Golf Terms: The Ultimate List (examples + simple explanations)

Last updated Aug 09, 2023

Golf Terms: The Ultimate List (examples + simple explanations) featured image
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Written by Zach

New to golf?Welcome ūüĎč

Hey there, my name is Zach, the founder of The DIY Golfer and former college golfer. I’m super pumped to share my passion for golf with you!

Getting into golf can be intimidating, so I created a special guide to help you survive and thrive as a beginner! Hit that button below ūüĎá

Golf for Beginners: A 7-Step Quickstart Guide

On this page, you'll find every golf term, phrase, and golf slang I've ever heard in my 15+ years of playing golf.

After skimming these terms, you'll be able to "talk the talk" and enjoy your rounds knowing that you're "in the loop" with all the common golf slang and golf terms.

Below, you'll find all the common golf terms, plus:

  • Short, easily-understandable definition

  • 1+ Examples (text, photo, video)

  • Deep dive (if applicable)

Golf Terms: Types of Shots

Draw Shot

For right-handed players, this is a shot that starts right of the target, curves right to left, and ends at the target.

Draw golf shot

For a left-handed golfer, this is a shot that curves left to right.

Most amateur golfers struggle to hit this shot properly.

Fade Shot

Also known as a "cut", for right-handed players, this is a shot that starts left of the target, curves left to right, and ends at the target.

Fade golf shot

For a left-handed golfer, this is a shot that curves right to left.

This is the most common shot among amateur golfers, but many pros also hit this shot as their "go-to".

Slice Shot

For right-handed players, this is a shot that curves left to right and ends right of the target.

Slice golf shot

This is the most common problem that amateur golfers have.

Hook Shot

For right-handed players, this is a shot that curves right to left and ends left of the target.

Hook golf shot

Pull Shot

For the right-handed player, a pull shot is where the ball starts left of the target and flies relatively straight.

Pull shot

Push Shot

For the right-handed player, a push shot is where the ball starts right of the target and flies relatively straight.

Push shot

Whiff

A complete miss of the ball during a swing, resulting in no contact.

While you might think this doesn't count as a shot hit, according to the official rules of golf, it does! Even though you didn't hit the ball, it counts as a ball hit :(

And even the pros do it sometimes...

Top

When a golfer hits the top section of the golf ball, causing it to go a short distance.

Chunk

Also known as a "duff", this is when a golfer hits the ground or turf behind the golf ball, causing poor contact and reduced distance of the shot.

Chilly Dip

Similar to a chunk, but this specifically refers to when you duff a chip shot.

Blade

When a golfer makes contact with the lower portion of the club face, causing the ball to fly lower than usual and in most cases, further than intended.

Shank

Also called a "hosel rocket", this is when you hit the ball with the hosel (club's neck) instead of the clubface, resulting in an erratic shot. If you are a right-handed golfer, this results in the ball traveling severely right of your target and usually out of play.

This is one of the worst types of shots in golf because it almost always results in a penalty stroke.

Yip

A "yip" refers to a putt or chip where the golfer makes an abrupt movement and hits a terrible shot. Typically, this is a mental game problem.

Lip out

A lip out is when a putt rolls over the edge of the hole, almost goes in, then "lips out".

Here are some of the worst lip outs from professional golfers:

Gimme

Also known as "in the leather", this golf term is used in recreational golf where your playing partner "gives you the putt". When it is "in the leather", that refers to the distance between your ball and the hole being within the leather of your putter grip.

In other words, since it's a short putt (typically less than 3 feet), your playing partner assumes you will make it, so you don't have to putt it.

In professional and competitive golf, there is no such thing as a gimme. No matter how short the putt, you have to hit it.

Tap in

In golf terms, a "tap in" is a very short putt (typically less than 1 foot) where the golfer doesn't have to line anything up. They just walk up and tap it in casually.

There is no official distance that determines what a "tap in" is.

Stinger

Made famous by Tiger Woods, the "stinger" is a low, penetrating shot with a controlled trajectory, often used for accuracy in windy conditions.

And they're really fun to watch:

Texas Wedge

Using a putter from off the green, often when the grass is short and the ball is near the fringe.

Foot Wedge

This is golf slang for giving your ball a little kick to improve its lie.

In competitive golf and according to the official rules of golf, this is cheating. But if your playing partners agree to it or you're playing "winter rules", it can be acceptable.

Tee Shot

Describes the shot you hit from the tee box.

Approach Shot

Describes the shot you hit when "approaching" the green, typically with an iron.

Bump and run

A low chip shot that rolls more than it flies. This short shot is typically played with a less lofted club like an 8-iron.

This is one of the easiest short-game shots because you can use a putting motion to play it.

Flop Shot

This is a short-game shot where the golfer "opens the club face" and takes a big swing, which produces a high shot where the golf ball lands softly and the ball travels a short distance.

Also known as a "lob shot", these are risking shots, but fun to watch when executed correctly. Take a look at these PGA Tour pros hitting some beautiful flop shots.

Up and down

When you miss the green on the approach shot, you'll have a chip shot. If you hit that chip shot close to the hole and then make the putt, it's called an "up and down".

Another term for this is "scrambling".

You might hear someone say, "Wow, he really scrambled to make that par", which means the golfer hit a challenging pitch shot or chip shot and then made a good putt.

Green in regulation

When you hit a "green in regulation", this means you landed your ball on the putting surface in the designated number of strokes.

If you are a playing a par 4 and you hit the green in two shots, you have hit a "green in regulation".

Golf Shot Phrases and Lingo

Here are some common phrases and golf slang you'll hear golfers say to someone else about a golf shot or in reference to their own golf shot.

"Go-to Shot"

Golfers refer to their "go-to shot" as the type of shot they are most comfortable hitting, especially when they are a bit nervous. Typically, this is used for tee shots to get the ball in play.

For example, my "go-to shot" is a fade. I'll always try to hit a fade when the pressure is on.

"Soft hands"

When someone has "soft hands", that means that they have "great touch" around the greens. They are able to gently land the ball on the green from any lie and get it close.

On tour, Phil Mickelson is famous for having one of the best short games (putting and chipping), so we might say, "Phil has soft hands around the greens".

"Dead hands"

When someone plays a "dead hands shot", it generally refers to a short game shot where they use as little wrist action as possible. This helps them reduce the amount of spin on the golf ball, which allows the ball to roll more.

"On a rope"

You might hear, "That shot was on a rope" or "That shot was on a string".

This means that the golfer has hit a perfectly straight golf shot that never left the target line. This is a compliment that describes a great golf shot!

"You laced it"

When a golfer "laces a drive", that means they made great contact and hit it a long way.

"Hitting bombs"

When you "hit a bomb", that's golf slang for hitting your driver really far.

While this phrase has been around for ages, Phil Mickelson has made it part of his personal brand:

"Open the face"

When someone tells you to "open the face" or "open the club face", it is generally referring to a short game shot, typically in a sand trap. By "opening the face", you are adding loft to the club, which allows the ball to fly high and land soft.

"Hit the big ball first"

If a golfer says, "I hit the big ball first", that means they chunked the golf shot. The "big ball" represents the earth, while the "little ball" is your golf ball.

Golf Scoring Terms

So you're playing a round of golf, and your playing partner asks you, "What did you have on that hole?"

Here are all the terms you'll need to respond appropriately to that question.

Handicap

In golf, there are many governing organizations. The biggest one in the U.S. is called the USGA, short for "United States Golf Association".

The USGA runs a program called GHIN, short for "Golf Handicap Information Network" that is responsible for going to golf courses around the world and assigning a difficulty rating to each course.

Based on the score a golfer shoots and the assigned difficulty rating of the golf course they played, they will get a "handicap" which is an approximation for how good a golfer is.

Below are some common phrases associated with golf handicaps:

  • "Scratch golfer" - on average, this golfer shoots scores near the "course rating" assigned to a golf course by the USGA.

  • "Plus Handicap" - Counterintuitively, a "plus handicap" means a golfer is really good and generally shoots even par or better.

  • "High handicapper" - a high handicapper is a golfer who has a handicap in the double digits and generally shoots high golf scores.

Don't worry if this is confusing, golf handicap is one of the most confusing golf terms.

Course Rating

This is a factor used to calculate a golf handicap and is an approximation of how difficult a course plays from various tee boxes for a scratch golfer.

Slope Rating

Similar to course rating, the slope rating is an approximation of how difficult a course will play for a high handicapper, or "bogey golfer".

Hole Par

Each hole in golf is assigned a "par". This is assigned based on the distance of the hole. These distances are different depending on what tee box you are playing from, but from the back tees, here are some general estimates:

  • Par 3 - Generally, a par 3 is 100-180 yards from the championship tees.

  • Par 4 - Generally, a par 4 is 360-410 yards from the championship tees.

  • Par 5 - Generally, a par 5 is between 450-575 yards from the championship tees.

Again, these are not hard and fast rules, just estimates!

Hole in one

A hole-in-one, also known as an "ace" is when you hit a shot from the tee box and make it in the hole.

In the golf world, if you are playing with a group and make a hole-in-one, you are expected to buy drinks for everyone in the group after the round.

Great hole in one! Now you have to buy us all drinks after the round!

Here are some of the PGA Tour's greatest hole-in-ones.

Albatross

Also known as a "double eagle", this is when a golfer makes a score that is 3 under the designated par.

Here are some examples:

  • On a par 3 - an albatross is not possible.

  • On a par 4 - an albatross is the same as getting a hole-in-one on a par 4.

  • On a par 5 - an albatross is when you get a 2 on a par 5.

An albatross is more rare than a hole-in-one, but on occasion, they do happen!

Eagle

This is when a golfer makes a score that is 2 under the designated par. Here are some examples:

  • On a par 3 - an eagle is equivalent to a hole-in-one on a par 3.

  • On a par 4 - an eagle is when you make a 2 on a par 4.

  • On a par 5 - an eagle is when you make a 3 on a par 5.

While eagles aren't very common for amateur golfers, pro golfers make one eagle every couple of rounds on average, and most of these eagles happen on par 5 holes where they can reach the green in 2 shots and make a putt for eagle.

Birdie

A birdie is when a golfer makes a score that is 1 under the designated par.

Birdies are not common for beginner golfers and most amateur golfers, but very common for pros.

Par

A par on a hole is when a golfer makes a score equal to the designated par for that hole.

For beginners, a par is a great score, while the pros would consider this the "default" score they expect to make.

Bogey

A bogey is when a golfer makes a score one stroke higher than the designated par.

For example, if you shoot a 5 on a "par 4" hole, you have made bogey.

For beginners, a bogey is a good score, and if you play "bogey golf" (bogey on every hole), you will shoot a 90 on a regulation, par 72 golf course. This is a respectable score for any golfer!

That said, pros hate bogeys and will generally only make 1 or 2 of them per 18-hole round.

Double bogey

A double bogey is when a golfer makes a score 2 over the designated par.

For example, if you make a 6 on a "par 4", you have made a double bogey.

For beginners, a double bogey is a decent score and will be very common. For pros, it's considered a bad hole, and many pros will go multiple full rounds of golf without having a single double bogey. But they still make them!

Steve Stricker double bogeys

Triple bogey

A triple bogey is when a golfer makes a score of 3 over the designated par for the hole.

For example, if you make a 7 on a par 4, you have made a triple.

For beginners, triple bogeys are common, but not considered a good score. For pros, triple bogeys occasionally happen, but are rare.

Quadruple bogey

A quadruple bogey is when a golfer makes a score equal to 4 over the designated par for the hole.

For example, if you make an 8 on a par 4, you have "made a quad".

Even for beginners, quadruple bogeys and higher scores are not good. Pros rarely, if ever make these scores.

But hey... Never say never:

Blow-up Hole

A "blow-up hole" refers to a hole where you shoot a much higher score than you want to.

For pro golfers, a double or triple bogey might be considered a "blow-up hole".

For beginners, a "blow-up hole" would be making an 8, 9, 10, or worse on a hole.

Don't worry though, these holes happen to all of us. Here's a video I made teaching you how to handle blow-up holes better.

Penalty stroke

A penalty stroke is when a golfer gets penalized for hitting a bad shot or committing a rules infraction.

Here are some common ways a golfer might get a penalty:

  1. Hitting the ball out of bounds

  2. Hitting the ball in water

  3. Taking an "unplayable"

  4. Accidentally moving the ball when you put your club next to it

Out of bounds

When a golfer hits a ball "out of bounds", that means the ball has come to rest outside of the regulated playing area of the course, which is marked with white stakes.

If a player hits it out of bounds, they have to take "stroke and distance", which means they re-hit the same shot after adding a penalty stroke.

For example, let's say I hit my tee shot out of bounds. I would re-tee and now, I'm hitting my third shot rather than my first.

Provisional ball

Typically, if a golfer suspects that they have hit a ball out of bounds or in a place where it will be tough to find, they will hit a "provisional ball".

A provisional is when a golfer re-hits from the same spot "just in case" they cannot find the other ball. If the golfer ends up playing the provisional ball, they must take penalty strokes.

Lost ball

A lost ball is when a player hits a shot and then cannot find it. After they have determined their first ball is lost, they will declare it lost and play their provisional ball, adding a penalty stroke to their score.

Red Hazard

Also known as a "lateral hazard", this can be a water hazard, tall grass, a creek, or other unplayable spots on the course where the golfer takes one penalty stroke and drops next to where it went in the hazard.

Compared to out-of-bounds, this is a less penalizing type of hazard.

Yellow Hazard

Also known as a "regular hazard", this is usually a water hazard of some kind and will be played similarly to a red hazard.

Unplayable

An unplayable shot is a situation where you have found your golf ball, but you determine it is not playable and intentionally take a penalty stroke and drop the ball in a spot that is playable.

For example, if you hit the ball and it gets stuck in a tree, you would call that "unplayable". You would drop the ball next to the tree, take one penalty stroke, and continue playing.

Or... If you're feeling confident like Sergio... You can skip the penalty stroke and try to play it from the tree (not recommended)!

Free drop

In some cases, a golfer can have a "free drop", which allows them to move their ball on the course without any penalty stroke.

The most common ways a golfer will get a free drop include:

  • Ball comes to rest on a cart path

  • Ball comes to rest on a sprinkler head

  • A man-made object such as a trash can is impeding the golf swing

Golf Scoring Phrases and Lingo

In this section, I'll attempt to cover all of the slang-related golf terms I've heard out on the golf course!

"Fore!"

If you hear this, duck!

This is another golfer shouting at you from a distance, "Hey, I just hit a bad shot and it's coming right at you!"

While yelling on the golf course might sound rude, it is a good thing to yell "Fore!" if you think your golf ball is at risk of hitting someone from another group. Golfers yell this all the time.

Don't be shy‚ÄĒyell it really loud so they can hear you. Nobody will get mad at you for yelling this, but they will get mad if you don't yell and they either get hit by your ball or it comes close to them!

"Made a Snowman"

When someone says "Jot me down for a snowman", they are telling you to write down an 8 on their scorecard.

For beginners, it's common to set a max stroke count of 8 on a hole to speed up play (although technically, the rules of golf state you should play your ball out no matter how high your score).

"Maxed out my handicap"

"Maxed out my handicap" in golf refers to a situation where a player's actual score on a hole or for a round is so high that it exceeds the maximum allowable score for their handicap on that hole or for the entire round.

In most cases, golfers have a maximum score they can record on each hole based on their handicap index. This maximum score is often referred to as a "net double bogey." It ensures that a player's handicap doesn't become unfairly affected by a few disastrous holes. So, when someone says they've "maxed out their handicap," they mean they've taken the maximum allowable strokes for their handicap on one or more holes, resulting in a score that doesn't accurately reflect their actual ability.

For example, if a player has a handicap index of 18 and plays a hole with a stroke index of 12 (meaning it's one of the harder holes on the course), their maximum allowable score for that hole might be 8 strokes (net double bogey). If they take 10 strokes to complete the hole, they've "maxed out their handicap" for that hole.

Don't worry if you don't understand all this... Even for an experienced golfer, this can be tough to understand!

"Shot even par"

When someone says, "I played great, I shot even par!", this means that they finished their entire round of golf and scored exactly the designated course par.

Most golf courses have an 18-hole par of 72 strokes, so if I shot a score of 72, I have shot "even par".

Generally, a golf course will have a par of 70, 71, or 72.

"Shot 2 over"

Similar to "shooting even par", when someone says, "I shot 2 over", that means they scored 2 strokes worse than the designated par.

For example, if I shot a 74 on a par 72 golf course, "I shot 2 over".

"Shot 5 under"

The opposite of shooting "over par", when someone says, "I shot 5 under today!", that means they shot 5 strokes better than the designated par.

For example, if I shoot a 67 on a par 72 golf course, I have shot 5 under.

"Shot my age"

You may hear older golfers say, "I'm just trying to shoot my age today". This is generally a good thing.

As you get older, it gets tougher to shoot low scores in golf, so if a golfer who is 84 years old shoots an 84, that's an excellent score!

"Shot the course record"

If you hear someone say, "I shot the course record", they are either really good at golf, or they are lying.

Every golf course keeps track of a "course record" which is the lowest score that has ever been shot from the furthest back tees.

On most golf courses, the course record is held by a pro golfer and is in the low 60s.

For example, the course record at Firestone South Course is 61, held by Tiger Woods:

"I'm going low today!"

You'll hear this a lot. This is what a golfer says when feeling optimistic about their golf round.

"Coming down the stretch"

When a golfer is "coming down the stretch", it means they are finishing their last couple of holes for the round. You will often hear TV announcers say this phrase on the final few holes of the final day of a golf tournament.

For example, an announcer might say, "Will Dustin be able to hold it together coming down the stretch? I guess we'll find out!"

Golf Terms: Playing Golf

Below are terms related to the golf course itself.

Course starter

On some golf courses, there will be a "starter", which is a person that checks you in at the first tee, verifies that you paid for the round, and gives you instructions for the course that day.

Golf hole

A golf hole represents a single hole out of either 9 or 18 total holes that make up the golf course. Golf holes can be a par 3, par 4, or par 5.

Lie

When someone says, "That's a terrible lie" or "he has a perfect lie in the middle of the fairway", they are referring to how your golf ball is sitting on the turf and how hard or easy it will be to hit well.

If your golf ball is sitting low in a bunch of thick grass, that would be a "bad lie".

If your golf ball is sitting up perfectly in the middle of the fairway, that's a "good lie".

Plugged Lie

A plugged lie is when the ball hits the ground hard, makes an indentation in the ground, and then sits in the indentation.

When the ball is in the fairway or rough and is "plugged", you get free relief (no penalty) and get to take it out.

When the ball is "plugged" in a sand trap, we call that a "fried egg". A fried egg is one of the hardest shots to hit in golf because you have to swing hard and move a lot of sand to get the ball in the air.

Unlike a plugged lie in the rough or fairway, with a fried egg, you cannot get free relief and must play it as it lies.

Divot

Divot golf

A divot is the mark made on the fairway or tee box when you hit a full golf shot and the club displaces grass behind the ball. This happens as a natural effect of a good golf swing.

Pitch Mark

Pitch mark

Also known as a "ball mark", this is the small indentation the ball makes when it lands on the green. You should always fix this with a tee or repair tool.

Tee box

Tee box

A tee box is where you hit your first shot on a single golf hole from.

Each golf course has multiple "sets" of tee boxes for different skill level, age, and gender of players.

Typically, a course will have the following tee boxes:

  • Championship / Back Tees - generally, championship tees are reserved for scratch golfers and pros that hit the ball far

  • Blue Tees - generally, blue tees are called "members tees" and represent the tees that most men will play from

  • White Tees - generally, white tees are for beginner men, women who hit the ball further than average, and senior golfers who hit the ball further than average

  • Red Tees - generally, the red tees are for women and senior golfers

Fairway

Fairway

The fairway is the short grass that you hit at from the tee.

Par 4s and par 5s have fairways, while par 3s do not.

Putting Green

Putting green

The green, or "putting green" is the extra short grass, typically in a circle or oval shape where the flag is placed and where you putt from.

Bunker

Bunker

The "bunker", otherwise known as the "sand trap" is typically found around the green. Typically, you'll hit bunker shots with a sand wedge or lob wedge.

There are also "fairway bunkers" that are located left or right of many fairways.

Pot Bunker

A special type of bunker that is commonly found on links golf courses and is characterized by its steep "walls" that are tough to hit over.

Pot bunkers can make even the best players in the world look like mere mortals!

Practice Green

Practice green

Typically, the "practice green" refers to the putting green located near the first tee box, but NOT on the actual golf course.

This is where you warm up your putting stroke before the round.

In some cases, a "practice green" can also refer to a chipping and pitching green.

Fringe

The "fringe" is slightly longer grass than the putting green, typically found on the "collar" (edge) of the putting green.

Fescue Grass

fescue grass

Fescue, also known as "cabbage" is longer grass famously found on links golf courses, but also common on regular golf courses worldwide.

You can play shots from this grass, but it's a lot harder and you'll often lose your golf ball in this type of grass.

Ground under repair

When a golf course is performing maintenance, there may be unplayable areas that the greenskeepers will mark as "ground under repair".

You should NOT hit your ball off these areas because the golf course staff does not want you to. For that reason, you get free relief and can drop your ball next to the designated area without penalty.

Bent Grass

A prevalent grass type in the northern United States, often used for fairways, greens, and rough due to its fine texture and ability to withstand close mowing.

Poa Annua Grass

A cool-season grass found on golf courses worldwide, recognized for its adaptability and ability to thrive in various climates. It's often used for both fairways and greens.

Zoysia Grass

A warm-season grass known for its dense growth and resilience to heat, making it suitable for fairways and tees in warmer climates.

You'll typically see this at golf courses in the Midwest.

Bermuda Grass

A popular warm-season grass that flourishes in hot conditions and is used for fairways, rough, and tees on golf courses, known for its durability and low maintenance requirements.

You'll see this in the Southern United States, typically in Alabama, Florida, and the Carolinas.

Courses located near coastlines, featuring natural dunes, sandy soil, and often exposed to the elements. They offer open layouts, firm turf, and challenges influenced by winds and undulating terrain.

The "Open Championship" is always played at a Links style golf course.

Bandon Dunes is a good example of this type of course.

Parks golf courses

Courses situated in more park-like settings, often in urban or suburban areas. They feature well-manicured fairways, lush rough, and well-defined hazards. These courses provide a more controlled and landscaped environment.

Bethpage Black is a great example of this type of course.

Oceans golf courses

Courses positioned along oceanfronts, offering breathtaking coastal views and potential challenges due to the proximity of water hazards. These courses can incorporate links or parkland characteristics depending on their design.

Pebble Beach is a great example of this type of course.

Playing Golf Phrases and Slang

Here are some common phrases and golf slang you'll hear about golf courses.

"Play it as it lies"

In a round of golf, you can get free relief and change your "lie" in some scenarios. For example, if your ball is plugged in the fairway, sitting on a cart path, or resting against a man-made structure like a water fountain.

In other cases, you must "play it as it lies", which means you cannot touch the ball or change how it sits.

In the majority of golf shots, you will "play it as it lies".

"It's your honor"

According to the rules of golf, the player who had the lowest score on the previous hole "has honors" and should hit the first tee shot on the next hole.

Some golfers respect this rule while others like to play "ready golf", which is a style of golf aimed to speed up play where you hit whenever you get to your ball and are ready.

"Attend the flag"

Frequently shortened to something like, "Can you please tend the flag?", this is when you ask a playing partner or caddy to stand by the flag when you are hitting a long putt and cannot see the hole with the flag out.

This used to be more common because for years, it was a penalty if your ball hit the flag while on the green. Now, that's no longer the case, so players don't need someone to "tend the flag" anymore.

"Grounding your club"

This refers to when you set up to a shot and your club touches the ground behind the ball.

In most cases, this is perfectly legal, but in bunkers and hazards, it is NOT.

This rule has been subject to lots of criticism especially after Dustin Johnson lost the U.S. Open for "grounding his club" in an unmarked fairway bunker:

"Cart path only"

Often after a heavy rain when the golf course is wet, the course will institute a "cart path only" rule for that day which tells golfers that they must keep their motorized golf cart on the concrete cart path at all times.

"90-degree rule"

When a golf course is damp, but not soaking wet, a golf course will typically make a "90-degree rule" stating that golfers must drive on the cart path all the way until they reach their golf ball, then make a 90-degree turn and drive out to their ball.

This keeps the course in good condition.

"The course is rolling fast"

When a golfer says, "The course is rolling fast" or the "course is really dry", they are describing a golf course where the ball rolls a lot and has firm ground.

Typically, links-style courses are kept in this condition, but you'll also experience this after long droughts.

"The course has softened up"

This describes a scenario where a course has had lots of rain and the ground is soft.

In these conditions, approach shots will typically spin backward more on the greens and it will be easier for experienced golfers to play.

"That course is pure"

When someone is impressed with the conditions of the golf course, they might say, "This course is pure" to express that.

"What's your favorite track?"

In golf, a "track" is golf slang for a golf course. So "What's your favorite track?" means, "What's your favorite golf course?"

Golf Terms: Equipment

Now, let's talk about golf terms related to equipment!

Golf Club

In the golf world, a "golf club" could represent two things:

  1. A club that you swing and hit shots with

  2. A club that you belong to (e.g. "country club")

Driver

Driver

A driver, also referred to as "the big stick" is the longest club in your bag and hits the ball the furthest. The club head on the driver is large and is relatively easy to make contact with compared to other clubs.

Fairway Wood

Fairway wood

A fairway wood, also commonly referred to as a "fairway metal" or just "wood" is the second-longest club in your bag behind the driver. It is generally used when you need more accuracy on a tee shot and don't want to hit driver.

The club head on a fairway wood is much smaller than a driver, and it comes in several variations:

  • 3-wood - most common

  • 5-wood - less common (Tiger played a 5-wood for years)

  • 7-wood - less common

Hybrid

Golf hybrid

A "hybrid" is a mix between a fairway wood and an iron.

In recent years, hybrids have become very popular because they are easier to hit than an iron, but offer the feel and distance of a fairway wood.

Golf Irons

Golf iron

Irons are the most common club in your bag. Typically, you will carry a 4-iron, 5-iron, 6-iron, 7-iron, 8-iron, and 9-iron.

Occasionally, you might carry a 3-iron or 2-iron, but most amateurs will opt for a hybrid to replace these longer irons instead.

Golf Wedges

Golf wedges

Golf wedges are the shortest full swing clubs in your bag and are used for full shots and short game shots around the green.

Typically, guys on the PGA Tour will carry 4 wedges, while average golfers will carry 2-3. The most common types are:

  • Pitching wedge - typically 46-48 degrees

  • Gap wedge - typically 50-52 degrees

  • Sand wedge - typically 54-56 degrees

  • Lob wedge - typically 58-60 degrees

In my opinion, the average golfer should have a pitching wedge, sand wedge, and maybe a lob wedge (but not 100% necessary).

While you might think a pitching wedge is for the pitch shot and the sand wedge is for the sand shot, that's not the case.

You can use all of these wedges in all sorts of situations. The important part is the loft of the club and knowing what trajectory you want to hit the golf ball.

Putter

Putter

The putter is what you'll use on the green.

Golf fitting

A "golf fitting" is a term used to describe a 30-60 minute process where a professional will measure your golf shots on the range, golf simulator, or both to determine what the best golf clubs are for your swing.

Golf Glove

Golf glove

To get a better grip on your golf clubs while swinging, you'll wear a golf glove.

Headcover

Golf headcover

A headcover is a "glove" made of soft material that you put over your golf clubs to keep them clean and protected from various weather conditions. Headcovers also prevent your clubs from hitting against each other, metal to metal in your golf bag while you drive the golf cart or walk.

Many beginner golf sets also come with iron covers, but just a pro tip‚ÄĒtake them off! None of the pros use iron covers. It's tacky and makes you look like a beginner.

Rangefinder

A rangefinder, or "laser rangefinder" is a device you carry along with you to measure the distance from your golf ball to the hole.

Golf Equipment Phrases and Lingo

"Nice sticks"

This is another way to say, "nice clubs". It means that someone likes the clubs you are playing.

"Those clubs look pure"

This is another way to compliment someone's golf clubs, although you'll generally hear this from more experienced players.

"Roll the rock"

This is golf slang referring to hitting a putt with your putter. The "rock" is your putter, and you want to "roll" the ball smoothly to the hole.

Golf Terms: Scoring Formats

Below are the golf terms used to describe how the game is scored.

Stroke Play

Also called "medal play", this golf format requires each golfer to play their own ball the entire round. The total number of strokes taken is recorded, and the golfer with the lowest total wins.

Most professional and competitive golf tournaments are played in this format.

Match Play

In this golf format, golfers compete against each other on a hole-by-hole basis. The golfer who wins the most holes wins the match.

The most popular examples of this include the Solheim Cup (women) and Ryder Cup (men). Second to these well-known tournaments, the Presidents Cup and WGC Match Play are also popular pro tournaments that use this format.

This format is a superset of other formats. Fourball and alternate shot formats are common types of match play.

In my opinion, match play is the most exciting type of golf to watch because rather than playing 4 hours of golf and adding it all up at the end, each hole can be won or lost, making things exciting. Just watch this video of the Ryder Cup and you'll see what type of energy I'm talking about:

Scramble

A team format where all players tee off, then they choose the best shot and all play their next shots from that spot. This continues until the ball is holed.

A scramble is the most common format for corporate and charity golf tournaments where there are lots of players on the course of all different skill levels. This helps speed up play and make the round more fun for everyone!

Shamble

Similar to a scramble, but in this golf format, after selecting the best drive, each player plays their own ball for the remainder of the hole.

Fourball

Also known as "better ball" or "best ball", each golfer on a team plays their own ball, and the lowest score among the team members is recorded for each hole.

Alternate Shot

A team format where golfers take turns hitting a single ball. One player tees off on odd-numbered holes, and the other on even-numbered holes.

Stableford

In this golf format, points are awarded based on the number of strokes taken on each hole. Golfers earn more points for fewer strokes, with the goal of achieving the highest point total.

Chapman System

A team format where both players tee off, then they switch balls and play each other's second shot. After that, they choose the best ball and alternate shots until the hole is completed.

Peoria System

A handicapping system where a golfer can allocate their handicap strokes on any hole before the round starts. The golfer can choose when to use these strokes during the round.

Golf Terms: Betting Game Formats

Golf betting games are a fun way to add some pressure to your golf rounds and have some competition between you and your playing buddies. Generally, your golf handicap will be used in conjunction with these games, and less skilled players will be "given strokes" by better players.

Arguably the most common golf betting game is "skins", but you'll find golfers around the world making up all sorts of fun games!

Many of these games take place on Saturday and Sunday mornings at private country clubs amongst the members, during practice rounds at pro golf events between the pros, and even public courses on occasion if you've got a group that wants to play!

Skins

Players compete for a "skin" on each hole. The player with the lowest score on a hole wins the skin. If multiple players tie for the lowest score, the skin carries over to the next hole.

Nassau

A common betting game divided into three matches: front nine, back nine, and overall 18 holes. Bets are placed on each match separately.

Las Vegas

Players compete as partners against an opposing team. Scores of both partners are combined for a two-digit number, and the lower number is compared to the opponents' number for betting purposes.

Wolf

Players take turns being the "Wolf," who chooses a partner or plays against the other three players on each hole. Bets are placed on individual hole outcomes.

Round Robin

Players rotate partners on each hole, resulting in different teams for every hole. Bets can be placed on each hole individually or on the overall outcome.

Sixes

Teams of two players compete, and the lower score between the partners is used. Bets are placed on the lower score for each hole.

Chicago

Players accumulate points based on their net scores (score minus handicap) on each hole. Bets are placed on the point totals, which can lead to various payout structures.

Arnold Palmer

A format similar to "Nassau," but with additional side bets for things like longest drive and closest-to-the-pin.

Gruesomes

Teams of two players tee off, and opponents choose which ball the team must use for their next shot. The goal is to make it difficult for the opposing team. Bets are based on hole outcomes.

Acey Ducey

Players bet a set amount at the beginning of the round. After teeing off, players have the option to bet double the original amount if their ball lands in a specific area designated as the "Acey Ducey" spot.

Bingo Bango Bongo

Points are awarded for various achievements on each hole, such as being the first to reach the green, having the closest approach shot, and being the first to hole out. Points translate into monetary bets.

High-Low

Teams of two players compete. On each hole, the higher handicap player's net score is paired with the lower handicap player's net score to create a team score. Bets are placed on team scores.

Conclusion

While knowing golf terms won't make you a better golfer, it will help you fit in with more experienced golfers and have fun out there on the course!

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About me

Zach Gollwitzer
Zach Gollwitzer

Hey, I‚Äėm Zach, the founder of The DIY Golfer! I created this site while playing D1 collegiate golf with a simple mission‚ÄĒI wanted to learn the golf swing and get better at golf myself.

Fast forward a few years, and my “journal“, The DIY Golfer, has been viewed by millions of golfers worldwide looking to do the same with their games. my mission is to make golfers more consistent in just a few hours a week through advanced practice strategies and timeless, first-principle golf instruction.