Golf Terms Explained: Golf Terminology All Golfers Should Know!

Like most sports, golf is a game full of slang and jargon that can be confusing to the uninitiated. Golf terms will not only help the player understand the game, but they will also make it more fun and safer for the player and others.

Golf terminology covers everything from the course, to the clubs, to the play itself. You might wonder “why do golfers yell fore?” or “what is a birdie?”. Some of these terms will help you understand how the game is played. Others might save you or others embarrassment or even bodily harm.

Today we will cover golf jargon and slang that you should know so that you can have a good time and be knowledgeable on the course.

So whether you are out playing with friends or trying to impress the boss during a round, let’s look at the golf terms you need to know before you hit the links.

Golf Terms Explained The Golf Terminology All Golfers Should Know

Golf Terms: General

Hit the links: A term for going golfing. “Hey, let’s go hit the links today”.

‘Par for the Course’: Finishing a round of golf by shooting the same score as the course prescribes. Generally 36 shots for 9 holes or 72 for 18, although it can vary from course to course.

Also used in general terms to mean “did as expected”.

Scratch: This is a person who can shoot par or get a course handicap of 0 on a rated course. This is very rare. May be referred to as a “scratch golfer”.

Handicap: A number referring to how many strokes above or below par a player typically plays. The lower the number, the better the golfer.

Caddie: The person who carries your clubs. Depending on their skill level, can also offer you advice on club selection or how to approach certain shots.

Fore: An exclamation that is used to warn other golfers if you hit your ball near them. Should be yelled if your shot is going near others. Essentially means “Look out!” or “ Heads up!”.

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Putt: When on the green, you putt the ball in order to make it in the hole. Unlike most of your other shots, the ball won’t leave the ground on a putt.

Links: The oldest style of golf course and often used to describe a course in general. A true links course features undulating terrain, few trees, and an open layout.

Slope: Slope is a rating that measures how difficult a course is to play.

Scramble: A golf game often used in team tournaments. Golfers on each team will take a shot and then play from the best shot.

Golf Terms: The Course

Tee box: The area in which you tee off. There are generally a few different ones on each hole that increase the distance and difficulty. They can vary depending on the course but generally include a women’s tee, men’s tee, and competition tee.

Fairway: The mowed area of the golf course. This is where you want your ball to end up between the tee box and the green.

Green: The area surrounding the hole. This is where you will use your putter. Generally more manicured/compact grass compared to the fairway.

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Fringe: The area immediately around the green. Can chip or putt from the fringe depending on the distance and preference of the golfer.

Rough: The longer grass around the fairway and green. You want to avoid hitting your ball in the rough.

Bunker: Also known as a sand trap. This is a hole filled with sand that is used as an obstacle on the course. Bunkers usually are around the green but can sometimes be found along the fairway.

Related: 5 Tricks To Hit Perfect Bunker Shots: Escape From The Traps

Hazard: Refers to a water feature or bunker on the course that the golfer will want to be wary of.

Front 9: The first 9 holes on an 18 hole golf course.

Back 9: The last 9 holes on an 18 hole golf course.

Dogleg: A hole that hooks to the left or to the right.

Flag: Flag sticking out of the pin showing you where to aim. Generally pulled out when a golfer is putting.

Golf Terms: Scoring

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Par: The average number of shots expected to make it in the hole. Most courses will feature par 3, par 4, and par 5 holes.

Ace: Hitting the ball in the hole on the first shot. Also known as a hole-in-one.

Birdie: Getting the ball in the hole in 1 shot below par. For example, hitting the ball in on your 3rd shot on a par 4.

Eagle: Getting the ball in the hole in 2 shots below par. For example, hitting the ball in on your 3rd shot on a par 5.

Albatross: Getting the ball in the hole in 3 shots below par. For example, hitting the ball in on your 2nd shot on a par 5.

Bogey: Getting the ball in the hole in 1 shot above par. For example, hitting the ball in on your 4th shot on a par 3.

Double bogey: Getting the ball in the hole in 2 shots above par. For example, hitting the ball in on your 5th shot on a par 3.

Triple bogey: Getting the ball in the hole in 3 shots above par. For example, hitting the ball in on your 6th shot on a par 3.

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Golf Terms: Gameplay

Pull/push: Referring to your golf swing. For a proper swing, you want to push the club back and pull it through for contact. A beginner’s mistake is to do the opposite and pull the club back and push it through, thus pull/push.

Mulligan: An unofficial do-over. Usually only allowed in a friendly game and not in tournaments.

Divot: A hole created from swinging your club too low. You should replace the grass back in the hole if possible.

Yips: An involuntary jerk, twitch, or spasm in the wrist or hands while putting that makes the ball go off course. 

Shank: When your ball hits off the shaft instead of the clubface. This will generally cause your shot to go off course.

Lip out: When the ball looks like it is going to go in the hole but catches the edge and spins out.

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Break: Refers to which way a ball will move on the green. Balls can break left or right as they approach the hole. Will be dependent on the terrain of the green.

Hook/Slice: A shot where the ball will go hard to the left or to the right after contact.

Play Through: If a group behind you is playing faster than you, it is customary to let them “play through” or go ahead of you at the next hole.

Green in Regulation: This refers to getting your ball on the green in 2 shots fewer than par. This sets you up for a birdie putt. For example, if the hole is a par 5 and you are on the green after 3 strokes, you made the green in regulation.

Gimme: When your ball is close enough to the hole that you don’t need to putt. This is generally about the length of the grips on your putter. Only used in casual play and not in competitions. Also called a “gimmie putt”

Penalty: A penalty results in the loss of a stroke, meaning you have to add 1 to your score for the hole. This is generally the result of an unplayable ball, such as hitting it in the water. It can also be from hitting it out of bounds during a competition or tournament.

Golf Terms: Equipment

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Driver: An oversized club used primarily to hit the ball out of the tee box. Drivers will hit the ball the farthest out of any club but can be difficult to control where the shot goes.

Wood: Has a clubface similar to the driver, but smaller. Woods won’t hit the ball as far as a driver but will hit it farther than irons. Typically easier to control than a driver.

Irons: Clubs used for a variety of shots and distances. Irons are labeled 2-9. The clubface increases in angle as the number increases and your shots become shorts. A 3 iron will have an almost upright clubface and will hit the ball much farther than an 8 iron which will have an angle and be used for shorter shots or chips.

Pitching Wedge: An iron used for short shots to lift the ball into the air and land it on the green. Used for chipping.

Sand Wedge: A speciality iron used when the ball is in the bunker. Features a steep angle and is used to launch the ball out of the sand.

Putter: Used on the green to putt the ball to the hole. The only club that keeps the ball on the ground.

Tee: Small wooden or plastic stick a golfer uses when hitting the first shot on the hole (teeing off).

While this certainly isn’t all of the golf terms there are, this should be a good start. This golf jargon will make the game more understandable and fun.

What golf terminology did we leave off that you think beginners should know?

Knowing The Vocab Is One Thing…

But can you play well?

Check out the following articles to boost your golf game:

How To Hit A Golf Ball – Tips For More Consistent Strikes

How To Become A Scratch Golfer: 7 Practices To Reduce Your Handicap

Adam Rabo

Adam Rabo

Adam Rabo has been running since junior high. He is a high school math teacher and has coached high school and college distance runners. He is currently training for a marathon, the R2R2R, and a 100-mile ultra. He lives in Colorado Springs, CO.

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