Basic Golf Terms

Golf basics: basic golf terms

Very basics / Ways of play / Golf terms / The course / Tournaments

These are just the basic golf terms, if you want the complete list of terms you can go to the Golf Dictionary section.

Approach - The shot a player takes from the fairway to the green.

Away - Describes the ball that lies farthest from the cup when two or more golfers are playing. The away ball is always the first one played on each turn.

Birdie - Scored by a player who sinks the ball in the cup one stroke under par for that hole. For example, if a player takes four strokes to put the ball in the cup on a par five, he or she gets a birdie.

Bogey - When the number of strokes it takes to sink the ball in a hole exceeds the par by one. On a par three hole, a score of four is called a bogey, and the golfer scores one over par on that hole. A double bogey is two over par and a triple bogey is three over par.

Break - The slope of the green between the “lie” of the ball and the cup.

Caddie - The person who carries a golfer’s bag around the golf course.

Chip Shot - A shot used on a short approach, in which the ball is popped up in the air in such a manner as to have it roll toward the pin when it lands on the green.

Club Face - The surface area of the club head used for striking the ball.

Cup (or the Hole) - The round hole on each green (4 1/4” diameter).

Divot - The clump of grass dug up from under the ball on fairway iron shots.

Dog Leg - Any golf hole where the fairway bends either left or right toward the green - like a dog’s leg.

Drive - Term describing a golfer’s first stroke from the tee box on every hole.

Drop Ball - If a ball lands in a water hazard, is lost, or needs to be repositioned in its lie on the course, the golfer takes a drop ball. From an outstretched hand, the golfer drops the ball on the course in a position no closer to the hole than where the original ball landed.

Eagle - When a golfer is two strokes under par for a given hole. On a par four, for example, if a player hits his or her second shot into the hole, the player gets a score of two and it counts as an eagle. A Double Eagle (or Albatross) is when a golfer is three strokes under par on a single hole. It is quite rare.

Fairway - The long stretch of neatly trimmed grass that runs between the tee box and the green.

Flagstick (“Pin” or “Stick”) - The pole (with flag) that stands in the cup on each green. The pin is a marker at which players shoot when approaching or aiming for the green. The flag is usually removed when players begin putting.

“Fore!” - A warning shouted by players who fear a hit golf ball may strike another person on the course.

Fringe - The thin strip of slightly longer grass (compared to the grass on the green) that separates the surrounding rough from the green.

Green (or Putting Surface) - The short grassy surface where the cup is located.

Hacker - A slang term which describes someone who is not very good at golf.

Handicap - A rating system reflecting the average number of strokes above par a player normally scores in one round of golf. It is a method of equalizing competition by allowing a certain number of strokes to a golfer competing against a more skillful player. The handicap is computed from a golfer's previous scores.

Hazards - Obstacles strategically placed on a golf course to make play on each hole more difficult. Sand traps, water, and trees are all considered hazards.

Hole-in-one (or Ace) - This rare score occurs when the golfer's tee shot goes into the hole.. Most hole-in-one shots occur on the shorter par three holes.

Hook (or Draw) - Occurs when a golf ball starts straight, but then hooks left while in flight. (For right-handed golfers.)

Lie - The position in which the ball lies on the course after a stroke. Players may not move or lift their ball in any way that may improve their lie - except if the ball rests on an obstruction or in a spot where a stroke is not playable, and a drop ball is required.

Links - A term originally describing seaside golf courses, now used to describe golf courses in general.

Loft - The angle of incline on a club face.

Mulligan - Used only in casual play (never in tournaments), it is when players permit each other one free shot per round without incurring a “penalty stroke.”

Obstructions - Any path, road, or foreign object on a golf course. A golfer is permitted to move a ball from an obstructed lie using a drop ball. In this instance no penalty stroke is incurred by the golfer.

Par - The number of strokes per hole it should take a player to sink the ball in the cup. Holes measuring up to 250 yards are called par threes; from 251 to 475 yards are par fours; and any hole above 475 yards is considered a par five.

Penalty Stroke - If a golf ball lands in water; rests in a lie where it cannot be played; is lost; or goes out-of-bounds; a one stroke penalty is incurred by the golfer. The golfer must replay another ball near the original spot where the ball was hit or near to where the ball was lost or went out of play.

Pitch Shot - A short approach shot similar to a chip, except that the ball is struck in such a way as to cause it to spin backward when it lands on the green.

Provisional Ball - When a golf ball is presumed lost, a second (replacement) ball is allowed to be played from where the first ball was struck at the expense of a penalty stroke. If the original ball is found, the provisional ball is picked up.

Rough - The taller grass that lines the fairways and greens on each hole.

A Round - Playing eighteen holes of golf.

Sand Trap (or Bunker) - Sand-filled pits on fairways and next to greens that are placed as hazards on a course.

Slice (or Fade) - The opposite of a hook. It is when the ball starts straight in flight then fades considerably to the right. (For right-handed golfers.)

Tee - The small stick used to hold the ball off the ground on drives. A tee may only be used when in the tee box.

Tee Box - The area at the start of each hole from where players drive the ball.

Water Hazard - A pond or stream. If a ball lands in water and is unable to be played, the golfer takes a penalty stroke.

Very basics / Ways of play / Golf terms / The course / Tournaments