Common Golf Terms You Should Know About

Are you new to golf and want to get better, not just at swinging, but also at using the right words? Luckily, it won’t take very long to get the basic golf terms down. Golfing terms are easy enough to understand if you know where to start. In this blog post, we’ll help to expand your golf vocabulary and make you sound like a pro, even if you don’t play like one just yet.

Golf Terms for Beginners 

  • Birdie: This is the term used when a hole is completed with one less swing compared to the par, which means you played better compared to the expected standards.
  • Bogey: This means that the hole was completed with one stroke over the par. However, you can also end up with more shots than the expected standards. It’s not uncommon for beginners to end up with a bogey five (five strokes over par).
  • Double Bogey: This occurs when the hole is completed with two strokes over the par.
  • Eagle: When a person completes a hole with two fewer strokes compared to the par, they get an eagle.
  • Fairway: This refers to the stretch of shorter grass between the putting green and the tee, which is where you should be since this will lead you to the hole.
  • Fore: This is a word that golfers yell loudly to tell spectators to get cover after a bad shot, indicating where the ball is heading.
  • Green: The green is an area of well-kept and trimmed grass sitting at the end of every hole. This is what you’re aiming for.
  • Hazards: These are all the obstacles placed on the golf course such as sand traps, tall grass, and water.
  • Hook: This is a shot that swerves from right to left for right-handed players and works in the opposite direction for left-handed players.
  • Lie: This refers to how the ball is resting on the ground — the ball could be in a good position if found on the fairway or short grass, or a bad position if it’s in the rough. 
  • Mulligan: The mulligan is your new best friend. This unofficial “re-do” of your last shot gives you an opportunity to try again. 
  • Out-of-bounds: A point of no return in golf, ”out-of-bounds” has white stakes to indicate areas that are out of play.,
  • Par: This is the abbreviation of “professional average result,” representing the standard score for each hole within a course. It states the number of strokes that a golfer needs to take to successfully finish the hole.
  • Pin: Also known as a flag, these are used to mark the holes around the course.
  • Ranger: The ranger is a man or woman on a cart driving around the course to monitor the speed of your play. If you’re a bit too slow, you may get a visit from the ranger, which may drive fans away.
  • Rough: The rough is a coarser and longer patch of grass located at the sides of the fairway which should be avoided.
  • Round: This refers to playing a game of golf on a course and will usually consist of 18 holes.
  • Sand Trap: Found along fairways and guarding the greens, these are sand-filled pits that can throw your game off if your ball lands in one.
  • Slice: This is a shot in golf that quickly moves to the right for right-handed golfers and to the left for left-handed players. It’s one of the most common shots.
  • Starter: A man or woman standing by the first tee to ensure that you get started on time is called the starter.
  • Stroke: This movement refers to the act of taking a swing at the ball.
  • Tee: The tee is the small plastic or wooden peg placed on the ground, where the golf ball will sit before you hit it or “tee off.”
  • Tee Box: This is a designated area where you can start from and also marks the start of each hole.
  • The Beach: This is a different name for a sand trap or bunker.
  • Three-Putt: This is the term used when you take three putts to get the ball into the hole.

Golf Terms for Intermediate Players 

  • 19th Hole: This is a golfing term for the clubhouse bar, where you are expected to provide drinks for everyone if you get a hole-in-one.
  • Ball Mark: This is the indentation left over after the golf ball lands within the green.
  • Break: This refers to the movement that the golf ball makes on the green after putting it.
  • Caddie: The person who carries your clubs as you play is your caddie.
  • Dogleg: This refers to a bend that may turn to the left or right within fairways.
  • Divot: These refer to a piece of grass that comes off the ground after hitting a golf shot.
  • Draw: This refers to a gentle hook.
  • Fade: This refers to a gentle slice.
  • Fat: This is when you take off too much grass behind the ball whenever hitting a golf shot and can also be referred to as “catching it heavy.”
  • Gimmie: Gimmie refers to a short putt — a rule of thumb when measuring a gimmie can be found “in the leather,” which is in the length of the grip of your putter.
  • Handicap: This refers to the number given to a player to determine the potential average score they may get according to par.
  • Line: A line is an imaginary path that the golf ball may travel throughout the green on the way toward the hole.
  • Match Play: This is a competition using a one vs. one format, where players play on a hole-by-hole basis against each other.
  • Pull: A pull is a shot for right-handed golfers that immediately pulls to the left after they hit the ball, and goes in the opposite direction for left-hand players.
  • Thin: This happens when the golf ball is hit too low on the clubface. It usually doesn’t sound or feel good.
  • Top: This happens when the golf ball is hit by the clubface’s lowest point, creating a shot that rolls instead of catching air time.
  • Shank: One of the most dreaded golf shots, this is done by hitting the ball using the club’s hosel or neck.
  • Stroke Play: This is a golfing format where the players count all of their strokes to get to their final score. This is a common format used in official tournaments.

Golf Terms for Advanced Players

  • Ace: Also known as a hole-in-one, this is the best score you can get in a game of golf. It means that you can write “1” on your scorecard. This refers to the ball going inside the hole after just one shot. While this is highly unlikely, it has occurred on a few occasions. Any golfer who achieves this feat will be expected to provide every patron of the 19th hole with a drink after the round is finished.
  • Albatross: This refers to a score given to a hole where you were able to complete three strokes fewer than the par; it’s also referred to as “double eagle.”
  • Chip: These are short shots that are meant to play the ball into the green, or as close as possible to the hole.
  • Drive: These are tee shots that are usually long, which can be achieved by using a driver or wood.
  • Iron: These are the metal clubs inside your bag, not including your putter or wood. Irons will be numbered from one to nine — the lower the number, the greater the distance the ball can travel.
  • Pitch: A shot that’s longer than a chip but shorter than a drive is a pitch. It’s usually played with a high-numbered club. To ensure that the ball accurately hits its target, a player must refrain from using a full swing.
  • Putt: This is a kind of shot that’s played on the green using a putter. These are usually done to get the ball inside the hole.
  • Putter: This golf club has a flatter edge that’s meant to help the ball run along smoothly on the green and into the hole.
  • Sand Wedge: A sand wedge is a club that’s heavily angled and designed specifically to help you get out from a sand trap.
  • Sweet Spot: This is the right spot on your club where you should always aim to make contact with the ball. Hitting the sweet spot will help the ball travel to the point where you want it to go. Cavity-backed clubs feature big sweet spots and are extremely helpful for beginners.
  • Wood: This refers to clubs that serve to hit balls as far as possible, and are usually used on the first tee. Back in the day, the head of these clubs was made from wood, which gave them their name, but these days, they are mostly metal.

Funny Golf Terms

  • Flop Shot: These types of shots will typically fly high into the air while making a soft landing and are usually achieved using a sand wedge or lob. Flop shots were made popular by Phil Mickelson, known as a short game wizard, along with other pros from PGA Tours. 
  • Fried Egg: This is a common slang term used in golf to define a situation that every golfer wants to avoid. A fried egg happens when the golf ball ends up in the bunker, with half of the ball buried in the sand by its own pitch mark. Because you won’t be able to generate any kind of spin on the ball, these kinds of shots will need more finesse and are dreaded by all. 
  • Gimme Putt: This refers to a ball coming so close to a hole that your competitors want to give you the putt.
  • Lip Out: This happens when the putt seems like it will drop but changes directions instead and stays outside the cup. 
  • Scramble: This word can have two meanings when golfing. The first is when you play a tournament that might use a “scramble” format — here, players are put into teams where everyone must play for their best ball on the approach and off the tee. The second meaning is when you keep missing greens and are still making pars; for instance, you could say that “you were scrambling your game.”
  • Shank: Another fuel behind every golfer’s nightmares, a “shank” — also referred to as “The S Word” — is something else that plagues even pro players. This happens when the ball hits the heel or neck of the club, making it shoot to the right instantly. Shanks are known to be “contagious,” so if you ever witness one, don’t say it out loud, lest you let history repeat itself. 
  • Snowman: While this may not be as bad as the yips or a shank, a snowman can kill your round. This occurs when you make a score of 8 on a hole. It gets its name because the number 8 resembles a snowman
  • Topped Shot: This is another dreaded shot in golf commonly occurring in those just starting. It happens when the bottom of the club makes contact with the top half of the golf ball, resulting in a shot that travels just a few yards.
  • Waggle: This refers to a motion or motions that a player takes to help them relax or switch up their position. Sometimes, players will take one to three waggles instead of sitting their club down and placing it behind the ball. While this can be more commonly seen in older players, there are still a few tour pros like Jason Dufner who do it.  
  • Yips: If there’s one thing golfers fear, it’s the yips — a condition where a mental block or muscle spasms prevent them from undertaking simple tasks. This usually occurs when they’re on the putting green. Those who suffer from the yips tend to have an extremely jerky reaction in their swinging motion. While it is often attributed to mental issues, there can also be times when it is a physical issue, but both will result in poor putting.


While you might think that you just learned terms from a birdwatcher’s handbook — with all the weird golfing terms like birdie, eagle, and albatross — these terms are some of the most commonly used when playing a round of golf. Hopefully, we’ve covered all the words that have left you puzzled since your last golfing experience. Now that you know all there is to know when it comes to terminology, the next step in your golfing journey is to get good on the green.

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