As a newbie to the great game of golf, hanging around the clubhouse and lockers can lead to some interesting conversations. Golf has a language all of its own. We curated this list of common golfing terms to help you sound like an old pro.
So grab your big dog, and let’s hit the back nine!
Above the hole
These shots are harder to gauge for slope and speed because they slope down towards the cup. So, the experienced golfer will aim to keep the ball placement “below the hole.”
Known as a “double eagle” in US terminology, it’s a score of three under par.
Hole in one.
Short to mid-range shot at the pin or onto the green.
The player furthest from the pin is the first to play after teeing off.
All Square (A/S)
When the same number of holes remain for all players and they are tied on the scorecard.
The imaginary line you want the ball to travel with your shot.
Attend the flag
The player removes the flag from the cup while the other player takes their putt.
The last nines holes on an 18-hole golf course.
A feature of wood clubs provides stability and further trajectory in the shot. Also found in mallet putters to improve club weighting and shot stability.
Below the hole
The ball lands on the green providing an upward sloping shot to the cup. Uphill shots break less, and there’ is less chance of the shot running away from the hole.
A slicing or hooking shot curving to the right or left.
Best / Better Ball
The best score on a single hole made by players in a best-ball tournament/match.
A score of one-under-par.
The curvature of the ball shot path is due to the slope of the grain of the green and the shot.
A score of one over par on a single hole.
A trinket or flat object to mark the ball’s position on the green.
They are telescopic poles with nets for retrieving golf balls from the water. Some golf courses don’t allow these tools.
This term describes a manufacturing method attaching the clubhead to the shaft. Manufacturers drill a hole in the clubhead to accommodate the shaft. Bore-through club heads have the hole continuing through to the bottom of the clubhead. Manufacturers claim this design allows redistribution of weight to important club areas.
Bump and Run
When you deliberately play a shot along the ground. Players will usually use this shot on links courses with hard greens or windy conditions that don’t favor lofted shots.
A technique in gold shots to provide lift and distance. Backspin also prevents the ball from moving forward when landing and is a key technique to learn for accurately positioning shots onto the green.
A sand trap on the golf course.
The distance the ball moves from striking the clubhead to landing on the ground, without including bounce and roll.
A low-loft short shot played from off the green.
Four under par, one of the most uncommon scores in golf, There are only four examples of this scored in recorded history. It’s also known as a “double-albatross” or “triple-eagle” in the US.
The golf balls’ capability of returning to a round shape after sustaining club impact.
Golfers also call this the “left-hand low grip.” The right hand is higher on the grip than your left for right-handed golfers. It’s the opposite grip of conventional styles. Predominantly used for putting in players looking to eliminate issues with the “yips” or “wrist break.”
When the player holds the club further down the shaft to widen your grip.
This technique shortens the club shaft, increasing control while decreasing distance. This technique is common in players that find themselves in-between their clubs.
Acknowledging you don’t have a chance of winning the hole or match. Essentially, it’s bowing out and allowing the other player to make mistakes or finish the game where you stand.
When you remove a divot of turf from the tee or fairway when taking a shot.
Winning margins in match play of 7&6 in victory or defeat. In England, dog owners would pay 7/6d (37p) for a dog license up until 1987.
There is a right or left bend in the fairway, with the green typically out of view.
A lead is equal to the number of holes remaining in match play.
When you lose your ball to an unplayable lie, the player will drop it an arm’s length onto the fairway from shoulder height.
Controlling a right or left shot with a moderate curve.
A score of two under par on a single hole.
The behavior required by a player on the course and clubhouse grounds. Some examples are staying quiet when other players take their shots, not using cellphones on the course, and many more.
The grassy area between the green and the tee.
Verbal warning golfers shout when taking long shots.
The final stage of the swing is where the club completes the movement, ending over the shoulder.
Two pairs of players taking alternate shots with the same ball. The players will drive at alternate tees, and one drive will even numbers and the other the odds.
A group of two pairs of players recording better ball scores of each of the pairs based on the net or gross scores.
When players make a drop without incurring a penalty shot.
The direction the grass grows on the fairway, tee, and green. It’s especially important on the green and defines how the ball rolls and the ball speed. The grass will look darker when you’re staring “into the grain” and lighter when you’re looking “with the grain.”
The opposite of “Mulligan.” A player may ask their opponent to play their shot again, usually in a long putt or a good drive.
The area of the hole with short grass housing the cup.
Ground under Repair (GUR)
An area of the course under maintenance. If the player lands in this area, they may take a drop without incurring a penalty.
The number of strokes within around, before taking into a count the player handicaps.
A half-hearted swing played with intention when making shorter shots. The half-shot allows for better control of the ball.
Finishing a hole by sinking the ball into the cup. This applies to chip shots from the fairway or any other shot leaving the ball in the cup.
The player scoring the lowest on the previous hole gets the right to tee off first in the next.
A shot curving sharply from right to left for left-handed players and left to right for right-handed players.
The hollow part of the clubhead attaches to the shaft. It is also known as the “neck” of the club.
Playing a shot that comes to a stop within course boundaries. It is the opposite of “out-of-bounds.”
In the leather
When the ball lands very close to the hole, usually on the green, it has its origin in the measurement of the leather used in the putter grip. Players will usually concede a putt “within the leather” in most friendly matches.
With right-handed players, this grip interlocks the little finger on the right hand to the index finger on the left hand, and vice versa for a left-handed player. Many famous pros like Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods use this grip ideal for small hands.
The slang name for an old club with a loft similar to a 4-iron. Also known as a “short pitching club” for taking shots around the green, or a “pitching niblick” and “lofting iron,” similar to modern pitching wedges.
A type of grass growing in southern Africa, usually found in the rough or the fairway in courses in this region. Not ideal for temperate climates or woodlands.
Short putts that you miss, even though you shouldn’t.
Slang for the 1-iron. Decades ago, club manufacturers would forge the iron heads and call them “blades.” The 1-iron was the most dangerous and sharpest of the irons.
An American term for golfing trousers stopping short below the knees. Players would often wear these in combination with long, knee-high golfing socks. Players in England would call these trousers “plus fours” or “plus twos.”
A golf course in coastal areas where the terrain features few trees and many dunes, with large parts of the course exposed to winds. A piece of the course “linking” the mainland and the sea.
Also known as a “good” or “poor” lie, it describes the ball position when it comes to rest after the shot. It also describes the clubhead angle set to the shaft. Tall players will use clubs with “upright lies” to provide better vertical shots. Shorter players require a “regular” or “flat” lie that places the clubhead further from the body.
The edge of the cup.
A slang rhyme, “Lucy Locket,” is a shank or socket – the worst shots you can make in the game.
When a player makes a putt catching the lip of the hole and spinning away from the cup without sinking.
The opposite of a “Medal” or “stroke” match. The winner is the player who win the most holes won. These matches often don’t last the full 18-holes.
Also known as “stroke play,” players score each hole. The winner is the player with the fewest strokes in total, or net or gross wins.
A player gets a chance to replay their shot. This action is not allowed in competition but suits friendly games.
When men and women play together in teams, also known as “mixed foursomes.” Each of the partners play off a separate tee.
Scoring after accounting for player handicaps.
To top a ball or catch the upper half with the clubface, resulting in a low running shot with no power.
A Scottish term for the nine-iron.
An abbreviation of “out-of-bounds.” OB defines the parts of the course outside the playing zone. Typically OB areas feature white markings to alert players to the boundaries.
The player strikes the ball with the clubface away from the sweet spot.
Any oversized club. These clubs usually enhance beginner swing and shot performance without needing advanced techniques.
The opposite of the closed face of the club.
The number of strokes it should take a player to complete the hole, including two putting shots. Most gold courses have holes between par-3 and par-5, with a few par-6 holes at golf courses around the world.
An additional stroke added to the player’s score for violating one of the rules, such as hooking the drive out of bounds or losing your ball.
An abbreviation of “Pure In-Line Square.” This putting method invented by scientist Dave Pelz involves the player using a pendulum motion through the shoulders during the putt. As a result, the movement eliminates independent arm and hand movement, allowing you to keep the putter-face square during the shot.
A ball that is level with the pin and over to one side.
The flagstick in the cup.
When slower golfers hang back, they allow another party to pass them on the fairway or tee. Typically, it’s bad etiquette to ask to play through on the green unless the other team is deliberately slow.
A shot that is approaching the green after using a shorter swing. However, it has more loft and length than a chip shot.
A player with a “better than scratch” handicap that adds ‘plus’ strokes to the gross score after each round
Quitting on the ball
When a player decelerates through their swing, resulting in reduced impact with the clubface and less power. It’s a common problem for beginners.
When you greatly reduce the swing in your shot. The quarter is a great option for getting out of bunkers or situations where you need ultimate control over the ball and your swing.
A practice area frequented by golfers, also known as the “driving range.” Ranges can vary greatly in amenities.
A shot played from an unfavorable position, resulting in the ball landing in a favorable position. This shot can occur through luck or skill.
An area of the course, usually flanking the. There is usually undergrowth, long grass, trees, and other obstacles. Some areas of the rough may be out of bounds.
Permission from other players grants another player to use a “lift-and-drop” without penalty.
A common putting grip. Right-handed players hold the putter along the palm in their left hand. The right-hand overlaps, leaving your left forefinger overlapping the fingers on your right hand.
A “sand save” is the professional term for a “Sandie.” It can also have the alternate meaning of getting out of the sand bunker in less than two shots. Whether you make par or not is not important. It’s the “up-and-down” that counts in this situation.
A term that defines betting against an opponent when you’re playing for money. This term applies to friendly bets, not competitive players playing for tournament wins. The term can have two meanings. The first is making par after being in the bunker at some point. Or it can mean getting out of the bunker and sinking in the cup in two shots, also known as the “up-and-down.”
A shot where the “hosel” of the club strikes the ball, causing a sharp shot to the right, also known as a “socket.”
When you strike the ball “thin,” or weakly, resulting in the ball taking a low-loft flight path and with no control.
This term is similar to the “Mulligan,” where you get the opportunity to retake the shot. However, you can choose which of the balls to play in this case.
A shot curves sharply to the right, taking a banana-shaped flight path. This shot is usually a beginner mistake, occurring due to striking the ball using an open clubface and a swing moving in-to-out. IT’s a frequent mistake in high-handicappers and beginners.
Hitting the ball “thin” means the clubface strikes the ball between the top and middle. As a result, the player gets a shot with a low-loft, or running along the ground, with no control or power. They are also destructive to the turf on the fairway and tee.
The midway point in an 18-home game where you “turn” around onto the “back nine” and start the journey to the clubhouse.
You hit the ball above-center, causing it to dive and roll instead or rise.
Up and Down
The player manages to get their ball back onto the green by using an approach shot and a single putt into the cup.
A situation when you can’t play your shot because course conditions create obstructions.
You may drop your ball away from the obstruction and play through. However, the rules state that the player taking the drop must endure a penalty stroke because of the obstruction.
Variable Face Thickness (VFT)
A feature found in titanium drivers where the face of the club allows greater face-deflection in the center of the clubface.
This is another name for the overlapping club grip popularized by Harry Vardon. In right-handed players, you overlap the little finger on the right hand with the forefinger of your left hand, and vice versa for left-handed players.
A term for any club featuring a large wooden head. The “woods” in your bag are the “driver” (1-wood) and the fairway woods (2 wood and above). The term originates from the sport’s early days, where manufacturers would design drivers with large wooden heads. Today, brands use titanium and other alloy materials for more power in shots.
A thin or topped shot that runs along the ground. The term gets its name from the shot that kills worms taking a hiatus from life underground.
When you swing and miss the ball entirely, grabbing nothing but air, it’s both highly embarrassing, and it counts as a shot. If you’re pulling off whiff shots, you need more time o the driving range.
This term defines balls that don’t meet manufacturers’ quality standards. They may have cosmetic blemishes, or they are outside of the weight and size tolerances of (1.620-oz weight and 1.680″ diameter). Manufacturers sell these balls at a discount from factory outlets, and the brand name of the ball is “X’d out” or rubbed off. While they are fine to use in friendly play or practice, they are not permitted in competition.
The “yips” is every golfer’s worst nightmare. It’s where you have a chronic fear of missing shots, especially putts, because of a twitch in your wrist. It’s challenging for players to overcome the yips, and they can occur in beginners or advanced golfers without any previous sign of it happening.
Some players believe you can overcome the yips by using unorthodox grips or long-shaft putters.
The distance between your target and the ball. The hole’s “yardage” of the hole is the official figure on the scorecard but varies according to the position of the pin and tee-markers on the green. Professional and advanced players use “yardage charts” to calculate distances on the course and improve their club selection.
A thin-bladed variety of slow-growing grass with a deep root structure. Its heat and drought-resistant and a popular choice for use on greens.