[The Ultimate Guide To Golf Terminology]
No one is born a golfing pro – we all have to start somewhere. If you’re new to the golfing world and worried about not knowing the lingo, you’re not alone – everyone is a little intimidated at first.
However, golf does have its own vocabulary, and you can feel lost if you’re not familiar with it. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of common golf terms for you. From simple terms like birdie to more obscure terms like worm burner, our list covers it all.
We have also divided the list into different sections for your convenience – read the lists in order or skip to the relevant sections. The golf terms we’ve covered include the following:
The following golf terms will help you become familiar with the golf course.
The part of the fairway that leads up to the green.
Bunker / Sandtrap
These are simply areas filled with sand.
Marks on the green caused by golf clubs. These include indents and tufts of earth that have been pulled up. Golf etiquette involves fixing divots before moving on.
The area between the tee box and the green.
Flagstick / Pin
This is a pole with a flag on it that is placed in the hole. It shows golfers where the hole is located.
This is the area surrounding the green. The grass here is longer than on the green, but shorter than that in the rough.
This is the manicured area around the hole, where putting takes place. It is also referred to as the “dance floor.”
Hazard / Penalty Area
These areas are where balls cannot be played or are likely to be lost. They include bodies of water and other areas that the course determines hazardous.
Out of Bounds
Out of bounds areas are those that are outside the golf course, and cannot be played out of. These are usually clearly marked by using fences, stakes, or other barriers.
The areas bordering the fairway and green. The grass is usually thicker and higher than in the fringe to make it harder for players who missed the fairway.
Also referred to as the teeing ground or teeing area. This is the starting point of every hole and is where golfers take their first swing. In the U.S., most tee boxes have markers with different colors to indicate who plays from them.
Blue tee markers are usually for local championships and are used by male players who are highly skilled.
Red tee markers, on the other hand, are used by women.
White tee markers are used by men, but are reserved for those with medium to high handicaps.
Keeping Score in Golf
You can’t keep score if you’re not familiar with the terms used. The following golf terms are essential to know.
This refers to the score a golfer is expected to obtain, i.e., the number of strokes they expect to shoot on a single hole. It’s the “ideal score” one should have on a hole but is also used to refer to the actual score.
For example, if it took you 3 strokes to get the ball in the hole on a par-3 hole, you “parred” the hole. However, if you took 4 strokes on a par-3 hole, you’re 1-over par for that particular hole.
Ace / Hole in One
This occurs when it only takes a golfer a single shot to get the ball in the hole.
Also known as “double eagle”, this refers to three strokes under par. This is extremely rare and difficult and can only be achieved on a par-5 hole. Being three strokes under par would mean using only two strokes and sinking the shot with the second one.
The reason this isn’t possible for a par-4 hole is because three stokes under par would imply a single shot, which would then be called a hole-in-one instead.
One stroke under par.
One stroke over par.
Two strokes over par.
Two strokes under par.
An average of a golfer’s past scores that estimates how many strokes above par they usually shoot in a single round. Beginners have higher handicaps while experts have lower handicaps.
Three strokes over par.
If you’re new to golf, you have to know golf terms for different pieces of equipment. Learning the golf terms will help to understand the game of golf. You may know the 2-iron but might have no idea what it means when a fellow golfer mentions The Knife’s Cousin.
Another name for a gap wedge.
This refers to the flat surface on the club that is used to strike the ball and can be either squared, opened, or closed. An open club face points to the right directly of the target, whereas a closed club face points to the left of the target (for right handed golfers). Ideally, you want a squared club face at the point of impact with the ball.
Gap Wedge (GW)
This wedge falls between a pitching wedge and a sand wedge, and usually has a loft between 50 and 55 degrees. It is often referred to as an Approach Wedge (AW) or Attack Wedge.
These golf clubs are a mix between woods and irons and are often used to replace long irons since they’re golfers tend to find them easier to hit off the fairway.
These golf clubs have smaller heads and more angled faces than woods. They’re typically used for shots from the fairway or rough.
Lob Wedge (LW)
This steep wedge usually has a loft between 60 and 64 degrees and is used to hit shots that need to get in the air quickly.
The club shaft.
Pitching Wedge (PW)
The most commonly used wedge out there. This club is included in almost every set of irons. A pitching wedge usually has a loft of 46-48 degrees.
These specialized golf clubs are used for putting, i.e., they’re used for hitting the ball into the hole.
Sand Wedge (SW)
This wedge usually has a loft of 54-58 degrees and is used to hit the ball out of sand traps / bunkers.
This term refers to a variety of different wedges since they’re used for the short game.
This refers to the area on the clubface that players aim for to achieve maximum distance and precision. Clubs with larger sweet spots are not only easier to hit, but also much more forgiving.
Using a putter even when you’re not on the green.
The Knife's Cousin
A subset of irons. These are the highest-lofted clubs a golfer plays with and are used for chipping, pitching, bunker play, and short approach shots.
Used to refer to drivers and fairway woods. Woods are golf clubs with large heads and long shafts. These are used for long shots, including the initial shot from the tee box.
Golf Shots and Gameplay
There are special golf terms for the types of shots golfers take.
Typically, 2nd or 3rd golf shots that are designed to get you to the green.
Shots where golfers use slopes to affect the speed and direction of the golf ball.
An iron shot that is hit with the bottom of the golf club. Also referred to as a “skulled” shot.
This is when golfers can’t see their target area (fairway or green).
Also known as a fat shot. This is a mishit in which the club impacts the ground before hitting the golf ball. This usually results in a divot.
Down the Middle Cyril
A golf shot that goes straight down the fairway.
The first shot made from the tee box.
Usually, the second and third shots made from the fairway.
Making a shot from the fringe of the green that ends in the hole.
An approach shot that a golfer hits with an open clubface and stance. This goes high up in the air and has a soft landing.
A shot that maximizes distance by perfectly hitting the sweet spot.
An expression that golfers use as a warning when others may be in danger of being hit by golf balls.
A golf swing that does not hit the ball.
This occurs when a golf ball is shot into a bunker and is buried in the sand. Since it is half buried within its own imprint, it resembles a fried egg.
This occurs when a golfers ball is so close to the hole that other players agree to give them the putt – this way, the golfer gets the putt without even having to sink the ball. The ball is usually less than 2 feet away from the hole when this happens.
A reduced shot when playing a close approach shot. It should be noted that this shot is played with half a swing instead of a full swing.
Halve a Whole
This occurs when two golfers tie on a hole.
Opposite of a slice. This is a mishit in which the shot curves to the dominant side (right for a right-handed golfer and vice versa).
In the Teeth
Hitting the golf ball thin, i.e., causing the club to hit the top of the ball instead of the sweet spot. The resulting shot is very low and doesn’t feel good.
Jerked the Putt
When a golfer mishits the ball on a short putt.
Avoiding a hazard by playing a shorter and/or safer shot.
A second shot granted to golfers as a re-do. This is usually a tee shot and is not an official rule. It should be noted that the mulligan does not count toward the golfer’s score.
Hitting the ball further using a club designed to do so.
Pitch and Chip Shots
Pitch and chip shots are made within 100 yards of the green and are often called a golfers “short game.”
Playing a second shot in case the first shot cannot be found.
A shot made on the green when trying to get the golf ball into the hole.
A shot a golfer makes when they’re in a rough spot on the golf course. The goal of a recovery shot is to get into a better spot.
A shot that gets results, but is ugly.
Also called a duff. This refers to a mishit shot. Instead of using the clubface to hit the golf ball, the golfer accidentally uses another part of the club, usually the socket that the shaft is connected to.
Sinking a Putt
Making a putt.
A shot where the golf ball goes straight up in the air because it is hit on top of the club face.
Opposite of a hook. This mishit occurs when the golf ball curves away from the golfer and is usually caused by an outside-in swing path. (Right for a right-handed golfer and vice versa).
An extremely short putt.
A shot that is hit off the toe of the golf club, which is between the sweet spot and the end of the club. As a result, these shots do not travel very far.
A shot where the impact is near the top of the golf ball, resulting in a low shot that doesn’t go far in distance.
Up and Down
One chip and one putt.
A shot that misses the golf ball. This is done on purpose and is also called an “airball.”
A shot that hardly gets off the ground and instead rolls along it.
These are just some basic golf terms – there’s an entirely different language out there. As you progress and interact with golfers, you’ll pick up the lingo and become part of the gang in no time. However, these golf terms are a great starting point.
We hope that this comprehensive list of golf terms has helped you find your confidence. You’re now ready to go forth and play a round of golf while knowing exactly what to say. If you enjoyed this article on golf terms, make sure to check out our Golf Club Distances article.