means aim a cup width to the left of the hole.
Hole; located on the green and where the ball must end up to complete the hole. Hole also meaning the entire tee-to-hole process of getting the ball in the hole.
Hole-out; the process of putting the ball in the hole on the green.
Borrow; term to describe the amount of slope on a green when putting.
Safe Play; a tactical shot opting to play to an area with less danger.
Local Knowledge; advice known usually by members or local caddies.
Member’s Bounce; a lucky bounce.
Greenkeeper; staff in charge of maintaining the course.
Club Pro; club professional available for golf instruction and/or providing advice to members and visitors.
Break; term used to describe where on a green a putt will move in a particular direction.
Breaks both ways; term to describe a putt that will move one way and then the other.
Double-breaker; same as Breaks both ways.
Cup to the left/right; term used to describe the distance a player should aim the ball outside the hole when putting.
Ball to the left/right; term used to describe the distance a player should aim the ball outside the hole when putting (ball meaning a golf ball).
Inside the hole; term used to describe where to aim the ball when putting.
Straight at it; indicates to aim straight at the middle of the hole when putting.
Golf Terms Relating to Tournaments and Formats
The Majors; referring to the four biggest annual tournaments: The US Masters; The US Open; The (British) Open; The USPGA Championship
Fed-Ex Ranking; a cumulative ranking system in the US where the winner is decided after all Fed-Ex related tournaments are finished at the season’s end.
Ryder Cup; matchplay competition between the US and Europe played every two years. Contested by males only.
Solheim Cup; similar to the Ryder Cup but contested by females only.
PGA Tour; professional golf tour based in the US.
European Tour; professional golf tour based in Europe.
LPGA Tour; female professional golf tour.
Walker Cup; amateur version of the Ryder Cup.
OWGR (Official World Golf Ranking); ranking system for professional golfers.
Caddy; golfer’s assistant to advise on yardages, club selection, wind strength, speed and direction of putts.
Greenkeeper; staff in charge of course maintenance, in particular ensuring the greens and fairways are in top condition.
The R&A; the governing body of golf throughout the world except the United States and Mexico where the USGA is the main governing body.
St Andrews (home of golf); widely known as the Home of Golf, St Andrews is based in Fife, Scotland and hosts the Open Championship at the Old Course every 5 years.
Made the Cut; when a golfer shoots a score low enough to make it through the final stages of a tournament.
One/Two/Three/Fourball; name given to a group of golfers based on their number. A one-ball signifying a player on his own.
Foursomes; 2 v 2 format where each couple will hit alternate shots.
Greensomes; similar to foursomes. 2 v 2 format where each player will hit a shot from the tee. Each couple will choose the best drive and then play alternate shots for the rest of the hole.
Texas Scramble; a team format usually made up of 3 or 4 golfers. Each player will hit a drive and choose one of the drives where they will all hit their second shot. From the second shots, one is chosen and all play a third shot from there – and so on until the ball is holed. Each team returns one score for each hole and the team with the lowest score for the round wins.
Shotgun Start; a tournament format where each group tees off at the same time but on a different tee. For example a group of four may tee off at the 18th tee and will finish when they have completed the 17th hole.
Front Nine; the first nine holes of a golf course.
Back Nine; the second nine holes of a golf course.
The next time someone says “Did you see Tiger Woods missed the cut at the Open after missing a tap-in for birdie at the 18th?”, you will know what they’re talking about after reading these golf terms. Why not print off a copy and get to know them at the 19th hole?