Want to know one of the hardest parts of becoming a golfer? Knowing and understanding all of the golf lingo.
Trust me on this one. There are a ton of things to understand about golf and how to swing a club, but golf slang and lingo is also a big part of the game.
Depending on where you play and who you play with, golf slang will change quite a bit. Here is a complete guide to ensuring you always sound like a golfer, regardless of your playing ability.
An ace is a hole-in-one. This is a term you would love to hear while playing a round of golf. Many golfers will say, “I’ve never had an ace,” this means they are still looking for their first hole-in-one.
Scoring a 2 on a par 5 is an albatross. The albatross is incredibly rare, and if you are talking about this, you may even be talking to the local newspaper about your experience. Three under par on a single hole is very difficult to do.
The approach is the area just short of the green where you can find shorter grass. Some may call it the fringe, but many golfers will say they landed their shot right on the approach. “My 7 iron came up short, but it was right on the approach setting myself up for an easy chip.”
An approach shot is your shot to the green. This is intended to land directly on the green, so you can set yourself up to make a putt for birdie (hopefully!).
Army golf is when a golfer hits a ball to the left and right of the fairway. Let’s say your tee shot is pulled left, and your approach shot is pushed right. You may tell your playing partners, “I’m playing army golf.” Of course, this army golf is meant to resemble a marching soldier, but it’s not a quick way to shoot lower scores.
A barkie is a rare one where your shot hits the tree and then hits the green. My husband had one of these the other day, and we are still trying to figure out how it happened. If you are someone who bets money on golf, you may put a few extra dollars on a barkie; they are hard to pull off.
A score of one under par on a hole is a birdie. Birdies are a great score that help players shoot low.
A bogey is a score of plus one on a hole. If you made a 5 on a par 4, then you made a bogey. Golfers typically want to avoid bogeys so that their scores stay lower.
Bunkers are sand traps. They can be located on the fairway or around the green. Golfers may say, “stay out of the fairway bunker” as they see their tee shot headed towards it.
We all know what golf carts are. However, you may have someone setting up a little match, say, “let’s play carts.” This can be confusing at first, but all they mean is that the golfers sitting in the carts together are partners.
Cart golf can sometimes mean playing golf and using a cart, but that’s not the case most of the time. Cart golf is when you and your partner both hit your drive into the same location; this can be a good or a bad thing.
A person who carries your clubs for you while you play golf is a caddy. Caddies can carry one or two golf bags at a time; it all depends on the type of club and what their regulations are for caddies.
Short shots around the green where the ball is in the air for a short period stop quickly and then leave you with a short putt into the hole.
Dawn patrol is playing the course early (around dawn). Those early tee times usually result in a much faster round of golf, something that is undoubtedly a great benefit.
The dewsweepers are also the first groups to go out and play early in the day. If you think about the dew on the golf course being swept away by these early footsteps, you will likely be thinking of the dewsweepers.
The divot is a piece of dirt taken when you hit the golf ball. The divot can happen either before or after you strike the ball. However, the best ball strikers always take a divot after the ball.
A double bogey is when you score two over par on a hole. This would be a score of 6 on a par 4.
The double eagle is the same as an albatross and will be three under par on a given hole. Again, the only time you really see this is a driveable par 4, where someone hits a hole-in-one, or a par 5, where the player scores a 2 out of 5.
When the golf ball comes off the clubface and makes a direct turn to the left, that is a duck hook. Duck hooks have an extreme left-hand turn and do not turn naturally like a traditional hook.
A golfer that is not a good player. A duffer may be a person that is new to the game, or someone that goes out to play just for fun but does not care about scoring.
Two under par on a hole is an eagle. The two under-par score is common on a par 5 when players shoot a 3 or a 2 on a par 4. A hole-in-one is also an eagle as it is two under par on a par 3.
The flagstick is also known as the pin. It is the long stick with a flag on it that is positioned in the hole to let golfers know where they are trying to hit their shot. The USGA has specific rules about a flag stick that golfers and golf courses need to follow.
When a golf ball is headed toward someone, and it could potentially hurt them, it is smart to yell fore. When players hear fore, they must duck and put their arms above their heads to protect themselves from getting hit.
A forecaddie is almost like a player assistant. The forecaddie doesn’t carry your clubs but will instead mark the ball if you hit one into a difficult area to find; they will bring your putter up to the green and even tend the flag and clean your clubs.
If you get to your golf ball in the bunker and it looks a lot like your breakfast, then you have a fried egg lie. When the ball hits the sand, it causes areas of the sand around it to rise up a bit, and the fried egg lie is the result; these shots aren’t the easiest to hit, so shoot for the center of the green.
The landing area of every golf hole is the green. A green will have very short grass and make it easier for golfers to putt the ball into the hole.
A handicap is a number that roughly correlates to how many strokes over par a golfer is likely to shoot. For instance, a scratch golfer usually shoots even par, whereas an 8 handicap typically shoots around 80. The golfers must be honest about their scores and track handicaps to have a fair match.
A shot that players make after taking a running start toward the ball. The shot was made popular during a move that many golfers and non-golfers liked.
A short putt that makes you a bit nervous can be called a knee knocker. The idea here is that your knees could be knocking together as you try and make this because it would be just plain frustrating to miss it.
Some golf shots can have lots of spin. When hit, they stop on the ground, almost exactly where the golf ball initially landed. When this happens, many will say that it’s like throwing lawn darts.
Every golf club in your bag has a varying degree of loft. The higher the loft, the easier it is to hit your golf shot high. The highest lofted clubs in the bag are the wedges.
A tournament in which you play head-to-head against one person. The lowest score of a hole wins that hole, and you can play an 18-hole match until there is a winner. Many times in match play, you may only need 15 or 16 holes to decide on a champion.
Meat on the bone
Golf announcers often say this when they talk about a putt that a player missed. They will say, “oh no, there is still a bit of meat left on that one.” The meat on the bone means that the golfer still has their work cut out for them to get the ball in the hole.
Many golfers that don’t like their first shot will give themselves a mulligan. This is not in the rules of golf; it’s an informal way that players enjoy the game. You may also refer to this as a “breakfast ball” on the first tee.
If your ball goes out of bounds or into a water hazard, you will have to take a penalty stroke in order to get the ball back in play. The USGA Rules of golf book has lots of information about managing a penalty stroke and what steps you should take when doing this.
Red stakes are used to mark a lateral water hazard. If your ball crosses into the red stakes area, you will get a penalty stroke; if you can still play your ball feel free to play it; just don’t ground your club.
The thicker grass surrounding the fairway and the greens is considered rough. Hitting your ball into the rough means you will have a more challenging golf shot back onto the green.
A golfer that is sandbagging may shoot a 90 but record a 100 for their handicap. This will make their handicap look higher so that when they play in a tournament, they will have more strokes and win the net competition.
Getting up and down from a sand trap is called a sandie. If you hit your shot onto the green and make the putt, you can call it a sandie and it’s a great accomplishment.
A sand trap is the same as a bunker. A sand-filled hole on the golf course makes the game more challenging. You can’t ground your club in a sand trap, so be aware of this when you play.
A popular tournament format where all golfers tee off, the best drive is chosen, and all golfers hit again. From the next location, the best shot is again chosen, which continues this way until the ball is in the hole.
A scratch golfer is a player who has a zero handicap. This means the player almost always shoots par when playing a hole.
Golf shanks are hit off the hosel of the club, they cause the ball to go to the right, it happens fast, and it’s an ugly shot. Many golf professionals, myself included, will tell you that sometimes the best way to get rid of the shanks is come back out to the golf course the next day!
A skull is a thin shot where the ball is struck about halfway up the center of it, and the overall shot ends up being more like a line drive. Skull shots are going to have a lot of topspin on them, not backspin.
A slice is a shot that goes out straight and then makes a turn to the right. Slices happen because of an open clubface, and they can frustrate players. If you slice the ball, you will have to learn how to release the club effectively.
Spin can be both forward or backward in golf. Spin occurs when the grooves of the clubface make contact with the dimples on the golf ball. Backspin helps a ball stop; forward spin causes a ball to move forward after striking the ground.
Stroke play is a round of golf where you count all of your strokes. It’s different from a hole-by-hole match play situation.
You may get strokes if you are playing a match against another golfer and you are not the better player. This means that if you are playing a hole, you may have 5 shots to tie the competitor’s score of 4.
A small wooden or plastic piece of golf equipment that is used to put a golf ball on. A golf tee comes in several different sizes depending on which club you would like to use it with.
Playing your approach shot into the green with your putter is often called a Texas wedge. The Texas wedge is not typically hit from the short grass but instead from thicker grass, making it a really unique golf shot.
A water hazard is similar to a bunker, it is an area of the golf course where you should not hit the ball, and it is filled with water. Hitting your golf ball in a water hazard will result in a penalty.
If you completely miss the golf ball when you hit it, this is a whiff. Ask any golfer out there; this is one of the worst feelings in the game!
White stakes mark the out-of-bounds area. If your golf ball goes on the other side of the white stakes, you can’t play it, even if you can still see it.
Yin and yang is when you are playing in a golf tournament with a friend, and one of you makes a bad shot, and the other saves it, and vice versa. This is often also referred to as ham and egging.
With the 90-degree rule, you go up to a certain area of the fairway that is directly across from your ball. Make the turn towards your ball at a 90 degrees, and then exit the fairway in your cart. This usually happens when the golf course conditions are wet.