If you are new to golf, this post is for you! Golf has a lot of unique words and phrases that can be confusing and hard to understand. Lucky for you, I have put together some the most commonly used vocabulary words in the game so you can learn how to speak golf!
To learn more about the game and improve your skill, check out my beginners golf school here!
Hole in One
A hole in one is when a player makes a golf shot on their first hit. They are most common on par 3’s because they are shorter in length. A hole in one is the most celebrated scores in golf because they are scarce and require an almost perfect shot.
Double Eagle/ Albatross
Perhaps even rarer than the hole in one, the albatross (double eagle) is defined as 3 strokes under par. Only two ways exist to get one of these bad boys.
- A hole in one on a par 4 is technically an albatross
- Getting the golf ball in two strokes on a par 5
Yes, it is possible to score an albatross, but because of its rarity, most never know that this score exists!
An eagle is defined as two strokes under par. This means that an eagle can be:
- A hole in one on a par 3
- Making a two on a par 4
- Making a three on a par 5 (Most common)
Eagles, while still hard to achieve, happen quite frequently on shorter par 5’s where the golfer can reach the green in two strokes and then make their putt.
A birdie is one stroke under par
- A 2 on a par 3
- A 3 on a pr4
- A 4 on a par 5
I tell all of my amateur golfers that making birdies is the secret to better golf. They usually require very skilled shots and always finish with a great putt. (Learn to putt like a pro here!)
A par is the target score for each hole, as rated by the USGA.
- 3 Strokes on a par 3
- 4 Strokes on a par4
- 5 Strokes on a par 5
A bogey is a score that is one over par
A double bogey is a score that is two over par.
A triple bogey is 3 strokes over the par of a particular hole
A quadruple bogey is 4 strokes over par. Anything higher than a quad is usually just written down on the scorecard. (Sometimes referred to as a snowman when you make an 8 on a par 4)
The front 9 refers to holes 1-9 on the golf course. They are usually the first holes played.
The back 9 refers to holes 10-18 on the golf course
Club Up/Club Down
These two terms are used interchangeably by golfers to mean “more club.”
So if you are swinging into some headwind, you may hear someone say, “You need to club up,” so you can reach the green.
The rough is the longer grass located to the sides of the fairway. The rough varies in length depending on the standards of the golf course.
The fairway is the shorter grass that is used on each hole. There is less friction caused by the grass when striking a ball from the fairway. That is why it is preferred over the rough which is why golfers aim for the fairway off the tee box.
The fringe is the short grass that surrounds the outer parts of the green. Many golfers elect to putt from the fringe because it doesn’t cause much ball resistance.
A divot is created by any indentations or gouges to the grass caused by either a swing or golf ball. The most common divots are those caused by full golf swings or golf balls landing on the green.
Divot Repair Tool
A divot repair tool is a device used to repair damaged grass on the putting surface.
The green or putting surface is the shortest mowed grass and is where the hole is located. They vary in sizes, speed and slopes making each hole uniquely challenging.
Fore is yelled when a golf ball is heading in the direction of another person. It is essential that you yell this anytime a ball is in the vicinity of a person so that they can prepare themselves.
A mulligan is a common saying for recreational golfers meaning,”a do-over.” Many beginning golfers use mulligans to give themselves a second chance to make better ball contact.
The Line of a Putt
The line of a putt is an imaginary line going from your golf ball to the hole on the putting surface (green). It is proper golf etiquette to walk around other golfer’s putting lines as not to disrupt their roll.
Address is a golfing term used to describe your body position before you make your golf swing. (Setting up to the ball)
Slice aka Banana Ball
A slice is a golf shot that is caused by an open clubface and a severe in to out swing (more on this later). For a right-handed golfer, the slice is a shot turn very sharply to the right
A fade is a shot that is caused by a square clubface and a slight in to out swing. For a right-handed golfer, the shot will start out straight and then move slightly towards the right.
A hook is a golf shot that is caused by a closed clubface and a severe out to in swing. For a right-handed golfer, this shot will turn very abruptly towards the left and are often very low to the ground.
A draw is a golf shot that is caused by a square clubface and a slight in to out swing. For a right-handed golfer, this shot will start out going at your target and then move slightly towards the left.
A push is a shot that is caused by an open clubface or an extreme in to out swing that has the same clubface angle as the path. For a right-handed golfer, the push will start off to the right and stay on that line. (Doesn’t curve)
A pull is a shot that is caused by a closed clubface or an extreme out to in swing that has the same clubface angle as the path. For a right-handed golfer, the pull will start out to the left of the target and stay on that line. (Doesn’t curve)
Bunkers are pits of sand that are located around the golf course. There are greenside bunkers and fairway bunkers which vary in depth. Bunkers are considered a hazard by USGA rules, and you are not allowed to ground your club while addressing the ball.
Thin Shot/ Blade
A thin or bladed shot is when contact is made with the lower part of the clubface hitting the top part of the golf ball. This shot is usually low to the ground and bouncing. The blade is caused by the flipping of wrists at impact hitting the top part of the ball. (Happens mostly around greens when chipping or pitching)
Fat Shot/ Chunk
A fat or chunk shot is when contact is made with the ground before hitting the golf ball. This shot doesn’t usually go far and is the product of an improper weight transfer.
A rain check is a type of refund that golf courses give customers due to inclement weather or other circumstances where a golf round cannot be completed. Each course varies their rain check policies either being prorated or 9 hole vouchers.
Clubhead speed is the speed (in mph) that an individual swings through impact. It is important to know this information so that you can find the proper clubs for your game
A gimmie is a term golfers use when it is assumed that the distance of a putt will be made. For example, if Bob hits a long putt inside of two feet, Bob’s group may give him a gimmie, assuming that he will make the two-foot putt. (There are no gimmies in competitive stroke play)
Up and down
An up and down is a term used when a golfer hits a shot from off the green and then makes their next shot in the hole. This usually refers to when someone makes a great chip shot and then makes their putt
A scramble is a style of golf where the group (team) selects the best shot after all members have hit and then all hit again from the ball chosen, finishing out each hole.
This style of golf is popular with golf outings.
Match play is a style of golf that is mostly played with two golfers playing against each other. The lowest score on a hole wins that hole. The total number of holes won are added up and whoever has the most, wins the match play. (Total number of strokes don’t matter)
Stroke play is when all swing strokes are recorded for each hole and then tallied up at the end of the round. This style of golf is most popular on the PGA tour and in competitive tournaments.
Not to be confused with a scramble, best ball is a style of golf that is also played with a team of players. Each player plays their own shot and finishes out each hole. The lowest score out of the group is selected and that becomes the team’s score for that hole.
Greens in Regulation-GIR
Greens in regulation is a stat that is kept throughout your golf round(s). They are the expected number of shots that it takes you to hit the green on each hole tallied up throughout your round.
To hit a green in regulation, you must:
- Par 3: Hit the green in 1 shot
- Par 4: Hit the green in 2 shots
- Par 5: Hit the green in 3 shots
Fairways in Regulation-FIR
Fairways in regulation is another stat that is kept by golfers during their round(s). Simply put, FIR means how many holes do you hit the fairway from off the tee box (not including par 3’s)
An open clubface for a right-handed golfer club that is turned clockwise or towards the right of the target.
A closed clubface for a right-handed golf is a club that is turned counterclockwise or towards the left of the target.
The sweet spot is the center of the clubface. Hitting the sweet spot is the key for distance and consistency.
The toe of the club is located at the furthest most point of the clubface when at address.
The heel of the club is located at the closest most point of the clubface when at address.
Chipping is a golf shot that is performed when just off the green. It is a relatively short shot using only shoulder movement with the objective being to get the ball onto the putting surface
Pitching is when you are 50-35 yards from the green, and you have to make a small golf swing to get the ball onto the putting surface. The pitch requires the activation of the lower body while the chip requires only the upper body
The turn is when golfers playing 18 holes finish playing their first 9 holes and are making the “turn” to their next 9 holes.
No, this is not a drug house. The halfway house at a golf course is usually located near the pro shop or at the “turn” where you can grab food or drinks during your round.
A caddie is a golf course employee that carries golf bags, cleans golf balls, repairs divots and gives course advice to the playing golfer. Most caddies are available at private courses or country clubs.
The lie of a ball refers to which surface the golf ball is on
The 100-yard maker is a red dot or stake out in the fairway or cart path.
The 150-yard marker is a white dot or stake out in the fairway or cart path
The 200-yard maker is a blue dot of stake out int he fairway or cart path
OB is a golf term meaning “out of bounds.” OB areas are outlined by white stakes
Water hazards are lakes, rivers or ponds that are located on the golf course.
Hitting into the water is a penalty, and you should know how to what to do if you hit into this type of hazard.
The grooves of the club are horizontal lines on the clubface that creates the spin on the golf ball. Having dirty grooves hiders the clubs ability to perform.
Aeration is a process performed by the grounds crew staff to puncture the green making small holes so that
Ground Under Repair
Ground under repair is an area marked off by the grounds crew that is deemed, “unplayable.” Free relief will be given from this area, one club length no closer to the hole from the nearest golf stance.
Standing water is water that has accumulated on the golf course making large puddles. Just like “ground under repair,” you are given one club length, no closer to the hole from the nearest point of relief.
A tee time is a specific time that you and the golf course have agreed upon when you will start your round of golf
A topped shot is a shot that is hit by the bottom of the driver hitting the top part of the golf ball. It is usually a low, bouncing shot that doesn’t go very far
Bump and Run
A bump and run is a low golf shot that most used around the green. Most golfers use either a 6,7,8 or 9 iron to keep their shots low to the ground and run up onto the putting surface
In to Out Golf Swing
An in to out golf swing is a swing that starts from inside of the target line on the takeaway and then travels outside of your target line on the downswing. This type of swing is used when trying to “draw” the golf ball.
Out to In Golf Swing
An out to in golf swing is a swing that starts from the outside of the target line on the takeaway and then travels to the inside of your target line on the downswing. This type of swing is the most common fault for hitting a slice.
A flop shot is a golf shot made by opening up the clubface to hit the golf ball high in the air and land softly with little roll. This shot is best used to go over obstacles like trees or bunkers.
(There are other golf shots that you need to learn!)
A tee box is an area where golfers start each hole. There will be tee markers on the tee box showing golfers where they can place their golf balls to tee off.
Pace of Play
The pace of play is the pace in which your group plays each hole on the course. Golf courses monitor the pace of play so that all groups on the course can play smoothly from one hole to the next
(Learn more about how the pace of play here!)
Playing through is when a slower group lets a faster group “play through” them to speed up the pace of play.
The loft of the club is the angle that the clubface has when it rests on a flat surface. The lower lofted clubs are longer and travel further while the higher lofted clubs are shorter and don’t travel as far.
Pin high refers to a golf shot that is even, in the distance, with the golf hole.
A ball marker is an object put behind a golf ball on the putting surface to clean or pick up the golf ball.
Learn the proper way to use ball markers here
A shotgun start is when every golfer heads to a specific hole to start their round. Some courses tell you to tee off when you here a siren or “in the old days” a shotgun.
Long irons are usually defined as your:
- 3 Iron
- 4 Iron
- 5 Iron
- 6 Iron
- 7 Iron
Short irons are usually defined as your:
- 8 Iron
- 9 Iron
- Pitching Wedge
- Sand Wedge(s)
Front of Stance
Making a line right down the middle of your golf stance, a golf ball to the left of this line (for a right-handed golfer) is called the front of the stance.
Inside the left heel
Back of Stance
Making a line right down the middle of your golf stance, a golf ball to the right of this line (for a right-handed golfer) is called the back of stance.
Inside the right heel
Choking down on the club is when a golfer slides their hands down towards the base of the grip. The technique is most often used around the greens and off the tee box to have better control of the clubface.
Another method to speed up the pace of play is the use of double par.
Double par means that pick up your golf ball and finish the hole when you:
- Get a 6 on a par 3
- Get an 8 on a par 4
- Get a 10 on a par 5
Ready golf is used to speed up the pace of play and is when golfers hit shots when they are ready, not following the “who’s furthest away from the hole” rule.
A twosome is two golfers both playing a golf round together.
A foursome is 4 golfers all playing a golf round together.
Golf courses sometimes pair up twosomes or single golfers with other twosomes and single golfers to keep the “pace of play.”
A starter is a golf course employee that makes sure golfers are teeing off at their assigned tee times.
A ranger is a golf course employee who roams the golf course assisting with the pace of play and any concerns from golfers.