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Understanding Golf Terms

Updated on September 25, 2013
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Christine, a wife, mother and homemaker for over 30 years, has an NVQ3 in Childcare & Education & loves cooking, music, health & nutrition.

A Glossary Of Golfing Terms For Beginners

Welcome to the list of golf terms for those wanting to know how to play golf. If you are thinking of getting into this sport, then by familiarizing yourself with the golfing terms you will feel more confident to give it a go. After all, you don't want to make a fool of yourself as soon as someone informs you that you have played a bogie or a birdie and no-one wants to look like a dumb blond. Once you know the basic golf terms you will know what your teacher is referring to when you are learning. Playing golf is a great way to get out in the fresh air, exercise and to socialise.

On the other hand you might already be a golfer but are still unsure of some of the golf terms. Check them out here so that you will be able to join in the conversation afterwards at the clubhouse. By the way, if anyone tells you that you have won the Snake Award, don't get too excited, for it could mean that you will be buying the drinks afterwards!

Every serious golfer should understand the main golfing terms in order to be taken seriously. So read on, have a go at the two quizzes and enjoy your game!

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Golf Terms A-B - Off we go- watch out for the birdie now!

  • ACE- This is where you hit the ball straight into the hole with one shot. Wow!
  • ADDRESS- If you are addressing the ball, you are referring to how you stand before taking the shot.
  • ALBATROSS- Now this is rare, but it refers to scoring 3 under par on a hole, so you would have scored 2 on a 5 par hole for example!
  • APPROACH- An iron that is used to play onto the green, which is often referred to as an "approach shot."
  • APRON- The closely cut area around the edge of the green, also called the "fringe."
  • BACKSPIN- A reverse spin that makes the ball stop quickly on the green.
  • BACKSWING- This is the backwards part of a golfer's swing as he brings it off the ground and up over his head.
  • BAIL OUT- Playing safe by shooting away from the flag, if for example it is next to some water which he wants to avoid.
  • BALL MARKER- a coin or token which will be placed right behind the ball and used to mark the ball's position if for example, another player's ball is likely to hit it.
  • BALL RETRIEVER- A long pole with a scoop on the end used to retrieve balls from water hazards.
  • BALL WASHER- They do just what they suggest and are normally found on the golf course, at the tee boxes, or play safe and have your own with you when you need it, such as the one below!
  • BANANA BALL- A slice that curves in a banana shape from left to right (for right handers).
  • BASESBALL GRIP- It's how you hold the club, with all 10 fingers on the grip, like you would a baseball bat.
  • BEACH- Another word for sandtrap- on the beach.
  • BENT/BERMUDA GRASS- Different types of grass.
  • BIRDIE- A score of 1 under par- i.e. a score of 3 on a 4 par hole.
  • BITE- Describing the action on a backspin, stopping the ball abruptly on the green.
  • BOGEY- A score of 1 over par, i.e. a score of 5 on a 4 par hole.
  • BUNKER- Another name for a sandtrap.

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Golf Terms C - No- You need to play your game before going to the clubhouse!

  1. CADDIE- Someone who carries a player's golf clubs and offers assistance during the game.
  2. CARRY- Refers to the distance a ball needs to travel in the air before hitting the ground, in order to clear an obstacle, such as water. i.e. you need 100 yards to carry the water.
  3. CASUAL WATER- Just puddles of water left after rain, that aren't meant to be there. So you are allowed to remove a ball from casual water.
  4. CHIP SHOT- A short approach shot with a low trajectory, usually taken from close to the green.
  5. CHIP IN- A chip shot hit into the cup.
  6. CHOKE- Two meanings are: 1. To grip lower down on the golf club than normal (e.g. "choke down" on the club).

    2. When a player collapses under pressure in the game.

  7. CHOP- To hit the ball with a hacking motion.
  8. CLUBHEAD- The hitting area of the golf club.
  9. CLUBHOUSE- The meeting place to boast about your birdies over a nice drink.
  10. COURSE RATING- Describes the difficulty of a course. Normally the higher the rating, the more difficult it is.
  11. CUP- The thing in the hole which holds the flagstick.

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Golf Terms D - You won't be a duffer if you know what you're doing!

  1. DEUCE- A hole in two!
  2. DIMPLE- Yes, it really is describing the round indentations on the golf ball. Apparently the correct number make a difference to how the ball flies!
  3. DIVOT- The bit of ground that gets dug up by the club when taking a shot. Of course, a player's divots are always replaced and patted down before moving on!
  4. DOGLEG- This is rather like a hole that goes like a dog's leg, straight to start with and then takes a turn at the end.
  5. DOUBLE BOGEY- A score of two over par (for one hole) - to be avoided if possible!
  6. DOUBLE EAGLE- Another term for an albatross, i.e. 3 under par for a hole.
  7. DOWNHILL LIE- Means the ball is lying on the downslope of a hill, so when a right-handed player hits the ball, his right foot will be higher than his left.
  8. DRAIN- To make a putt ("drain it")
  9. DRAW SHOT- A right-handed player hits a controlled hook that goes from right to left.
  10. DRIVE- This describes your tee shot, as you get to the golf course.
  11. DRIVER- The golf driver is the club that hits the ball the farthest, known as the 1 wood.
  12. DROP- A term for getting the ball back into play after being hit out of bounds or into water.
  13. DUB- A poor shot- i.e. I "dubbed" that shot!
  14. DUFFER- Also known as a "hacker"- the person who hits a lot of bad shots.

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Golf Terms E-F - Look out for those flagsticks now-

  1. EAGLE- A score of 2 under par on a hole, i.e. a score of 3 on a 5 par hole.
  2. FACE- The part of the clubhead that makes contact with the ball.
  3. FADE- A shot that for a right hander, gradually curves from left to right.
  4. FAIRWAY-The area on the golf course that you want to hit from if possible. It lies right between the tee box and the green where the grass is kept really short.
  5. FAT SHOT is a shot that is not really good, when the club hits the ground behind the ball which doesn't usually go very far.
  6. FLAGSTICK- unsurprisingly it's a flag on a stick!
  7. FLUB- As dub above.
  8. FOLLOW-THROUGH- continuing the golf swing through to the end.
  9. FORE-You should know this as if you hear someone yelling it, they are warning you of impending doom from a ball heading your way!
  10. FOURSOME- Did we pinch this term from golf or does golf use the one from the common language if four of us are in it together?
  11. FREE DROP- When the ball lands in casual water and you don't have to add anything to your score, but you get to drop the ball.
  12. FRINGE- The closely-cut area around the edge of the green.
  13. FRONT SIDE- The name usually given to the first 9 holes.

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Golf Terms G-H - Watch out for the hazards!

  1. GIMME- When a putt is close enough to the cup that it is certain to be made, the other play declares that it is a "Gimme". Even though the player doesn't need to putt it, it counts as a stroke to his score.
  2. GRAIN- Direction the grass is growing in. The ball runs faster with the grain and slower against it.
  3. GREEN- The putting surface on the golf course.
  4. GRIP- Referring to the part of the club shaft that is held by the golfer or the way in which he is holding it.
  5. GROSS- The total number of strokes a player makes on his round.
  6. GROUNDING THE CLUB- Means placing the club on the ground behind the ball at address position.
  7. GROUND UNDER REPAIR- Gives the players a free drop if it lands here, where the ground is being repaired.
  8. HACKER- The name of a player who is not very skilled, also known as a duffer.
  9. HANDICAP- The number of strokes a player deducts from his gross score to bring it to that of a scratch golfer.
  10. HAZARD- As you imagine, this is to be avoided if possible and on the golf course may include bunkers, ponds, sandtraps, lakes etc.
  11. HEEL- The part of the clubhead nearest the shaft.
  12. HOLE- You want your ball to land in this and on the golf course it is only 4 inches round!
  13. HOLE HIGH- An approach shot that is even with the hole, but off to one side.
  14. HOLE IN ONE- As ACE above.
  15. HOLE OUT- The process of a hole being completed.
  16. HONOUR- Given to you to go first on the next tee if you completed the last one with the lowest score.
  17. HOOK- Hit the ball and gradually curve it from right to left (if right handed).
  18. HOSEL- The hollow part of the clubhead where the shaft fits in.

Golf Terms I-M - Stay on course so you don't end up in the jungle!

  1. INTERLOCKING GRIP- Gripping the club with the little finger of the lower hand interlocked by the index finger of the upper hand.
  2. IRON- A club with a metal head- not a wood.
  3. JAIL- When a ball is "in jail" it's the place a golfer finds it difficult to hit his ball out from- i.e. a lot of trees!
  4. JUNGLE- The name a golfer gives to the woods.
  5. KICK- A bounce.
  6. LAG- To putt the ball, leaving it short of the hole with the intention of having an easy putt for the next shot.
  7. LATERAL HAZARD- A hazard that runs parallel to the fairway.
  8. LIE- The position of the ball on the ground after it has been shot.
  9. LINKS- This is another name for a golf course, although it originally referred to a coastal course.
  10. LIP- As in cup- the rim of the golf cup, but not the one you drink your coffee from afterwards!
  11. LOB SHOT- A shot which goes quickly in the air before landing straight on the green.
  12. LOFT- The angle of the clubface from vertical.
  13. MATCH PLAY- A competition by holes, where each hole is worth one point no matter how many strokes one golfer beats another by.
  14. MEDIAL PLAY- A competition that is determined by the overall number of strokes played. Also known as STROKE PLAY.
  15. MULLIGAN- The extra shot that might be allowed to you by your apponent in a friendly game, if your first one was really bad.
  16. MUNICIPAL COURSE- A public golf course belonging to a local government agency.

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Golf Terms N-P - Don't forget that nineteenth hole now!

  1. NASSAU- A type of scoring that breaks the play down into front nine, back nine and overall 18 holes. For each nine a point is allowed and the total 18.
  2. NINETEENTH HOLE- The important place to end the game- at the clubhouse bar!
  3. OFFSET- Referring to a club when the head is slightly behind the shaft.
  4. OUT-OF-BOUNDS- If your ball lands here, outside of the golf course limits, you must take a penalty stroke by hitting from the same position again.
  5. OVERCLUBBING- Using a golf club that will hit the ball further than is needed.
  6. PAR- The number of strokes that is recommended for a hole.
  7. PENALTY STROKE- No one likes them, but sometimes a player has one added to his score if he violates rules or the ball goes out of bounds or gets lost etc.
  8. PIN- The pole or flagstick that the cup holds.
  9. PITCH- A short, high-arching shot which stops quickly on the green.
  10. PITCH AND RUN- Like a pitch except with a lesser lofted club which makes it roll further.
  11. PIVOT- Referring to the rotation of a golfer's shoulders, pelvis and waist during a swing.
  12. PLAYING THROUGH- Faster players being placed behind slower ones and then gradually moving ahead as they play.
  13. PREFERRED LIE- A lie that might improve through play.
  14. PROVISIONAL BALL- An extra ball that is played in case a stray one isn't found, which earns the player a penalty stroke. If it is found, then it must be played.
  15. PULL- A ball that is hit to the left of the target (for right hand players).
  16. PUSH- The ball is hit to the right of target (right handers).
  17. PUTT- A shot using a putter, which rolls onto the green.
  18. PUTTER- The golf club with a flat face, used for putting. Also known as the "flat stick."
  19. PUTTING GREEN- Surface area around the hole, specially prepared for putting.

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Golf Terms R-S - Don't play like a snake now!

  1. RANGE- The practice area, usually with several stations where you can just concentrate on perfecting your shots.
  2. READING THE GREEN- Working out which way the putt will curve determined by the slope of the green.
  3. ROUGH- The long grass area next to the fairway that you are better off avoiding.
  4. ROUND- The full course. A round of golf is 18 holes.
  5. RUN- After a ball lands, the distance it runs on the ground.
  6. SANDBAGGER- This is a golfer who tries to gain an edge in competition by announcing to his fellow players how bad he is.
  7. SAND TRAP- Hazard areas on the golf course that are filled with sand and best avoided.
  8. SAND WEDGE- The iron that is good for short pitch shots and also to hit the ball out of sand.
  9. SANDY- A putt that sinks after a shot has been hit out of the sand.
  10. SCRATCH GOLFER- A golfer with a handicap of 0 and who would be expected to score even par or better every time out.
  11. SHORT GAME- The part of the game when there are plenty of putting, chipping and other shots happening around the green.
  12. SHOTGUN START- A method of playing where the players all go together to each tee box and play their tee shots at the same time. A horn might be sounded to start them off.
  13. SIDE- Interchangeable with the word "nine" when referring to the front or back nine holes.
  14. SIDEHILL LIE- Referring to the ball when it lies on a slope and the golfers feet are above or below the ball.
  15. SLICE- Is a shot that curves steeply from left to right (for right handers).
  16. SLOPE RATING- Describing the difficulty of a course determined by the slope. USGA course ratings range from 55 to 155. 113 is average.
  17. SNAKE- The (non-coveted) award given to the player who three putts, that is takes three putts (rather than the expected 2) to get the ball into a hole. He might be expected to buy the drinks afterwards!
  18. STARTER- The person responsible for organizing the players and getting them off in order from the first tee.
  19. STIMPMETER- A device that measure the speed of the green by rolling a ball down a ramp and measuring how fast it rolls over the green. A green speed of 5 to 11 is average.
  20. STROKE- A shot or extra swing given to even out the match or the actual movement of swinging the club through the ball.
  21. SUDDEN DEATH- Playing extra holes to break a tied match. The first to win a hole wins.
  22. SUMMER RULES- Normal rule-book rules.
  23. SWEET SPOT- The centre spot on the clubface. A nice place to hit it!

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Golf Terms T-W - Watch out for worms!

  1. TAKEAWAY- No- not what the golfer gets after the game but rather when he starts that backswing...
  2. TEE- Usually a wooden peg used to hold up the ball for driving. Also referring to where play begins on a particular hole, i.e. the second hole begins at the second tee.
  3. TEXAS WEDGE- When used from off the green, this is the term for the putter.
  4. TIGHT FAIRWAY- The fairway is narrow with not much room either side.
  5. TOE- The part of the club farthest from where it's connected to the shaft.
  6. TRAJECTORY- The ball's flightpath. If it goes high, then it's referred to as a high trajectory.
  7. TURN- Moving on to begin the back nine holes after having completed the first nine holes.
  8. UNDERCLUBBING- Using a club that doesn't give enough distance for the ball to reach the required target.
  9. UNPLAYABLE LIE- When the ball is lying in a position from which it cannot be hit, e.g. up against a tree.
  10. WAGGLE- The movement of the clubhead just before taking a swing with it.
  11. WEDGE- This is an iron which has a high loft for short shots needing a high trajectory.
  12. WHIFF- Oh dear- swinging but missing the ball!
  13. WINTER RULES- Allowing players to improve the lie of balls on the fairway, with other winter rules perhaps due to golf course conditions.
  14. WOOD- A club of metal or wood used for long distance shots.
  15. WORMBURNER- A low shot that skims the top of the grass, when hopefully no worms are poking their heads up!

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