Have you ever watched a competition in person or on TV and wondered: “Why are they talking about birds so much?” Golf, like many other sports, has unique terminology to talk about its different rules and features.
Some of these words are borrowed from other sports and may seem familiar, such as birdie, eagle, and albatross. Others, like the many clubs used in the game and wide variety of shots, are unique to golf.
Golf Course Features
Did you know that there are different names for the grassy areas of a golf course? From fairway to green, the basic terms of golf are centered around the golf course itself.
A bunker is a sand trap or embankment that creates a hazard on a golf course.
- The ball landed in the deep bunker, forcing the golfer to take an extra shot to get out and onto the green.
A dogleg is a golf hole that has an angled fairway.
- The hole had a sharp dogleg to the left, requiring the golfer to plan their tee shot carefully to avoid the trees and other obstacles in the way.
A drop zone is a designated area on a golf hole where a player may drop their ball after taking a penalty stroke or when a ball is unplayable.
- After hitting my ball into the water hazard, I had to take a penalty stroke and use the drop zone to continue play.
A fairway is the closely mowed part of a golf course between the tee and a putting green.
- The golf ball landed in the middle of the fairway, giving the player an advantageous position for their next shot.
The fringe is an area bordering a putting green on a golf course with grass trimmed longer than on the green itself.
- After hitting my approach shot, my ball landed on the fringe just off the green, leaving me with a tricky putt to save par.
A hazard is a golf course obstacle (such as a bunker or a pond).
- The water hazard was strategically placed in front of the green, challenging the golfer to hit their approach shot with accuracy to avoid a penalty.
putting green (green)
The putting green is a smooth grassy area of the golf course at the end of a fairway, containing the hole.
- The putting green was smooth and fast, making it difficult for the golfer to control their short game.
The rough is the long grass bordering the fairway.
- The ball landed in the deep rough, surrounded by thick grass and bushes, making it challenging for the golfer to hit their next shot accurately.
A sand trap is an artificial hazard on a golf course consisting of a depression containing sand.
- The ball landed in the sand trap, forcing the golfer to use their wedge to extricate it from the soft sand and onto the green.
A tee box is the designated area on a golf hole from which a player hits their first shot, also known as the tee shot.
- I stepped up to the tee box and carefully placed my ball on the tee, taking a moment to choose the right club for my first shot.
A waste bunker is a type of bunker or hazard that is made up of natural or landscaped terrain, rather than the traditional sand or grass.
- My ball landed in the waste bunker, forcing me to carefully navigate the rocky terrain and avoid the desert plants in order to get back onto the fairway.
Golf Shot Terms
The location of the ball, the player’s stroke, the club used, and the direction the ball is moving all determine a player's shot. Some, like the rainmaker or the hook, are going for height or to avoid hazards. Others, like the putt or the drive, are for specific strokes at specific times.
An approach is a golf shot from the fairway toward the green.
- After hitting a good drive off the tee, I had a short approach shot to the green, which I hit to within a few feet of the hole.
A bite is when the ball stops quickly on the green due to a high amount of spin.
- I hit my approach shot with a lot of backspin, causing the ball to bite when it hit the green and come to a stop just a few feet from the hole.
chip shot (pitch-and-run)
A chip shot (also known as a pitch-and-run) is a short, usually low approach shot in golf that lofts the ball to the green and allows it to roll.
- The golfer used a chip shot to get the ball onto the green from a short distance away, using a lofted club to make a controlled, accurate shot.
In golf, a draw means to strike (a golf ball) so that there is a slight to moderate hook.
- The golfer's shot had a slight draw, curving gently to the left and landing in a favorable position.
A drive means to hit (a ball) from the tee especially with a driver.
- The golfer hit a powerful drive off the tee, sending the ball soaring down the fairway.
fade (cut shot)
A fade (also known as a cut shot) is when the golf ball moves in a slight to moderate slice.
- The golfer's shot had a gentle fade, curving slightly to the right and landing softly on the green.
A flop is a type of shot that is used to hit the ball high and softly, typically over an obstacle.
- With the pin tucked behind a bunker, I decided to hit a high flop over the hazard and onto the green, which landed softly and rolled to a stop just a few feet from the hole.
A hook is a flight or course of a golf ball that deviates from straight in a direction opposite to the dominant hand of the player propelling it.
- The golfer hit a hook, with the ball curving sharply to the left and narrowly avoiding the trees.
A lay up is a type of shot where a player deliberately hits the ball a shorter distance than they are capable of in order to position it for a more favorable next shot.
- I decided to lay up short of the water hazard with my second shot, which left me with a shorter approach shot to the green and reduced the risk of hitting the ball into the hazard.
A pitch means to hit (a golf ball) in a high arc with backspin so that it rolls very little after striking the green.
- From just off the green, I used my pitching wedge to hit a high pitch that landed softly and stopped just a few inches from the hole.
A punch means to hit (a ball) with less than a full swing.
- I had to punch my ball out from under a tree and back onto the fairway, using a low, controlled shot to avoid hitting any branches or other obstacles.
A putt is a golf stroke made on a putting green to cause the ball to roll into or nearby the hole.
- After a good approach shot, the golfer made a precise putt to sink the ball into the hole.
A slice is a flight of a ball that deviates from a straight course in the direction of the dominant hand of the player propelling it.
- My drive on the first hole had a big slice to it, causing the ball to curve sharply to the right and end up in the rough.
A stroke is a controlled swing with a golf club intended to hit a golf ball.
- The golfer's third stroke sailed over the green and into the water, adding a penalty to their score.
A tap in is a very short, easy putt in golf.
- After hitting a beautiful approach shot, the golfer was left with an easy tap-in for birdie, making it a stress-free hole.
Golf Scoring Terms
How many strokes did you make before getting the ball into the hole? That number will help you keep track of your golf score.
Each hole has a set number of strokes it takes to get the ball into it. This number is called par, and how much you are over or under par on each hole determines your golf score and the terms you should use to describe it.
albatross (double eagle)
An albatross (or double eagle) is a golf score of three strokes less than par on a hole.
- The golfer hit a miraculous shot from 200 yards out, sinking the ball in just two shots and achieving the rare feat of an albatross.
An all square is a tied score in match play.
- After 16 holes, the match was all square with both golfers having won eight holes each.
A birdie is a golf score of one stroke less than par on a hole.
- The golfer sank a 20-foot putt on the par-3 hole, earning a birdie and a much-needed boost of confidence.
A bogey is one stroke over par on a hole.
- After hitting their ball into the rough, the golfer was unable to recover and ended up taking a bogey on the hole.
In golf, a condor is a score of four strokes less than par on a hole.
- Although extremely rare, a condor can be achieved by making a hole-in-one on a par-5 hole, making it the lowest possible score in golf.
A double bogey is a golf score of two strokes over par on a hole.
- The golfer's first shot found a bunker, leading to a difficult second shot and ultimately resulting in a double bogey.
An eagle is a golf score of two strokes less than par on a hole.
- The golfer made a remarkable second shot on the par-5 hole, setting themselves up for an easy putt and an eagle.
green in regulation
Green in regulation is a golf score term that refers to the golfer’s ball being on the putting green in a defined number of strokes.
- After hitting a strong approach shot, the golfer was pleased to see that they had hit the green in regulation, giving them a good chance for a birdie putt.
A handicap is the number of strokes a player gives or receives during a round to allow players of different skill levels to compete against each other.
- The golfer played with a handicap, accounting for their average number of strokes and adjusting their score accordingly.
hole in one (ace)
A hole in one (or an ace) is a golf score of one stroke on a hole.
- The golfer's shot took a fortunate bounce off the green and rolled straight into the hole, resulting in a hole in one and an unforgettable moment on the course.
Match play is a golf competition in which the winner is the person or team winning the greater number of holes.
- The golfer played match play, competing against another golfer to complete each hole with the fewest strokes.
A mulligan is a free shot sometimes given to a golfer in informal play when the previous shot was poorly played.
- The golfer took a mulligan, retaking their first shot without penalty.
In golf, par is the score standard for each hole of a golf course.
- The golfer played the hole perfectly, hitting their tee shot in the fairway, their approach shot on the green, and two-putting for a par.
A scramble is a team competition in which all the members of a team tee off on each hole, one of the tee shots is selected, all members hit shots from the position of the selected shot, one shot is again selected, and the process continues until the hole is completed.
- The scramble format allowed the team to choose the best shot out of the four golfers on each stroke, leading to a fun and competitive round of golf.
A slope is the difficulty of a golf course from a player's perspective.
- The golf course has a slope rating of 135, which means it's fairly challenging for even skilled golfers.
Stroke play is a golf competition scored by total number of strokes.
- The golfer played stroke play, counting the total number of strokes taken to complete the round.
Golf Club Terms
Golf clubs are differentiated by their type and their purpose. There are two primary types of golf clubs: golf woods and golf irons, but each specific club within these main types is used in a specific circumstance to get a desired effect.
A driver is a golf wood, with a nearly straight face used in driving.
- The golfer teed up the ball and took a big swing with their driver, sending the ball soaring down the fairway.
A fairway wood is a golf wood, used for hitting the ball while on the fairway.
- The golfer opted to use a 3-wood fairway wood instead of a driver on the shorter par-4 hole.
A gap wedge is a type of golf club that is designed to fill the distance "gap" between a player's pitching wedge and sand wedge.
- I used my gap wedge to hit a high, soft shot over the bunker and onto the green, which allowed me to set up a good birdie opportunity on the par 5.
A hybrid iron is a type of golf club that is designed to combine the best features of both irons and woods.
- I decided to use my hybrid iron instead of my long iron for my second shot on the par 5, which allowed me to hit the ball farther and more accurately onto the green.
A lob wedge is a wedge that has a clubface with a very high degree of loft that is used especially for hitting short, high shots from close to the green.
- The golfer hit a high and soft shot onto the green with their lob wedge, leaving the ball to land softly and roll only a few feet before stopping near the hole.
A pitching wedge is a type of golf club used for hitting a golf ball so that it goes very high in the air and rolls very little after hitting the ground
- The golfer chose their pitching wedge for their approach shot, hitting a high, accurate shot that landed softly on the green and gave them a birdie opportunity.
A putter is simply a golf club used in putting.
- He switched to his putter and lined up his shot on the green, hoping to sink the ball in one stroke.
A sand wedge is a golf iron with considerable loft and a wide flange for use in blasting from a sand trap.
- The golfer's ball was buried in the sand trap, but they expertly used their sand wedge to get out of the bunker and onto the green with a chance to save par.
Golf Slang Terms
There's so much slang in golf it’s almost like golfers have their own language. Here are a few common terms that can help you navigate the fairway with ease.
A backhander is a golf shot hit with the backside of the putter.
- The golfer executed a backhander to get out of a difficult lie in the bunker.
A barkie is when you hit a tree on the course.
- I couldn't believe my luck when my ball hit a tree and landed on the green for a barkie.
beach (cat box)
The beach (or the cat box) refers to sand traps.
- The golfer found himself in the beach after a wayward shot, and had to use his sand wedge to extricate his ball from the trap.
The can refers to the hole.
- He made a great putt from 20 feet out and the ball dropped into the can for a birdie.
carpet (dance floor)
The carpet (or the dance floor) refers to the putting green.
- He was able to sink a long putt thanks to the smooth carpet on the green.
chill dip (fat shot or chunk shot)
A chill dip (also known as a fat shot or a chunk shot) is when your stroke hits the ground before hitting the ball.
- After hitting a fat shot, the golfer watched in dismay as the ball traveled only a short distance and landed in the rough.
The dawn patrol are golfers who play in the morning.
- I love getting out on the course for a dawn patrol round before the heat of the day sets in.
dog track (goat track)
The dog track (or goat track) is a poorly maintained golf course.
- I played at the local dog track yesterday, and the greens were in terrible shape.
A dribbler is to hit (a golf ball) without much force so that it bounces slowly along the ground.
- The golfer's shot was a dribbler, barely making it past the tee box and causing them to lose ground on the hole.
duck hook (snap hook)
A duck hook (or a snap hook) is a pronounced and unintended hook in golf.
- The golfer hit a duck hook, with the ball curving sharply to the left and landing in the trees.
A duff (or a flub) is a bad shot in golf.
- The golfer duffed their shot, hitting the ground before the ball and causing it to go only a short distance.
A duffer (or a hacker) is a bad golfer.
- The way he played in the tournament indicated that he was a true duffer.
The first tee is where the game begins.
- On the morning of his first golf tournament, John arrived at the clubhouse, feeling nervous as he stepped onto the first tee.
Fore is shouted when the ball is heading toward someone.
- "Fore!" shouted the golfer, as the ball sailed off course and headed straight for the group of players on the adjacent hole.
A gimme is a short putt in golf conceded to an opponent in casual or match play.
- The putt was short enough that the golfer was given a gimme, meaning they didn't need to take the shot and could simply pick up the ball.
The jungle (or the cabbage) refers to the rought.
- I hit my ball into the jungle on the right side of the fairway and had to take a penalty stroke to get it back into play.
The lie is the position or location of the ball during play.
- The golfer's ball had a difficult lie in the rough, nestled in thick grass and positioned awkwardly, making it tricky for them to hit their next shot.
A loft is to propel a ball high into the air or the angle of the face of the golf club head.
- When a golfer uses a club with a lot of loft, the ball will typically travel higher and shorter than a ball hit with a lower lofted club.
A long game is the phase of golf in which distance driving is a factor of first importance.
- She has been practicing her long game a lot recently, and it has paid off with some impressive drives and iron shots on the course.
A loop refers to working as a caddie for a round of golf.
- I spent the summer working as a loop at the local golf course, carrying bags and giving advice to golfers on the course.
The nineteenth hole is the golf club bar.
- After finishing their game, the golfers headed straight to the nineteenth hole to enjoy some drinks and socialize.
A rainmaker is a golf shot with a very high trajectory.
- The golfer's shot was a rainmaker, flying high and far before landing gracefully on the green.
A short game is the phase of golf in which accuracy of direction and control of limited distance (as in approach play or putting) are factors of first importance.
- The short game, which includes putting, chipping, and pitching, is often considered the most important aspect of a golfer's game.
A whiff is a bad golf stroke that misses the ball.
- The golfer missed the ball entirely with their swing, resulting in a whiff and an embarrassing moment.
A worm burner is a golf shot where the ball never gets more than a few inches off the ground.
- The golfer hit a worm burner, with the ball barely leaving the ground and rolling along the fairway.
A yank is a golf shot where a putt is pulled sharply to the left.
- The golfer yanked their shot, hitting the ball to the left and missing their intended target.