Golf Terms Every Beginner & Seasoned Golfer Needs to Know

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Golf is a sport, but it’s also a language. 

Those who have been around the game a long time know that when you play golf, there’s a ton of golf slang or terminology you must use to properly describe your day on the course. 

We have broken down these golf terms into categories to help you learn and absorb them. 

Even if you struggle with the occasional slice or chunk a few shots here and there, nothing stops you from sounding like you are a golf terminology expert! 

Scoring Terms 

Ace: A term that means a hole-in-one; the ace is a rare shot, but if you make one feel free to use this word, you’ve earned it. 

Albatross: Scoring three under par on a hole, the most common albatross (although not common) is a 2 on a par 5. 

Birdie: One under par on any hole is a birdie; this can be a 4 on a par 5, 3 on a par 4, or a 2 on a par 3. Birdie is considered a great score in golf. 

Bogey: Essentially the opposite of a birdie, a score of one over par on a hole. For golfers that make a bogey on every hole, expect a score of around 90. 

Condor: Making a hole-in-one on a par 5 or shooting four under par for one hole is a condor. The golf bird terminology stretches deep here, but don’t expect to use this word often. 

Double Bogey: A score of two over par on any hole is a double bogey. If you make a 7 on a par 5, it’s a double, a score you want to keep off the card if you can. 

Double Eagle: The double eagle and the albatross are the same things, a score of three under par on any given hole. 

Eagle: An eagle is a score of two under par on a hole. An eagle can be a 3 on a par 5, 2 on a par 4, or a hole-in-one on a par 3. 

Green in Regulation: A green in regulation means you have hit the green and have two putts to make a par. Green in regulation on a par 5 is 3 shots, par 4 is two shots, and on a par 3, you must get on the green with your first shot to get that GIR. 

Handicap: A scoring system used in golf to help ensure that golfers of all abilities can play the game against each other. A golf handicap is typically the average number of shots over par you are after each hole. 

Hole Out: When the golf ball goes into the cup at the end of the hole, it is a hole out. If you chip the ball in, it may also be called a hole out. 

Par: The number of shots you have to get the ball in the hole according to the scorecard. Par is either a 3, 4, or 5. 

Quadruple Bogey: Four over par is a quadruple bogey; this would be like making an 8 on a par 4. 

Triple Bogey: Three over par for any given hole; an example would be making a 6 on a par 3. 

Golf Swing and Club-Related Terms 

Alignment: Lining the club and your body up to ensure that the golf ball will head towards the hole; improper alignment can lead to shots that end up left or right of the target. 

Angle of Attack: The angle at which your golf club face approaches the golf ball is the angle of attack; irons have a steeper angle of attack than the driver. 

Backswing: The portion of the golf swing that starts at the ball and continues to the top of the swing (when the club is parallel to the ground or the transition to the downswing starts) is called the backswing. 

Closed Face: When your clubface is turned to the left, it is considered closed. 

Compression: Golfers strike a golf ball, and it causes the golf ball to compress. All golf balls have a compression rating, essentially a measurement of how difficult it is to compress a golf ball. 

Downswing: The portion of the golf swing where the backswing has stopped and the player is starting to make an approach to the impact position. 

Grip: Grip can be how you hold the club; it is also the physical part of the club where you place your hands. Therefore golfers may say they need to adjust their hands to have the right grip, but they may also say that they need a new grip placed on their club. 

Groove: The lines on the golf club face are called grooves; the grooves help golfers get to spin on their shots and ensure that the ball’s flight can be controlled. 

Ground Forces: A new term in golf is ground forces which describes the way players can use the ground to increase the power in their swings and be more stable and consistent through impact. 

Heel: The part of the golf club closest to the player at setup; the heel almost looks like the corner of the clubface where the shaft would extend to the ground if it didn’t go into the club head. 

Hosel: The connection between the golf shaft and the clubhead is called the hosel. 

Impact: When a golf club makes contact with a golf ball, we call it impact. 

Interlocking Grip: The interlocking grip is when the pinky from the right-hand interlocks with the forefinger of the left hand to create a strong and stable grip on the golf club. 

Kickpoint: The part of the golf club that will bend the most during the golf swing. Low kick point shafts typically produce higher shots, and high kickpoint shafts produce lower golf shots. 

Open Face: When a right-handed golfer takes the face of their club and turns it to the right, this is considered an open face. 

Open Stance: When your feet and hips are aimed to the right of the target, that is considered to be an open stance. 

Overlapping Grip: The overlapping grip takes the pinky of the right hand and rests it on top of the pointer finger of the left hand (right-handed player). 

Regrip: If a golf club needs to have the grip removed and replaced with a new one, this is called a regrip. 

Reverse Pivot: When a golfer transfers weight to the left side during the backswing and the right side during the downswing, essentially the opposite of what a right-handed player should be doing. 

Slide: A great golf swing requires a pivot; if a player shifts their hips from side to side without turning, the move is called a slide. 

Sole: The bottom of the golf club is called the club’s sole. 

Square: When a clubface of a golf club is set up directly to the target, it is called a square 


Stance: The positioning of a golfer’s feet before they take a swing is the stance; setup includes the stance, but it also includes other factors like weight position, alignment, spine angle, and grip. 

Strong Grip: When the right hand (right-handed player) is positioned in a stronger spot that allows the player to turn the club over, it is called a strong grip. 

Club Path: The direction of the club head throughout the golf swing. Club paths can be outside to in, inside to out, or square. 

Swing Plane: The ideal plane we are to swing the golf club on is the swing plane; many golfers are either over or above the swing plane when they take a shot. 

Takeaway: A movement that occurs directly after the golf club moves away from the ball in the backswing is the takeaway; the takeaway quickly transitions into the backswing. 

Tempo: The amount of time it takes to complete a swing is called the tempo. Tempo is often looked at as a ratio of the backswing’s length compared to the downswing’s length. 

Weak Grip: The weaker grip allows the right hand to have a passive role in the swing, a grip that many golfers who hook the ball will start using. 

Weight Distribution: How your weight is distributed between your left and right foot at the setup in golf is considered the weight distribution. 

Short Game Terms 

Backspin: A spin imparted on the ball that will cause it to stop and sometimes even roll backward is called backspin. 

Below The Hole: A golf ball positioned so the next putt is uphill is considered below the hole. 

Break: A golf green will have high and low points and turns that cause the golf ball to break left or right; players must read the break to make a putt. 

Chip: A short shot that stays relatively low to the ground and will roll once it hits the green. 

Elevated Green: A green located on a hill, higher than the approach shots that come into it, is considered to be elevated. 

Grain: How the grass grows on the green grain will impact you most when playing on Bermuda greens. 

Pitch: A short game shot with a higher ball flight and more backspin, allowing a golf ball to stop relatively close to where it landed on the green. 

Putt: A shot taken on the putting green with a flat-faced club that allows the golf ball to roll into the hole without leaving the ground. 

Reading The Green: Look at the golf green’s slope to determine which way the ball will move when a putt is made. 

Tournaments and Matches 

All Square: Match that is tied. 

Cut: PGA Tour events have a cut where players that do not shoot low enough do not make it to the weekend. 

Dormie: When a player is ahead as many holes as they have left to play. For instance, being 5 up with 5 to go is considered dormied. 

Even: The same as all square when a match is tied. 

Grand Slam: Professional golfers who win all four major championships will have earned a grand slam; grand slam can be for one tournament year or a career. 

Gross Score: The actual score you shot, not factoring in handicaps. 

Honor: The player with the lowest score on the previous hole has the honor to tee off first on the next hole. 

In Play: As soon as a golf ball is struck off the tee box, it is considered in play. 

Match Play: A golf tournament where you play against one player, not an entire field of players. 

Mixed Foursome: Group of four players where males and females play against each other, with just two golf balls in play. Two teams of two players play one golf ball each. 

Nassau: Bet on the golf courses where a wager is taken on the front nine, back nine, and the overall 18-hole. 

Net Score: The adjusted score after the handicap is taken from the gross score. 

Press: A golf betting term used to create a new match that runs concurrently with the mat already in place. It allows a team who is down by a lot a chance to make up some ground. 

Scramble: Tournament format where all players tee off and choose the best drive; from there, the format is repeated until the ball is in the hole. 

Stableford: Golf tournament format where points are given based on score; depending on the scoring system for the Stableford, a player may get one point for a par but 2 points for a birdie. 

Stroke Play: A round of golf where every stroke is counted, not a match against a single player where each hole is played as a separate match. 

Golf Terms Beginners Must Know 

Caddie: A person who carries clubs, reads lines, and helps with your round of golf. 

Driver: The club with the largest head, used for tee shots and long distances. 

Even Par: If the par for the course is 72, even par would be 72. If par for the hole is 4, even par would be 4 strokes. 

Fairway Wood: A club that looks like a driver designed for fairway shots and tee shots on shorter holes. 

Fore: Term used to warn golfers that a stray shot is coming their way. 

Hybrid: Club that mixes a fairway wood and an iron, very easy to use out of the rough. 

Iron: The majority of the clubs in the bag are made with mostly steel and used for many different distances. 

Lie: How the ball is sitting in the grass. 

Loft: An angle measurement of the clubface and how it is pointed; clubs with more loft help golfers hit higher shots. 

Long game: Drivers, fairway woods, hybrids, and shots over 175 typically make up the long game. 

Pace: How fast you play a round of golf. 

Par: The recommended score for a hole. 

Pin: The flag is often referred to as the pin. 

Pin High: A shot hit the correct distance to the pin, but the alignment may be off. 

Provisional Ball: If the first golf ball is expected to be lost or difficult to find, a provisional ball can be hit as a backup. 

Putter: the club used for rolling the ball on the greens, putters are often deemed the most important club in the bag. 

Rangefinder: A device used to get your yardage to the pin. 

Ready Golf: Taking your shot as soon as you are ready to hit, even if it is not your honor. 

Short game: Chipping, pitching, and putting can be grouped into the short game category. 

Tee Box: The area where you hit your tee shot from, defined by the tee markers located on the tee box.  

Tee Time: Time that you are supposed to be teeing off for your round of golf. 

Tend The Flag: Holding the flag and pulling it out of the hole if another player wants you to. 

Utility: A club that performs like a hybrid but looks more like an iron; some golf manufacturers 

also refer to their gap wedge as a utility. 

Wedge: Club with a very high loft used for shots around the greens. 

Yardage: The specific distance between you and the hole; knowing the yardage helps you hit a shot close to the pin. 

Etiquette, Rules, and General Terms 

Ball Mark: A coin or marker used to spot the position of your golf ball on the green. 

Championship Course: A golf course designed for a championship or full regulation-length play. 

Course Rating: Measurement of the golf course’s difficulty for a scratch golfer.  

Divot: A chunk of grass is moved when a player takes a golf swing; a good divot is taken after the ball. 

Executive Course: Golf courses that are shorter than normal; some will be only par 3’s and 4’s, and total yardage is not nearly as long. 

Free Drop: When a manmade hazard comes into play on a golf course and makes the shot unfair, a free drop is often given. You see this a lot at PGA Tour events with the grandstands. 

Greens Fee: The cost of a round of golf. 

Greenskeeper: Person that takes care of the golf course grounds and conditions. 

Grounding: Placing the golf club down before a swing is taken. 

Ground Under Repair: A section of turf that is not in good condition and needs repair. 

Lost Ball: A golf ball that cannot be found; therefore, a new one must go into play. 

Out of Bounds: A shot hit outside the white penalty markers on the course, requiring a player to drop a new golf ball and hit another shot. 

Penalty Stroke: Extra troke assessed when golf balls go out of bounds or into a hazard and relief is taken. 

PGA: Professional Golfers Association golfers can be on the PGA Tour, or you can find teachers that are PGA Professionals. 

Playing Through: Letting a faster group play ahead of a slower group. 

Plugged Lie: A golf ball that has part of it buried under the turf usually happens in wet or muddy conditions. 

Q School: Qualifying school, a way to get into the PGA Tour. 

Scratch: A golfer with a zero handicap. 

Slope Rating: A rating of a golf course’s difficulty for a bogey golfer.  

Unplayable: A ball that is not playable, a penalty stroke is taken, and a new ball is put into play. 

Up and Down: Chipping or pitching the ball onto the green and then getting it into the hole. 

USGA: The United States Golf Association is the group in charge of the rules and traditions of the game. 

Funny Golf Terms (More Advanced Lingo)

19th Hole: The bar or restaurant you go to after a round of golf. 

Airmail: Hitting a golf ball so far over a green, it didn’t even think about stopping on the green itself! 

Breakfast Ball: Hitting a second tee shot off the first tee, often used for golfers playing in early morning rounds, is not USGA approved. 

Chilli Dip: A poor chip shot that causes a golfer to hit behind the ball. 

Duff: A golf slang term for a poor shot; sometimes this is swing-related, other times it’s mental. 

Foot wedge: Kicking a golf ball to give yourself a better lie or position. 

Fried Egg: When a golf ball lands in a bunker and buries itself so that you only see the top half of the ball, it’s considered a fried egg. 

Gimmie: A short putt that is essentially considered good because there is little chance of missing. 

Hacker: A poor golfer. 

Hosel Rocket: A shot hit off the hosel of a golf club. 

In The Leather: A golf ball close enough to the hole that it is closer than the length of the player’s putter grip. 

Juicy Lie: If a golf ball sits on top of the grass, even if it is thick, it’s almost as if it is teed up for you. 

Kick-In: An approach shot so close you could kick it in. 

Lip Out: A ball that goes in the hole a little but not enough to drop to the bottom of the cup. 

Mudder: Golfers that are good at playing in wet or muddy conditions. 

Mulligan: Taking another shot but not counting it towards your score. 

Nip It: Hitting the ball cleanly on an iron shot, a purely struck iron shot. 

Reload: When a golfer hits a poor shot and then immediately reaches into their pocket for another ball, this is a reload. 

Sandbagger: Players who submit higher scores than they shot to have a higher handicap and beat other players in a match. 

Snowman: Making an 8 on a hole. 

Texas Wedge: Using a putter instead of a wedge when hitting a shot from around the green. Players have also been known to use the Texas wedge when hitting out of a bunker. 

Waggle: Moving the club back and forth in your hands before a shot. 

Whiff: Completely missing the golf ball. 

Yank: A shot pulled left of the target; it typically goes further than an average golf shot. 

Yips: Players that miss short putts, less than 3 feet, are said to have the yips. 

Types of Golf Shots

Approach Shot: Your shot into the green, regardless of the distance, f you are hitting towards the green and planning to get on it, is an approach shot. 

Bladed Shot: A golf shot hit off the bottom of the face of the club where the ball does not get much height and has very little backspin. 

Chunk: Hitting too much dirt behind the ball, causing it to only travel a few yards. 

Draw: A golf ball that starts out straight at the target and then makes a slight turn to the left. 

Fat: Hitting behind a ball, causing it to lose some of its total distance. 

Flop Shot: A golf shot that gets very high up in the air but does not travel a long distance. 

Half Shot: Only using half power or half of a swing to advance the ball forward. 

Pull: A golf shot that goes to the left of the target as soon as the ball is struck is a pull. 

Punch Shot: Hitting a lower shot with a controlled backswing and follow-through is considered a punch, mostly used to get a golf ball back into play. 

Push: A golf shot that ends up to the right of the target. 

Shank: One of the worst shots in the game; the ball gets hit from the hosel of the club, and it causes a severe right shot that does not advance forward; it’s a near miss. 

Slice: A ball that flies straight for a time and then turns to the right is a slice

Thin: The opposite of a fat shot, hitting too much of the ball and not enough dirt, is a thin shot. 

Topped Shot: Hitting the top of the golf ball, these usually bounce a few yards but don’t make it nearly the distance you need to get to the target. 

The Golf Course and Its Parts

Approach: The area just in front of the green, where the grass is cut short, and there are no more hazards between you and the hole. 

Back Nine: The second nine holes on an 18-hole golf course. 

Bunker: Another term for a sand trap, a sand-filled pit considered a hazard to make golf more difficult. (As if we needed help with that!)

Cabbage: Deep rough can be referred to as cabbage at some golf courses. 

Dog Leg: A golf hole with a turn is called a dog leg. Dog legs can be to the right or to the left. 

Fairway: The ideal landing area for a tee shot, featuring grass that is cut short and a setup for an easier approach to the green. 

Fringe: The grass that directly surrounds the putting green. Frine is often cut just a little longer than the green itself, but you can putt it from the fringe. 

Front Nine: The first nine holes of golf in the round of 18. 

Rough: An area of thicker grass that is challenging to hit from. 

The Loop: An 18-hole golf course or a round of 18 holes can be called a loop. You go out in one direction and back in another, creating a loop. 

Final Verdict Extensive, but likely Incomplete List of Golf Terms & Slang

We’ve left you a lot to chew on here. And, you certainly won’t need every term every time you hit the course.

But, you have a nice grab bag of golf terminology to pull from so you won’t sound like a newb in your next foursome.

Thanks for checking out our list of golf terms and slang for beginners and seasoned vets, alike. Let us know what we missed.

Photo of author
Britt has been swinging a golf club for close to 30 years. After playing Division 1 College golf, she went on to turn professional and coach hundreds of golfers to become better players. Britt lives in Savannah, GA, with her husband and two young children and continues to write, teach and learn about golf daily. As a scratch golfer, Britt has actionable tips and advice to help you take your game to the next level without overcomplicating it.

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