Welcome to the golf terms guide that every beginner and intermediate golfer needs. In the list below, if a golf term isn’t listed then there is a good chance you don’t need to add it to your vocabulary of golf slang.
This page was built to help novice golfers get more familiar with the most wonderful sport in the world. Also, one that gets better with time like a fine wine.
Ace – A hole in one.
Address – the position a golfer takes just before they swing
Adjusted Gross Score – Score after the handicap stroke allowance.
Alternate Shot – A format where two players play a game as partners. One player hits the drive, and the other player gets a turn next. Repeat until the hole is complete.
Aeration – The process of creating better air circulation into the soil by poking holes or slits into the turf every few inches. This is because microbes need to be healthy, so grass can always get the benefits of these microbes.
Approach – A short or medium shot to the putting pin o green – also called an “approach shot.”
Attend the flag – Holding and then removing the flag while another player plays. A common courtesy in golf.
Attest – To attest means saying that you witnessed the score that someone else posted is legit. This happens when you play in a tournament and need to submit your scorecard after the game ends.
Away – Asking “Who is away?” is common in golf because someone who is the farthest away from the hole gets to play first. However, inputting green, especially in a competition, a player who has already putted once may hole out before their partner, who may be away.
Ball – A gold ball that you use to play golf.
Backspin – A technique that applies reverse spin to the ball to prevent it from bouncing further forward after it hits the ground.
Back Foot – This term refers to the player’s foot, the one that is farthest away from the target when playing the ball.
Back in the Stance – It means that you stand with the ball closer to your right side or foot when hitting a wedge. This is common with right-handed golfers.
Bag – the golf bag that players use to hold golf clubs.
Barber – Someone in a group who talks a lot.
Barkie – It refers to when your ball hits a tree, and you are still able to complete the hole with a par.
Beach – Sand traps in a golf course.
Bell – Usually used on fairways that are designed to assist blind shots during regular play. It is common to see a ship-style bell near the cart path. Ring the bell when the group ahead passes the path to alert the group that it is now safe to play.
Best Ball – A term often called “best ball golf” that refers to a 2-person team where each player plays their own ball throughout the round. The player with the best ball or lowest score out of the 2-person team will represent the team’s score.
Birdie – One under par score on a hole.
Bite – The backspin print that is created by a ball that makes it stop moving.
Bogey – One over par score on a hole.
Break – The slope of a green.
Bunker – A hole or crater in the ground that is filled with sand. It is also commonly called a “trap.”
Bye – Used in tournaments. The player who gets a “bye” deserves to the next round without playing again. In match plays, it refers to the hole still left to play if the match is over before the 18th hole.
Caddie – A person who carries golf clubs. They could also give some advice to a golfer.
Cannon – Used to propel a golf ball.
Carry – The distance a golf ball must travel before it hits the ground. Important to measure the distance that the ball must travel to skip a hazard.
Casual Water – Temporary water pools after heavy ring. Not a hazard in itself.
Chip – A short shot from near and around the green.
Choke – When you grip the club from farther down the handle. It could also refer to when someone is failing under pressure.
Closed Face – When the clubface is pointing to the left of the target when you are about to hit the ball.
Course rating – Difficulty rating of a course, often compared to another course. It is usually written in how many strokes or decimal fractions of stroke. High rating means high difficulty. At WCC, Men’s rating is 62.6 while Women’s rating is 65.0.
Divot – Turf that gets removed when you swing your golf club is refered to as a divot. It is a common courtesy to step the turf back into its original state. Many courses provide a sand container in golf carts for this purpose.
Dogleg – A bend in the fairway. The 8th green usually bends to the left.
Double Bogey – Two par for a single hole.
Down – Number of holes or strokes between you and your opponents.
Downhill Lie – When your right foot is higher than your left, and you are about to hit the ball.
Draw – Pairing of golfers during tournaments.
Draw Shot – A controlled shot to get out of trouble or prepare for the next shot. Usually curves to the left or right.
Drive – Hitting the ball with maximum power.
Drop – To deposit the ball on the course after it is deemed unplayable.
Dub – A missed shot.
Duff – To miss a shot by hitting behind the ball and then the top of the ball.
Duffer – Two under par score on a hole.
Fade – The opposite of draw, a shot that moves slightly to the left or right from the target.
Fairway – The area of a golf course where the grass is shorter than the rough. It is typically easier to play in this area.
Fat – To hit the ground before the ball, lower power than normal.
Fescue – Genus Festuca grass, commonly used for rough areas in golf courses.
Flash Trap – A small sand bunker.
Flight – The segmentation of players with equal skills being in the same flight. Usually, there are 16 players on a flight.
Fore! – A warning call/shout from a player when their shot is aimed to threaten another player.
Four ball – When the better ball of two players is being played against the better ball of the opponents.
Foursome – Four golfers in a match. It could also be a match of the two-player team against another two-player team.
Fried Egg – A ball that is almost buried in the sand.
Get Legs – An encouragement by the player to keep the ball rolling when it may stop.
GHIN – Golf Handicap Information Network.
Gimme – A short putt very close to the hole that is given by your partners so you can do it without any delay. Usually, you will hear, “That’s a gimme!” during a round of golf. It still counts as a stroke.
Grain – A putting strategy on the green. It is when the direction of the blades of grass point to the green after it has been cut by the shot.
Grand Slam – The four biggest men’s tournaments: the British Open, the U.S. Open, PGA Championship and the Masters.
Green – The complete golf course according to the official rules. It may also refer to the putting surface.
Grip – The part of the club held by the golfer, usually made with rubber or leather material. It could also refer to the way the golfer handles the club itself. Some common grips are Vardon and Interlocking.
Gross – The number of strokes a player takes for a hole before the handicap is deducted, and the number becomes net.
Ground Under Repair – A part of the course where the player is allowed to remove their ball without getting a penalty. It could be the result of re-turfing, repairs, and re-seeding.
Grounding the Club – Placing the club on the ground before hitting the ball.
Halved – When a hole ends with both sides having the same number of strokes. Each side is then given a half.
Handicap – The rating given to amateurs based on the average of their scores from each round of golf. The rating is designed to allow players of all levels to compete together on an even ground. This rating is commonly used in U.S.G. events to make the competition fair. So if a player averages at 23 strokes above par, their handicap will be 23 in a handicapped event at WCC.
Hazard – Any zones that are difficult for a player to play on. It may include lakes, molehills, bunkers, etc.
Hit a Brick – When the ball looks like it may roll past the hole and the desired resting place.
Hit a House – same as Hit a Brick.
Hole – The holes in a course, usually 4” deep. Also refers to one of the nine to eighteen areas between the green and the tee.
Holing Out – The completion of a play for one hole by hitting the ball into the cup.
Honor – The honor on the tee goes to the last player that wins a hole. The player with the honor gets to tee off first.
Hook – For right-handed golfers, when the shot curves strongly to the right or left. This shot usually lands a bit left from the target. A lesser hooking action is also called a “draw.”
Lie – Where the ball is resting on the ground. It could be a good/bad lie, depending on where the ball is. Sometimes also accompanied by a certain number of strokes on a hole.
Local Rules – A set of additional or specific rules set by members of a club.
Loft – The angle of the face of a golf club. It could also refer to the height of the ball in midair.
Loose Impediments – Any natural objects that are not growing or fixed. For example, twigs, molehills, worms, insects, and dung.
LPGA – Ladies Professional Golf Association. This organization includes tournaments, coaching sessions, and professional club divisions.
Marker – A small object, could be a coin, that is used to mark the ball after it is lifted off the green.
Markers – Objects put at the tee box that marks the areas where players must tee their balls. Usually marked red for Ladies and white for Men.
Match Play – A competition played with each hole being a separate game. The team or player that wins the most holes is the winner. The winner isn’t determined by the lowest score. This was the original form of golf scoring.
Medal Play – A competition decided by the overall number of strokes done to finish the round. Just like ‘stroke play.
Mixed Foursome – A foursome that consists of men and women.
Mulligan – The chance to redo your last shot. Penalty-free and not within the actual rules.
M.Y.O.F – Make Your Own Foursome.
Net Score – A player’s score after being deducted by handicap.
Ninety Degree Rule – It is a practice where golf cars are allowed to drive away from the cart paths but only perpendicularly to the hole that is being played. The purpose of this is to decrease wear and tear on the turf.
O.B. / Out of Bounds. – The area outside of the golf course. When the ball goes out of bounds a player is penalized. The last shot is then replayed.
Offset – A club with the head behind the shaft.
One Up – Used in a match where you have scored one hole more than your opponent.
Open Stance – The left foot is placed behind the imaginary line of where the ball is going to go. This helps the player to face straight to where they want to hit.
Par – The set score in strokes of each hold on the course. The par for each hole is going to be displayed on the scoreboard. If you score par on any course, that means you have a great round.
Pawky – A term from Scotland that refers to tricky or cunning.
Penalty stroke – A penalty that adds an additional store to a player’s score after they violated any rules.
PGA of America – The Professional Golfers Association of America. The governing body of American golf.
Pick & Drop – The act of picking up a ball from a ditch, puddle, or cart path and dropping it on a playable ground behind.
Pick Up – Picking up your ball before holing out. This will incur a concede in match play and disqualification in stroke play.
Pin – Slang for the flagstick.
Pin High – It refers to the ball on the green that is on the same level as the pin but a bit to the side.
Pitch – An approach shot to the green. This shot is shorter than a normal swing and longer than a chip shot.
Play Through – When a player is passing a slower player on the same hole. It is recommended to ask permission before playing through other players.
Preferred Lie – A local rule which allows a player to improve their position by lifting, placing, and cleaning their ball within one club length. Not nearer to the hole unless a penalty is incurred.
Provisional Ball – The playing of a second ball from the same spot as the first because the player is trying to see where the first ball may have gone to.
Pull – A ball that goes to the left of the target with a little curve after getting hit by a right-handed golfer. Also, the converse applies to left-handed players.
Punch – A low and controlled shot into the wind. It is done by slamming the club down hard into the ball with a short swing.
Push – A ball that goes to the right of the target with almost no curve. Applies to right-handed players. Also, the converse applies to left-handed players.
Putter – A club that is designed for putting. It has a little loft and is shorter than most other clubs.
P.Y.O P. – Pick Your Own Partner
Reading the Green – Determining the path which the ball will take on the way to the hole. This can be done by analyzing the contour and texture of the ground.
Ready Golf – A pre-determined method of play in a foursome where each player gets a turn when they are ready for their next shot instead of waiting for their turn. Only done in amateur matches.
Relief – A term that means moving your ball away from something without getting a penalty.
Retriever – a tool that helps players get their golf balls back from places where they can’t go.
Rough – The area adjacent to the greens, tee of areas, hazards, or fairway where the grass is thicker and longer than the fairway.
Rub of the Green – Any accident not caused by a caddie or player that moves or stops a ball in play, and no relief is given under the rules. This happens when something out of your control moves your ball.
Sandbagger – A player who knows their ability to win the competition.
Sandy – When you can still make a par on a hole after landing in a trap/bunker.
Scramble – A format in which all players hit the ball starting from the tee. The ball in the best position is then selected, and the process starts all over again until the ball is holed out.
Scratch – A term used when referring to a player’s handicap. A scratch golfer is a player who has a 0 handicap. Meaning, a player who plays par golf.
Shamble – Same as in scramble, all members of a team tee off and the best ball of the four shots is selected. Everyone moves their balls to the spot of the best ball. From this point in the game, the hole is played out at stroke play, with every player of the team playing their own ball into the hole.
Shank – A shot struck on the club’s hosel that travels dead right for a right-handed player. It is considered to be the worst shot in the sport.
Shiperio – Similar to a mulligan where a player is allowed to make a second shot without penalty but is allowed to choose which ball they can play, between the first and second shot.
Short game – The part of the game that consists of chip shots, putting, and pitching.
Shotgun Start – A tournament that positions the players at different holes but starts at the same time. This tee time format is designed to help a large group of players on the course finish and play at the same time.
Slice – A shot that curves hard right. A common mistake in golf.
Slope (slope rating) – Used by the U.S.G.A to measure the difficulty for the average golfers. The more difficult the rating is, the more difficult the slope will be for the average golfer.
Stableford - A method of scoring that uses points.
Stance – Feet position when addressing the ball.
Starter – The person who decides the order of play at the first tee.
Stimpmeter – Superintendents measure green speed with a stimpmeter. The results tell the green speed at that time of day. Stimpmeter readings of between five to six range mean slow greens; seven to eight are medium, nine to 10 are fast, and above 11 are extremely fast.
Stroke Play – A competition in which the total number of strokes for one round determines the winner of the competition.
Swale – A slight contoured depression or drip in terrain. Not as extreme as a ditch or ravine.
Tee – A wooden peg on which the golf ball is placed before striking it.
Tee Box / Teeing Ground – The area at each hole that is reserved for the initial shot. Usually marked by two parallel markers facing the fairway of the hole. From this area, a player may place their tee anywhere between the two markers.
Temporary green – A green used in the winter to protect the original, permanent green.
Tending the Flag – To hold the flagstick and remove it as the ball approaches.
Threesome – Three players playing a round of golf together. It may also be a two-player team playing against a single-player team.
Tiger Tee – A slang for the back tee.
Toe – The part of the club that is the farthest away from where it connects the shaft.
Top/Topped – To hit the golf ball above its center point. A topped shot will dive downward and roll, then hop along the ground.
TPC/Tournament Players Club – Golf courses designed to accommodate Tour events, such as the one in Sawgrass.
Turn – An expression to denote the part of the gold course to start the back nine holes.
Twosome – Two players, play together.
Unplayable Lie – A lie in which the ball is unplayable due to a thicket of a tree.
Up – A specific number of strokes you are ahead of your opponent in a match play. Also, a shot that reaches as far as the hole.
Uphill Lie – It describes a situation where your ball is resting on the side of the slop, and that slop is oriented in a way that makes your ball rolling away from the hole. For this situation, it’s recommended to bend the left knee more than usual, tip the left shoulder upward and right shoulder downward, to draw a straight line between the two shoulders that is perpendicular to the ground. Keep lifting your shoulder as you swing. Be aware of the hill that could add loft to the club. So don’t choose a wedge; instead, use a 7-iron or 8-iron to compensate.
Up and Down – When you hit the ball out of a hazard and into the hole.
U.S.G.A. – United States Golf Association. The governing body of gold since 1894.
W.G.A.M – Women’s Golf Association of Massachusetts. Founded in 1900, it is the oldest state women’s golf association in the United States. The organization has more than 2000 members who belong to more than 180 member clubs.
Waggle – The movement of the club before swinging.
Washer – A tool used to wash golf balls.
Wedge – An iron used for short shots with a high loft.
Whiff – To swing and miss the golf ball, not touching it at all. This counts as a stroke because the intent to hit the ball was present. It is different from a practice swing.
Windcheater – A low shot intended to find against the wind. It employs strong backspin and low start and only rises toward the end of the shot.
Worm Burner – A shot that rolls.
Yip – To miss-hit a putt due Yips.
Yips – Nervousness before making a shot.
Zoomie – A drive that goes further than the usual drives hit by other golfers.