Common Golf Terms

golf terms

Below you will find a comprehensive list of commonly used golf terms, but by no means is it complete. If you know of any more golf terms please do let me know about them here.

Pick a letter or browse below:



ace A hole made in one stroke
address The stance taken by a player in preparing to hit the ball. The positioning of your body in relationship to the golf ball. Same as “addressing the ball”.
albatross Scoring three under par is generally referred to as “Albatross”. It follows the ‘bird’ theme for shots below par: birdie for one under par and eagle for two under (see below).
amateur A golfer who plays without monetary compensation.
angle of approach The angle or degree at which the club moves downward, or upward, toward the ball.
approach shot Normally a short or medium shot played to the putting green or pin
apron The grassy area surrounding the putting surface. See fringe.
attend the flag To hold and then remove the flag while another player putts.
away The ball that is the greatest distance from the hole when more than one golfer is playing. It is the first to be played.


back nine The last 9 holes of an 18 hole course
backspin A reverse spin placed on the ball to make in stop short on the putting surface
backswing The backward part of the swing starting from the ground and going back over the head
balata A hard, resilient sap-like substance from the South American Balata tree that is used to make a cover for rubber-cored golf balls.
ball The round object which we attempt to hit into the hole. Prior to the 17th century it was made of wood or wool in a leather cover. After the 17th century feathers were boiled and compressed, then sewn in a leather cover. It continued to evolve to a solid gutta percha (or a mixture with gutta percha other substances) in the 1850’s and strip rubber wound around a core in the 1900’s. Presently made of solid compressed synthetic rubber with hundreds of surface indentations which aid in the flight of the ball.
ball marker A token or a small coin used to spot the balls position on the green
ball retriever A long pole with a scoop on the end which is used to collect balls from water hazards and other areas.
ball washer A device for cleaning golf balls. What else?
bend The curve on a shot created by sidespin.
bent grass Type of grass seen for the most part on Northern courses. It is of the genus Agrostis, native to North America and Eurasia. It is a hardy and resilient type of grass that can be cut very short.
bermuda Type of grass seen mostly on Southern courses in North America. Of the type Cynodon dactylon. Originally native to southern Europe. It was introduced to warmer areas of the world to be used on courses where bent grass will not grow.
best ball A match in which one player plays against the better of two balls or the best ball of three players. Also the better score of two partners in a four-ball or best-ball match.
birdie One stroke under par for a hole. Also possibly derived from the term “It flew like a bird” to indicate a good shot.
bite The backspin imparted on the ball that makes the ball stop dead, or almost so, with little or no roll.
blade A. The hitting part of an iron clubhead, not including the hosel. B. To hit the ball with the leading edge of the blade of an iron.
blade Putter A type of putter with an iron head with the basic form the same as other standard numbered irons.
blast A shot that takes a large amount of sand with it when hitting out of a sand trap. An explosion shot.
block To play a shot by delaying the rotation of the wrists during a swing. This causes the clubface not to be square at the point of impact resulting in a sliced ball.
bogey A score of one over par for the hole. To play a hole in one stroke over par.
boundary The edge of the golf course that defines the area of play.
spectator, etc. and bounces back into play. Sample usage: “I would have bogeyed the fourth
bunker A depression in bare ground that is usually covered with sand. Also called a “sand trap”. It is considered a hazard under the Rules of Golf.
burn The Scottish term for a creek or stream


caddie (caddy) Someone who carries a player’s club during play and offers him assistance in accordance with the rules.
card A card used to record scores in stroke play.
cart A two-wheeled trolley on which a golf is fitted and pulled around the course.
casual water Any temporary accumulations of water that are visible before or after a player takes his stance and is not a hazard or in a water hazard. A player may lift his ball from casual water without penalty
center shafted Putter in which the shaft is joined to the center of the head.
center of gravity (CG or CoG) The point where all the weight of a club is concentrated (and where the club can be “balanced”). This concept has become extremely important in the engineering of golf club performance over the last 20 years. CG plays an important role in the distance and feel of a club.
chip shot A short approach shot of low trajectory usually hit from near the green. It is normally hit with overspin or bite.
chip-and-run A chip shot including the run of the ball after landing.
choke To grip down farther on the club handle.
closed stance The left foot extends over the balls line of flight while the right foot is back
closed face When the clubface is pointed to the left of the target when you address the ball.
closed stance A stance taken with the right foot pulled back, away from the ball.
club The implement used in golf to strike the ball. Consists of a shaft, grip and a clubhead of wood or metal.
club head The hitting area of the club.
clubhouse The main building on the course.
collar The grassy fringe surrounding the putting green.
compression The flattening of the ball against the clubface at impact. Also the degree of resilience of a ball.
core The center of the golf ball.
course The playing area which is usually made up of 9 or 18 holes with each hole having a tee off area, fairway and green
course rating The comparison of playing one course as opposed to another in terms of difficulty. It is expressed in strokes or decimal fractions of strokes. The yardage of the course and the ability of a scratch golfer are the basis for determination
cross-handed grip A grip where your left hand is below the right.
cup The container in the hole holds the flagstick in pace.
cut shot A controlled shot that results in the ball stopping almost immediately on the green without roll.


dimple The round indentations on the golf ball cover which are scientifically designed to enable the ball to make a steady and true flight
divot A piece of turf removed with by the club when making a shot. It is always replaced and tamped down.
dogleg A left or right bend in the fairway
dormie When playing in match play, being five up with five to go, four up with four left, etc. To be as many holes up as there are to play. Sometimes spelled dormy.
double bogey A score of two over par for a single hole
double eagle A score of three under par for a single hole. Same as “albatross”
downhill lie When addressing the ball and your right foot is higher than your left (for right-handed players).
downswing The motion of swinging a club from the top of the swing to the point of impact.
draw shot A controlled “hook” used to get in position for the next shot or get out of trouble. A shot that curves from left to right. To play a shot so that it curves owing to sidespin from right to left with a right-handed player. Conversely from right to left for a left-handed player.
drive To hit the ball with maximum force and full stroke. Usually with a driver from the tee.
drive-and-pitch The type of hole on which the green can be reached with a drive and a pitch. Could also refer to a course where all holes are of this type.
driver The longest-hitting modern wooden club, used primarily from the tee when maximum distance is required. Also called the No. 1 wood.
driving range An area or building used for the purpose of practicing tee-shots and other strokes.
drop To deposit the ball on the course after which you put the ball back in play after it has been declared unplayable or after the ball has been lost.


eagle Two strokes under par for a single hole. To play a hole at 2 under par.
eight-iron An iron club giving distance of between 115-150 yards. Also called a pitching niblick.
equipment Anything that is used by a player or is carried or worn. His ball in play is not included
explode To hit the ball from sand using a steeply lofted club with the club hitting into the sand behind the ball and spraying a large amount of sand.
explosion shot A shot that takes large quantities of sand out of a sand trap.
extra hole As with extra innings, golfers play extra hole to break a tie.


face The hitting area or surface of the club head
fade A term used to describe the slight turning of the ball from left to right (by a right-handed player) at the end of its flight. From right to left for a left-handed player.
fairway The area of the course between the tee and the green that is well-maintained allowing a good lie for the ball
fairway wood Any other wooden club other than a driver.
featherie An old leather ball stuffed with compressed feathers. Replaced by the gutta percha after 1848. Also spelled feathery.
fescue Grass of the genus Festuca, widely used on for rough on golf courses
five-iron An iron club used for distances between 145-180 yards for men’s clubs. Also known as a mashie.
five-wood A wooden club used for distances between 190-210 yards for men’s clubs.
flag The marker attached to the flagstick.
flagstick A movable marker to show the location of the hole
flange The additional surface of the club head which protrudes at the sole
flex The amount of bend or the degree of stiffness of the club shaft.
follow-through The continuation of the swing after the ball has been hit.

forgiveness/forgiving How tolerant a golf club is of mishits. If a club is “forgiving” you can hit the ball outside the clubs sweet spot and still hit a relatively good shot. More advanced clubs are less forgiving, and beginner friendly clubs are more forgiving.
fore An expression used to warn anyone who may be in danger from the flight of the ball.
forecaddie Someone employed by the course or tournament committee to mark the position of a player’s ball
foursome A term given to four players playing together. Also a match in which two players play against another two players with each side playing one ball.
free drop A drop where no penalty stroke is incurred.
fringe Same as “apron”
front side The first nine holes of an 18 hole course.


gallery The group of tournament spectators.
gimme A putt that is certain to be made on the next shot and will most likely be conceded by an opponent.
golf glove A glove generally worn by a right-handed golfer on the left hand, and by a left-handed golfer on the right hand, to improve the grip.
goose-neck Having the neck of a club curved so that the heel is slightly offset from the line of the shaft.
grain The direction in which the grass on a putting lies after it has been shortly cut
graphite  A lightweight material used to make shafts and clubheads.
green The whole golf course according to golf rules. However, in popular usage, it refers to the putting surface.
green fee The charge made by the course to allow the player to use the course.
greenkeeper The employee of the club who is responsible for the maintenance of the course.
greenside Adjacent to the putting green.
grip The part of the shaft by which the club is held. Covered with leather or other material. Also means the manner in which you hold the club
grip position the placement and rotation of your hands on your golf club. Grip position can also be referred to as “grip rotation” and “grip direction”. There are three main grip positions: strong, neutral, and weak.
groove Linear scoring on a clubface.
gross The total number of strokes required to complete a round of golf BEFORE the player’s handicap is deducted
grounding the club Placing the clubhead behind the ball at address.
ground under repair any part of the course so marked by order of the Committee or so declared by its authorized representative [this means it is not ANY part being repaired!]. It includes material piled for removal and a hole made by a greenkeeper, even if not so marked.

All ground and any grass, bush, tree or other growing thing within the ground under repair is part of the ground under repair. The margin of ground under repair extends vertically downward, but not upward. Stakes and lines defining ground under repair are in such ground. Such stakes are obstructions. A ball is in ground under repair when it lies in or any part of it touches the ground under repair.Note: The Committee may make a Local Rule prohibiting play from ground under repair or an environmentally-sensitive area defined as ground under repair.
Source: USGA

gutta percha Material used in the manufacture of early golf balls. It was a hard, molded substance made from the sap of several types of Malaysian trees. These balls were in use from 1848 until the early 1900’s.


halved When a match is played without a decision. A hole is “halved” when both sides play it in the same number of strokes
handicap The number of strokes a player may deduct from his actual score to adjust his scoring ability to the level of a scratch golfer. It is designed to allow golfers of different abilities to basically compete on the same level.
hazard A hazard is any sand trap, bunker or water on the course that may cause difficulty.
head The part of the club that makes contact with the ball. Usually made of wood, iron or some substitute material.
heel The part of the club head nearest the shaft.
hickory Wood from a native North American tree used at the beginning of the 19th century to make club shafts. Use continued until the 1920’s.
hit To play a shot or stroke.
hole A 4 1/2″ round receptacle in the green – at least 4″ deep. Also refers to one of the nine or eighteen areas between the tee and the green.
hole in one A hole made with one stroke. Same as “ace”
hole out To complete the play for one hole by hitting the ball into the cup
honor The privilege of hitting first from the tee. Usually assigned at the first tee. After the first tee, the privilege goes to the winner of the last hole.
hook To hit the ball in a manner that causes it to curve from right to left in the case of a right-handed player or left to right for a left hander.
hosel The hollow part of an iron club head into which the shaft is fitted


impact The moment when the ball strikes the club.
in The second nine holes as opposed to out – the first nine holes
in play Within the course (not out of bounds).
inside Being nearer the hole than the ball of your opponent.
interlocking grip A type of grip where the little finger of the left hand is intertwined with the index finger of the right hand for a right handed player. The converse applies to a left hander.
intended line The line you expect the ball to travel after hit.
iron Any one of a number of clubs with a head made of iron or steel. See definitions for individual clubs “two iron” etc. jungle A slang term for heavy rough.


lag To putt the ball with the intention leaving it short to ensure being able to hole out on the next stroke
lateral hazard Any hazard running parallel to the line of play
lie The position in which the ball rests on the ground. The lie can be good or bad in terms of the nature of ground where is rests, the slope, and the level of difficulty in playing it. The number of strokes a player is to have played during the hole.
line The correct path of a putt to the hole when putting. Also when on the fairway, the correct direction in which the ball to be played toward the putting green.
lip The top rim of the hole or cup
lob shot A shot that goes straight up and comes almost straight down with very little spin or forward momentum. Useful when there is not much green to play to
local rules A set of rules for a club determined by the members.
loft The elevation of the ball in the air. Also means the angle at which the club face is set from the vertical and is used to lift the ball into the air. It is measured precisely as the angle between the face and a line parallel to the shaft.
long game Shots hit with the woods and long irons.
long irons The relatively straight-face and longer hitting irons.
loose impediments Any natural object that is not fixed or growing. This can include loose stones, twigs, branches, molehills, dung, worms and insects


mallet A putter that has a head that is much wider and heavier than that of a blade putter.
marker A small object, like a coin, that is used to mark the spot of the ball when it is lifted off the putting green.
markers The objects placed at the teeing round that indicate the area in which players must tee their balls.
marshal A person appointed by a tournament committee to keep order and handle spectators.
match play A competition played with each hole being a separate contest. The team or player winning the most holes, rather than having the lowest score, is the winner. The winner of the first hole is “one up”. Even if the player wins that hole by two or three strokes, he is still only “one up”. The lead is increased every time the player wins another hole. The winner is the one who wins the most holes. This was the original form of golf competition.
meadowland A lush grassland course.
municipal course A public course owned by local government.


nine A nine hole course or the sequence of 9 holes of an 18 hole course.
obstruction Any artificial object that has been left or placed on the course with the exception of course boundary markers and constructed roads and paths.
Off-centre A poor hit.
offset A club with the head set behind the shaft.
open stance The left foot is dropped behind the imaginary line of the direction of the ball. This allows the golfer to face more in the direction the ball is going to travel.
out of bounds The area outside of the course in which play is prohibited. A player is penalized stroke and distance. That is he must replay the shot with a penalty of one stroke.
overlapping grip As used by a right-handed player having the little finger of the right hand overlapping the space between the forefinger and second finger of the left hand. The opposite for a left-handed player.


par The number of strokes a player should take to complete a round with good performance. Par for each hole is given on the scorecard.
penalty stroke An additional stroke added to a player’s score for a rules violation
pin Same as “flagstick”
pin-high A ball even with the pin but off to one side. Same as “hole high”
pin placement (pin position) The position of a hole on a putting green on any given day.
pitch A short shot lofting the ball into the air in a high arc and landing with backspin
pitch and putt A short golf course designed primarily for approaching and putting.
pitch and run The same as a pitch shot but hit with a lower-numbered club to reduce loft and backspin. This allows the ball to run after it lands on the putting green.
pitching wedge An iron club designed for making pitch shots
pivot The rotation of the shoulders, trunk and pelvis during the golf swing.
placement Accuracy in the targeting of a shot.
play To strike the ball with a club. The action of playing the game of golf.
play off To determine a winner in a tie match by playing further holes or a further round.
playing through Passing another group of players who are playing ahead
pop up A short, high shot.
practice green Green set up for putting practice.
preferred lie Local rules which allow a player to improve his lie in a specific manner without penalty
pro-Am A competition which pairs professional players with amateurs.
pro shop The golf course shop operated by the head professional where equipment is sold.
provisional ball A ball played if the previously played ball may be lost or out of bounds.
public links A course open to the public.
pull A ball that goes to the left of the target with little curve as hit by a right-handed player. The converse applies to left-handed players.
punch Low, controlled shot into the wind. It is made by slamming the club down into the ball with a short swing
push A ball that goes to the right of the target with very little or no curving for a right handed player. Or the converse for a left-handed player. As opposed to “pull”
putt The shot made on the putting green. From a Scottish term meaning to push gently or nudge.
putt out To hole the ball with a putt.
putter A short-shafted club with a straight face for putting.
putting green The surface area around the hole that is specially prepared for putting.


R & A Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews.
reading the green Determining the path which the ball will take on its way to the hole by analyzing the contour and texture of the green.
regular shaft A shaft with normal flex.

release A series of movements in the wrists, arms, and body during the golf swing beginning in the downswing when the golf club is waist high and ending after contact, in the follow through, when the golf club is again waist high. The key action of the release is the “unhinging” of the wrists before golf ball impact, but also includes the related movements of the hands and forearms.
reverse overlap For a right-handed player, a putting grip in which the index finger of the right hand overlaps the little finger of the left and the converse for a left-handed player..
Reverse overlap.
rough Long grass areas adjacent to fairway, greens, tee off areas or hazards
round A complete game of golf – 18 holes is one round
rub of the green Any accident, not caused by a player or caddie, that moves or stops a ball in play and for which no relief is given under the rules. This is when your ball is deflected by agencies beyond your control that are not part of the match or the competitor’s side in stroke play. A bit of bad luck.
run The distance the ball rolls on the ground or when it lands on the ground
run-up An approach shot that is close to the ground or on the ground.


sand trap The common name for a bunker
sand wedge An iron with a heavy flange on the bottom that is used primarily to get out of sand traps.
scoop An improper swing in which the club has a digging or scooping action

scratch golfer A player who can play to a Course Handicap of zero on any and all rated golf courses and has a player with a Handicap Index of 0.0 [Read More…]

semi-private course A course that has members but is still open to the public.
set A full set of golf clubs.
set up To position yourself for the address.
shaft The part of the club joined to the head
shank A shot struck by the club’s hosel. Travels to the right of the intended target.
short game The part of the game that is made up of chip shots, pitching and putting
short irons The highly lofted irons.
side Can mean the first 9 holes (front side) or the last 9 (back side) of an 18 hole course.
sidehill lie A lie with the ball either above or below your feet.
sink a putt Make a putt.
slice A shot that curves strongly from left to right as a result of sidespin. The converse applies to a left-handed player.
slope Adjusts your handicap to the difficulty of the course you play. The more difficult the course, the more strokes you’ll need. Under slope, golfers will no longer have a handicap. You will have an index. An average course will have a slope rating of 113. Your index is a mathematical calculation of your playing ability on an average course. Maximum index allowed is 36.4 for men and 40.4 for women. Conversion charts will be located at the first tee.
sole The bottom of the club head
sole plate The metal plate on the bottom of woods
spike mark Mark made on the green by the cleats of a golf shoe.
spot putting A player aims at a spot on the green that will allow the ball to roll into the cup, rather than directly at the hole.
spring The flexibility of the club shaft.
square stance Placing your feet in a line parallel to the direction you which the ball to travel
stance The position of your feet when addressing the ball
starter Person who determines the order of play from the first tee.
stipulated round The playing of all holes of a course in the correct order
straightaway A hole having a straight fairway.
straight-faced Refers to a club with little or no loft on the face.
stroke The forward motion of the club head made with the intent to hit the ball whether contact is made or not
stroke play A competition in which the total number of strokes for one round, or a pre-determined number of rounds, determines the winner
sudden death When in a match or stroke competition the score is tied after completing the round, play continues until one player wins a hole
summer rules Ordinary play according the Rules of Golf
Surlyn Material from which most golf balls are made of.
sweet spot The dead center of the face of the club
swing The action of stroking the ball.


takeaway The start of the backswing
tap in A very short putt.

target line The imaginary straight line drawn from the golf ball’s current position to the location you want it to end up after your shot.
tee A disposable device, normally a wooden peg, on which the ball is placed for driving. Also refers to the area from which the ball is hit on the first shot of the hole. Originally a pile of sand used to elevate the ball for driving.
tee off To play a tee shot.
tee up To begin play by placing the ball on the tee.
tee-shot A shot played from a tee.
teeing ground The area in which you must tee off your ball. Ball must be teed off within the markers and no more than two club lengths behind them.
temporary green A green used in the winter to save the permanent green.
three ball Three players playing against each other with each playing their own ball.
three-quarter shot Less than a full shot. A shot made with a reduced swing.
threesome A match in which two players play the same ball and alternate strokes and play against a single player. Also means three players playing a round together.
tight fairway A narrow fairway.
toe The part of the club farthest from where in joins the shaft
toed in A clubhead having a specialty prominent toe with a slightly turned-in face.
top To hit the ball above its center causing it to roll or hop rather than rise
topspin The forward rotation of the ball in motion.
touch Accuracy, especially in putting.
tournament A stroke or match play competition. A competition in which a number of golfers compete.
trajectory The flight path of the ball.


uncock To straighten the wrists in the downswing.
underclubbing Using a club that does not give the needed distance
unplayable lie A lie in which the ball is impossible to play such as in a thicket of trees.
up A shot reaching at least as far as the hole.
up and down Getting out of trouble or out of a hazard and into the hole.
upright swing A swing that carries the club head more directly backward and upward from the ball.


waggle Movement of the club head prior to swinging. A flourishing of the club behind and over the ball.
water hole A hole with water, such as a stream or lake, that forces the players to shoot over it
wedge An iron used for short shots that has a high-loft – pitching wedge, sand wedge.
whipping The material used to wrap the space where the head and shaft are joined
whippy A shaft more flexible than normal.
winter rules Usually local golf rules that allow the player to improve the lie of the ball on the fairway
wood A club, which can be made of wood or metal, that has a large head and is used for shots requiring greater distance. Usually a numbered set of 5 or more starting with the driver and proceeding to the 5 wood