If you are a brand new golfer, you might get confused when you hear the endless amount of golf terms. You probably hear things on the golf course like “Bite, snowman, eagle or shank” and have no idea what they mean.
Don’t worry, every golfer was once there. If you are just starting your golf journey, we got you covered. While it’s important to know common golf terms like birdie, bogey or par, there are a lot of other ones as well.
If common golf terms seem like a new language, you are going to want to keep reading. In this post, we will cover the most common golf terms for beginners. Plus, we will help you level up your golf vocabulary by learning common golf slang as well.
By the end of this post, you will talk like a seasoned golfer in no time.
An ace, commonly known as a hole-in-one, is the best score out there. When you get an ace, that means you get to write a “1” on the scorecard. While they rarely happen, they happen usually on par-3’s but can happen on par 4’s as well.
Also, don’t forget the hole-in-one rule. If you get a hole-in-one, it’s common practice to buy your group or anyone in the clubhouse an adult beverage to celebrate. Personally, I’ve never understood this rule and feel like people should buy you a cold one…but still important to remember.
Very few golfers have the honor or getting an albatross which is commonly known as a double eagle. This would mean that you hole out your second shot on par-5.
Eagles are more common than the previous two golf terms but still rare for most amateur golfers. An eagle is two shots below par. So if you’re playing a par-5, you score a 3 on the hole.
These are most common on Par 5’s as golfers can hit on in two shots and make a putt for eagle. But if you can get near or on a short par-4, you can also sneak an eagle there as well.
This is a golf term that hopefully, you become very familiar with because golfers love birdies! A birdie is one shot below par.
For example, if you’re playing a 432 yard par-4, a birdie would mean you scored a 3 on the hole.
“Par” represents the number of strokes a scratch golfer should make on the hole. Each hole has a “par” that is assigned to it based on difficulty and length.
Holes are either a par-3, par-4, and par-5. On most traditional courses, there are four par-3’s, ten par-4’s and four par-5s. But some courses have six of each par or different combination as well.
For the majority of amateur and pro golfers, par is almost always a good score. If you hear someone say they shoot “par golf” this means they’re scoring average is around 72.
A bogey” is used when a golfer finishes the hole one above par. If you hear golfers say “I shoot bogey golf”, they are referring to averaging a bogey per hole.
This would mean that they shoot a 90 on a par 72 golf course.
A double bogey is one more than a normal bogey. For example, if it’s a par 4, a double bogey means the golfer scored a six on the hole.
A triple bogey is three shots above par. You might also hear the abbreviation, “trip” if a golfer doesn’t want to speak this score in full.
Now that you understand the basic golf terms for scoring, it’s time to dive into other popular terms to up your golf vocabulary. Start using a few of these terms each round to sound like a more seasoned player.
A caddie is a person that is hired to carry your clubs and give advice during the round. Caddies tend to have extra course knowledge and can help you shoot lower scores.
Another type of caddie is a “fore-caddie.” A fore-caddie will walk ahead of your shots to locate them and provide help to your entire group. They usually ride in a cart or walk and don’t carry your clubs.
Fore is one of the commonly used golf terms ever! If you hear the word “fore” you need to head for cover and protect yourself.
Golfers yell the word “fore” when a ball is flying toward another player or group of players. If you hit anywhere near another golfer, it’s common courtesy to always yell fore.
The tee box is where you hit your tee shot for each hole. Make sure that you always tee your ball up behind the tee markers or there is a one-shot penalty.
The fairway (commonly known as “the short stuff”)describes the shorter-mown area of a course between the tee box and the green. This is where you ideally want your tee shot to land.
Hitting your golf ball into the fairway is ideal for several reasons. First, the grass is shorter than the rough which means your lie is more predictable. It’s easier to determine what the ball will do and easier to pick the right club for the shot.
Another reason to hit the fairway is that it usually is the most direct route to the hole. This can make it easier to hit your approach shots. For most golfers, there is almost a direct correlation to hitting more fairways and shooting lower rounds.
The green is where the hole and flag are located. A commonly tracked metric is “greens in regulation.”
For example, if you are playing a par-4, you should hit the green in two shots. Similar to hitting fairways, the more greens you hit, the easier it is to score low.
The fringe is the collar of higher mown grass that surrounds the green. It’s just longer than the green and shorter than the rough and where you might hit a chip shot. If you hit the fringe, this doesn’t technically count as a green in regulation but you can often putt from it like a green.
The rough on a golf course is the longest grass that surrounds the fairway and green. If you hit a shot into the rough it usually results in a tougher next shot.
Depending on the golf course you are playing, the rough length can vary greatly. Some courses, hitting in the rough can add a lot to your score while others it’s less of a factor.
Some golf courses also have two different types of rough, known as the intermediate rough and the deep rough. Intermediate rough is usually still playable and very easy to find the golf ball. But deep rough is often much more difficult and might require you to just chip out to the fairway.
Two different cuts of rough are more common in tournament golf and higher end courses. For example, the U.S. Open tends to have the longest, most penalizing rough ever. Links golf courses might also have deep rough known as fescue which is nearly impossible to hit out from.
The main point…find the fairways as often as possible!
A putt is when you are on a green and using your putter. If you are using your putter from the fringe or fairway even, it technically doesn’t count as an official putt.
The goal is to have as few as putts as possible. It’s most common to have a one-putt, two-putt or three-putt. While you can have a zero-putt (holding one from the fringe) or a four-putt, they are less common.
Putts are also tracked on a per round basis. The fewer the putts, the lower the score!
Greenside bunkers are near the green. These shots are normally short (less than 30 yards) and require a sand or lob wedge to get out.
The other type of bunkers are fairway bunkers. These shots are much longer and are placed strategically on par 4’s and par 5’s. These shots require creativity and strategy based on the lie, distance, and other factors.
Links is a common golf term that can be used in a variety of ways. You might hear the term “links golf” which refers to old-school type courses that are found in Europe. Links golf courses are usually flat and have bigger greens than most US courses.
You might also hear “Let’s hit the links” which just refers to going out and playing a round of golf.
The slope is a golf term that measures the difficulty of a golf course. When looking at a scorecard, you can determine the difficult based on the slope and distance of the course.
This number tries to determine how hard a course is for the average amateur golfer. Slope ratings can range from 55-155. The higher the slope, the more difficult the golf course.
A “scratch” golfer is what almost all amateur golfers strive for. A golfer who has played at a “scratch” level means they have a handicap of 0. These highly skilled golfers usually shoot par or better on the course.
A handicap is the measurement of the average number of strokes over par during a round. For example, if you are a 10 handicap, you should shoot around an 82 (10 shots more than par). If you’re a scratch golfer (or a zero), you should shoot around 72.
Handicaps are great because it allows you to compete with any skill level golfer. For example, if you’re a 10 handicap and you’re competing against a 4 handicap, they have to give you six shots during the round.
If you hit a shot left (for right-handed players) but it goes straight, this is known as a pull. The opposite is known as a push.
If you hit your approach shot to the side of the green where the pin is located. For example, if the flag is back right on a green, you would short-side yourself by hitting it long or right. Try to avoid short-siding yourself as it makes for a more difficult chip or pitch.
Now that we covered the most common scoring golf terms and popular ones, let’s dive into some funny golf terms as well.
Every golfer should know the definition of a mulligan. A mulligan is when you re-hit your previous shot because you didn’t like the outcome of the shot. Mulligans are commonly used among beginning golfers.
If you are playing with friends, you might get “first hole mulligans” as you aren’t warmed up. Mulligans aren’t able to be used in tournament golf and you would have to take a penalty.
A chunk is when you hit way behind the golf ball and take a big divot. The shot usually doesn’t go very far and ends up short of your intended target. You might also hear “I hit it fat” as well.
The opposite of the chunk is when you hit it “thin” or “skinny.” This means you hit the ball with the lower grooves on the club and the ball goes farther than normal.
A gimme putt is one that is so close to the hole that your fellow competitors give you the putt. Gimme putts are great because you don’t actually have to put it in the hole.
Scramble has two different meanings in golf. If you’re playing a tournament, you might have a “scramble” format. With these types of tournaments, its a team event in which you all play the best ball off the tee and on the approach.
The other definition of the term “scramble” means you’re missing greens and still making pars. For example, you might hear golfers say, “I didn’t hit it well but I was scrambling out there.”
A flop shot is a shot that goes very high in the air and lands softly. To hit a flop shot, players typically use a lob or sand wedge. This shot has been popularized by short game wizard, Phil Mickelson, and other PGA Tour pros.
If you want to learn how to hit a high, soft shot make sure to click here.
All golfers fear two things; the yips and the shanks. The yips are a condition in which a muscle spasm or mental block prevents golfers from simple tasks. It usually happens on the putting green more than anything.
Players who suffer from putting yips tend to make a very jerky swing motion in their putting stroke that results in a poor putt. It’s often times as much of a mental issue but can be mechanical as well.
A “shank”, commonly known as “The S Word” is another nightmare among all golfers, even pros! A shank is shot that is hit off the neck or heel of the golf club which promotes it to shoot right immediately.
This is often a “contagious” shot among your foursome. If you ever witness a shank, make sure you don’t say it out loud as it’s commonly known as a bad omen!
A lip out is when the putt looks like it’s going to drop but instead changes directions and stays out of the cup. A less drastic version of the lip out is a “burnt edge.”
A topped shot is another embarrassing golf shot that plagues amateur golfers. A topped shot happens when the bottom of the club strikes the top half of the ball. The result is a ball that only travels a few yards.
A slice is a very common shot among amateur golfers. For right-handed players, a slice goes hard from left to right in the air. As it has a ton of sidespin, the ball doesn’t travel its full distance.
A more mild “slice” is known as a cut or a pull-cut. These shots also go left to right in the air but don’t have nearly as much sidespin.
A hook is the opposite of a slice. For right-handed players, a hook goes hard from right to left in the air.
As it has a lot of forward spin (or topspin), the ball travels more than its full distance. If the shot is going hard left and traveling a fraction of the distance, this is known as a duck-hook.
A less severe “hook” is known as a draw or a push-draw. These shots also go right to left in the air and have more topspin as well.
While not as dreaded the “Y” or “S” word above, a snowman is a round killer. A snowman is an 8 on the scorecard as it closely resembles a snowman.
A waggle is a motion or several motions designed to help golfers relax at address position. Instead of sitting the club down behind the ball, a player will make 1-3 waggles.
This is more common among older generations but there are a few tour pros that still do it like Jason Dufner.
A fried egg is commonly used golf slang term and a situation that most golfers hope to avoid. When you get a “fried egg” lie in the bunker, it is usually slightly buried in its own pitch mark in the sand. These shots require more finesse as you normally can’t generate any spin as well.
There isn’t necessarily a best shot but you want to have as many birdies, eagles, and pars as possible. If you can ever sneak in an albatross or hole-in-one, congrats to you!
The word “golf” was first mentioned in 1457 on a Scottish statute. Its original meaning is “to strike or cuff.”
A condor in golf is 4 under par on a single hole. Good lucking making an ace on a par-5!
The word bite in golf is when a player wants the ball to land quickly and stop. Usually, if you hear the word “bite” the ball is traveling too far or too fast. You might also hear “sit” as well.
As you can tell, there are a lot of different golf terms out there. The more you play golf and play with different people, the more you will learn.
If you’re just getting started, make sure you first memorize the basic scoring terms. This will make it easy for someone in your group to keep score and not sound like a total beginner.
As you get more experienced, you will start to recognize and use new golf terms as well.
After you’ve memorized all of these terms, head over to our post on the best golf tips so you can start playing better.