Golf Terms

By Kyle J. Larson Published: Last updated:

Have you ever heard some golf terms or slang on the course and wondered what it meant? We have the ultimate guide to golf terminology to ensure you never get lost. Even seasoned golfers may find something new.

golf terms

Basic Golf Scoring Terms

  • Par – Par is the number of strokes a golfer is expected to make on an individual hole. Par for each hole allows for two putts on the green plus a number of shots to reach the green. So, for example, a par four would expect the golfer to reach the green in two shots and then putt twice. A course also has a par number which refers to the total number of shots expected on all holes added together (most courses are par 72).
  • Ace (Hole-in-One) – An ace is when a golfer hits from the tee into the hole in a single shot.
  • Condor – A condor is four shots below par or a hole-in-one on a par five.
  • Albatross (Double Eagle) – An albatross is when a golfer shoots three shots below par (two on a par five).
  • Eagle – An eagle is when a golfer shoots two below par on a hole (three on a par five).
  • Birdie – A birdie is when a golfer shoots one below par on a hole (four on a par five).
  • Bogey – A bogey is when a golfer shoots one over par on a hole (six on a par five).
  • Double Bogey – A double bogey is when a golfer shoots two strokes over par (seven on a par five).
  • Triple Bogey – A triple bogey is when a golfer shoots three strokes over par (eight on par five).
  • Handicap – A handicap measures a golfer’s potential number of strokes over par during a round. For example, a ten handicap might shoot ten shots over par when playing well. It can balance competition across varying skill levels by giving extra strokes to higher handicap golfers.
  • Scratch – A scratch golfer has a zero handicap. This means they can match the course handicap on a good round.
  • Green in Regulation (GIR) – A green in regulation means hitting the green within two strokes less than par. For example, hitting the green in three shots on a par five.
  • Fairway in Regulation (FIR) – A fairway in regulation means hitting the fairway on the first shot on a par four or five.

Golf Course Terms

  • Course Rating – A course rating represents the number of shots a zero handicap (scratch) golfer would expect to take in the best 50% of their rounds. A higher number is more difficult.
  • Slope Rating – A slope rating ranges from 55 to 155 and represents how challenging a course will be for an average amateur golfer. Higher numbers indicate a more difficult course.
  • Country Club – A country club is a private course that typically has amenities beyond golf, such as a pool, gym, and tennis courts.
  • Golf Club – A private course typically focused around the golf course, with fewer amenities than a country club.
  • Links – A links course is a type of golf course with fewer water hazards and few trees. These courses reflect the original course design style in Scotland.
  • Executive Course – An executive course is a short course with a lower par, designed with beginners and juniors in mind.
  • Green Fee – The green fee is the cost paid to play a golf round.
  • Pace – Golf courses typically set a pace for how long a round should take.
  • Ninety-Degree Rule – A rule that golf carts should mostly be driven on paths and taken at a 90-degree angle from the path to reach the golf ball. This reduces wear on the grass.
  • Starter – A starter is a person who manages the order of players off the first tee box.
  • Ranger – A ranger ensures the pace of play is enforced at the golf course and generally monitors play on the course.
  • The Turn – The turn is the change from the front nine to the back nine. Typically the clubhouse lies in between.

Golf Hole Terms

  • Dogleg – A dogleg is a golf hole with a sharp left or right bend. It’s called this because it resembles the back leg of a dog.
  • Tee Box – The tee box is the starting point of a golf hole. Typically there are several tee box options on a golf course for allowing the course to be played at different distances to vary the difficulty.
    • Red Tees – The red tees is a tee box typically reserved for ladies.
    • Gold Tees – The gold tees is a tee box typically used by senior (older) golfers.
    • Green Tees – The green tee box is usually reserved for junior (younger) golfers.
  • Fairway – The fairway is the center of a golf hole where the grass is cut the shortest. This is the ideal place to play from.
  • Rough – The rough is the longer grass surrounding the outside of a golf hole.
  • First Cut – The first cut is medium-length grass that transitions between the fairway and the rough.
  • Bunker (Sand Trap) – A bunker is a sunken pit filled with sand. These can be in the fairway (fairway bunker) or near the green (greenside bunker).
  • Pot Bunker – A deep bunker that can be difficult to hit out of because of the steep sides.
  • Hazard – A hazard is any obstacle on the golf course, including a bunker or water.
  • Out of Bounds – Out of bounds is an area of a course that you cannot play a shot from. You must instead re-tee or drop your golf ball back in play. It is typically marked with white stakes or a sign.
  • Penalty Stroke – A penalty stroke is added to a golfer’s score when they hit a ball out of bounds, into a hazard, or break a rule in golf (such as grounding a club in a bunker).
  • Relief – Relief is moving the ball away from an obstacle. For example, moving a ball away from a sprinkler head or off the cart path.
  • Provisional – A provisional ball is a second shot hit when you are unsure if your first shot is out of bounds or in a hazard. This ball will be played with an added penalty if the first ball cannot be found.
  • Unplayable – A golfer can declare a ball unplayable, drop it further from the hole, and take a stroke penalty.
  • Drop Zone – A drop zone or drop area is a specially marked area where you can drop a golf ball if it goes into a hazard or unplayable part of the course. It’s typically marked with a sign or a white circle on the ground.
  • Green – The green is the shortest cut grass that surrounds the golf cup (hole). This is where the putter is used.
  • Fringe – The fringe surrounds the green with grass slightly longer than the green. You can putt or chip from this area.
  • Cup – The cup is the hole on the green that is the ultimate target for a golfer to hit the ball into.
  • Pin – The pin is the flagstick in the golf hole. A great shot might hit the pin.
  • Hole Out – A golfer holes out when they hit it into the hole from off of the green. This results in them not needing to putt.
  • Grain – The grain is the direction that the grass grows. On the green, this can change how the ball will roll. Putting it against the grain will make the ball roll slower.
  • Divot – A divot is a mark created when a club cuts through the grass. It’s good golf etiquette to either replace a divot or fill it with grass seed provided by the course on a golf cart.
  • Pitch Mark – A pitch mark is an indentation in the ground created by a golf ball. They are typically made when a ball falls quickly and the ground is soft. The golfer should repair these marks when they are made on the green. These are also often called divots when on the green.

Golf Competition Formats

  • Stroke Play – Stroke play is the most common golf format where an individual golfer’s strokes are counted and totaled as normal. This is the format of most professional tournaments.
  • Match Play – Match play is a head-to-head format where a player wins a hole by shooting the lowest score. The player who wins the most holes wins the match.
  • Skins – Skins is a golf format where a player wins a skin by shooting the best score on a hole. When a hole is tied, the skin is typically carried over to the next hole, which is now worth two skins. The player with the most skins wins the match. In some tournaments, skins are also given out for cash prizes if you can shoot a lower score on a hole than any player in the field.
  • Scramble – A scramble is when a team of two to four golfers tee off and then pick the group’s best shot to all play their next shot from. This format speeds play and is easier for higher handicap players.
  • Best Ball – Best ball is a team format for two to four golfers where each player plays their own golf ball, but only the lowest score for the team is taken at the end of the hole.
  • Shamble – A shamble begins like a scramble where all players tee off and then select the best shot to play their second shots from. However, after the first shot, each player continues to play their own ball for the rest of the hole.
  • Stableford – Stableford is a scoring system that can be used in individual and team events. Shooting a double bogey or higher gives zero points, a bogey one point, a par two points, and so on. In this format, the highest score wins.
  • Alternate Shot – In alternate shot, teams of two players alternate which player starts each hole, then they alternate hitting each shot on that hole until the ball is in the cup.
  • Shotgun Start – In a shotgun start, all players go to different holes on the course and start simultaneously. This is done to speed up golf events.
  • Nassau – Nassau is a bet in golf where separate wagers are placed on the best score of the front nine, back nine, and the entire round.

Basic Golf Shot Terms

golf shot shapes
  • Mulligan – A mulligan is a do-over after taking a bad shot without a penalty. Mulligans might be taken by amateur golfers or allowed (in limited quantity) during some casual tournament formats.
  • Gimmie – A gimmie is when other players allow you to pick up the ball rather than taking an easy putt. This is a friendly way to speed up a game.
  • Draw – A draw is a shot with a slight right-to-left ball flight for a right-handed golfer.
  • Fade – A fade is a shot with a slight left-to-right ball flight for a right-handed golfer.
  • Slice – A slice is an undesirable shot with a hard right curve.
  • Hook – A hook is an undesirable shot with a hard left curve.
  • Shaping – Shaping is intentionally controlling the flight of the golf ball through setup and swing.
  • Push – A push is when the golf ball starts to the right of the target and misses in that direction.
  • Pull – A pull is when the golf ball starts to the left of the target and misses in that direction.
  • Punch – A punch is a shot hit low to avoid obstacles or roll further than normal.
  • Pitch – A pitch shot is intended to go high with a steep angle. This shot is played with spin, so it doesn’t travel far after landing.
  • Chip – A chip shot is a golf shot played near the green, which stays lower and rolls after landing.
  • Flop – A flop shot travels very high (higher than a pitch) and stops quickly when it hits the green.
  • Fat – A fat shot is when the golfer hits the ground before the golf ball, causing it to travel only a short distance.
  • Thin – A thin shot occurs when hitting the ball with the lower edge of the club. These shots fly lower with inconsistent distance.
  • Lay-up – A lay-up is when a golfer intentionally hits a short shot to avoid trouble and set up their next shot.
  • Pin High – A shot that finishes level with the hole.
  • Putt – A putt is a shot hit on or near the green with a putter.
  • Lag Putt – A lag putt is a long putt intended to get as near the hole as possible to leave an easy second putt.
  • Break – The break is how much the curvature of the green will impact the ball’s direction.
  • Fluffy Lie – A fluffy lie is when the golf ball is sitting up in the rough, allowing an easier shot.
  • Buried Lie – A buried lie is when the golf ball sits below the grass and is difficult to hit.
  • Tight Lie – A tight lie is when the ball sits on very short grass or hard ground, making it important to make good contact with the ball.
  • Address – Addressing the golf ball is how you stand and position the club before beginning a shot.
  • Club Up – Clubbing up is taking one more club than might be needed for a shot to ensure it reaches its target due to wind, elevation, or other factors.

Advanced Golf Shot Terms

  • Smash Factor – The smash factor is the ball’s speed divided by the clubhead’s speed. This calculation determines how efficiently energy is being transferred to the ball.
  • Carry distance – Carry distance is how far the ball flies before it touches the ground.
  • Roll distance – Roll distance is how far the ball rolls after it hits the ground.
  • Total distance – Total distance is how far the ball travels, including the carry and roll distance.
  • Launch Angle – Launch angle is the vertical angle the ball travels on immediately after impact.
  • Angle of Attack – The angle of attack is the vertical angle of the clubhead when it impacts the ball.
  • Dynamic Loft – The dynamic loft is the loft of the clubface at impact. Based on the position of the club when the ball is struck, this varies from the club’s intended loft.
  • Forward Press – A forward press is a method of pushing the hands forward before swinging to make the takeaway smoother.
  • Knockdown Shot – A knockdown shot is a shot where the ball travels at a low trajectory.

Golf Equipment Terms

  • Woods – Golf woods are clubs with larger heads that travel longer distances. Older clubs used to be made with wood; however, this is typically no longer the case.
  • Driver – A driver is the longest-hitting wood in the golfer’s bag. Typically hit off a tee on longer holes.
  • Spoon – A spoon is a four wood.
  • Irons – Golf irons are thinner and flatter clubs meant to be hit shorter distances than woods.
  • Blade – A blade is a type of iron with a compact head and can be less forgiving. Better players typically use them.
  • Wedges – Wedges are shorter, higher lofted irons meant for hitting the ball near the green, where stopping the ball is important.
  • Hybrid – Hybrid clubs are a mix between a wood and an iron. The shape of the club is in between the two.
  • Putter – A putter is a flat-faced club meant for rolling the ball on the green to the cup.
  • Hosel – The hosel is the part of a golf club that the shaft fits into to connect to the club head.
  • Heel – The heel is the club’s back end, near the shaft.
  • Toe – The toe is the front end of the clubface away from the shaft.
  • Sole – The sole is the bottom of a golf club, below the clubface.
  • Rangefinder – A rangefinder is a laser device that measures the distance to the hole or any other object on the golf course.
  • Launch Monitor – A launch monitor measures golf club and ball data to provide data about the shot. These can be used for training or golf simulators.
  • Stimpmeter – A stimpmeter measures the speed of the green by rolling a ball at a set speed.

Golf Slang

  • 19th Hole – The 19th hole is the bar after a round of golf. Some courses also have a playable 19th hole to settle bets or a unique design that doesn’t count in the normal round.
  • Airmail – When a shot travels much further than expected.
  • Beach – The beach is another term for the bunker.
  • Big Dog – A big dog is a driver.
  • Bite – Bite is typically said by golfers who want their ball to stop rolling.
  • Breakfast Ball – A breakfast ball is a mulligan taken after a bad first shot of a round.
  • Bump and Run – A bump and run is a chip shot with a low lofted iron where the goal is to hit it low and have the ball roll a longer distance.
  • Cabbage – Cabbage is very thick rough.
  • Cat Box – A cat box is another term for the bunker.
  • Chunk – A chunk is a shot that occurs when hitting the ground before the golf ball. Similar to hitting a fat shot, but often a worse version.
  • Dance Floor – The dance floor is another term for the green. When hitting the green, you might say a player is “dancing.”
  • Dog Track – A dog track is a golf course that is in poor condition.
  • Duck Hook – A duck hook is a low hook shot that doesn’t go very far.
  • Duff – A duff is a mishit of the golf ball.
  • Flat Stick – A flat stick is a putter.
  • Flyer – A flyer is a shot that travels further than expected. This is often due to a tough lie in the rough.
  • Foot Wedge – A foot wedge is when a player illegally kicks their golf ball into a better position.
  • Fore – Fore is yelled by golfers when a ball has gone offline and is at risk of hitting another golfer. When you hear fore, be sure to duck.
  • Fried Egg – A fried egg is a half-buried golf ball in a bunker. It’s called this due to its appearance and is a difficult shot to hit.
  • Greenie – A greenie is a side bet for who can land the ball closest to the pin.
  • Hacker – A hacker is a person who isn’t a good golfer.
  • Happy Gilmore – A Happy Gilmore is a drive taken by running at the ball before swinging. Taken from the Adam Sandler movie of the same name.
  • Hit a House – A term said by golfers hoping the ball will slow down.
  • Honors – Honors is giving another golfer the first shot on the next tee box after shooting the low score on the previous hole.
  • Juicy Lie – A juicy lie sits up nicely, making it easy to hit.
  • Lip Out – A lip out is when a shot hits the edge of the hole and circles around it instead of going in.
  • Lumberjack – A lumberjack player gets stuck in the trees and hits them with the ball.
  • Muni – A muni is a nickname for a municipal golf course. These are usually low-cost city-run courses that are open to the general public.
  • Pin Seeker – A pin seeker is a shot headed directly at the golf hole.
  • Press – A press means to make another bet during a gambling game. It’s typically for the same amount already wagered on the hole.
  • Ready Play – Ready play allows golfers to hit out of order and instead play whenever they’re ready to hit. Technically the furthest from the hole is supposed to hit first, but this method is faster for casual play.
  • Reload – Reloading is putting down a second ball after hitting the first one into a hazard.
  • Sandbagger – A sandbagger is a person who purposely plays poorly to increase their handicap to gain an advantage in competition.
  • Shank – A shank is when the golf ball is hit with the hosel of the club instead of the club face. This shot looks like a short, low slice.
  • Skied – A golf ball is skied when it hits the top of a driver and goes straight up into the sky.
  • Skull – A skull is a shot that hits above the center of the ball resulting in a line drive.
  • Snowman – A snowman is when a golfer shoots an eight on a hole because the eight resembles two stacked snowballs on the scorecard.
  • Sticks – Sticks are a set of golf clubs.
  • Sweet Spot – The sweet spot is the central portion of the golf clubface, leading to an optimal shot.
  • Tester – A tester is a short putt, but too far to make it an easy gimme.
  • The Knife – The knife is a 1 iron.
  • The Tips – The tips is the furthest back tee box from the hole. This is reserved only for the best golfers. If someone is a poor golfer, you might question why they’re playing from the tips.
  • The Yips – The yips is when a golfer moves the club in an unexpected way messing up their shot. Typically, this is related to being nervous or unfocused.
  • Touch – Touch is the ability to judge the power to hit the ball a particular distance.
  • Up and Down – An up and down is when the player misses the green but can still get onto the green in one shot and then make a single putt.
  • Whippy – A whippy swing is when the club speed is too fast for the shaft’s flex making the club bend too much.
  • Worm Burner – A worm burner is an unintentional shot that barely gets off the ground and just rolls.

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