Understanding Golf Language: A Glossary for Beginners

Like every other sport, golf has its own language. It’s important to learn at least the basics of golf lingo if you plan to take part in the sport so that you can better communicate and understand what is going on around you. Before you visit the golf course, here are a few terms you might want to get familiar with:

19th Hole – A typical golf course has eighteen holes. The nineteenth hole is a slang used to refer to a restaurant or pub within or near the golf course location. Oftentimes, the nineteenth hole means the clubhouse itself. Golf players usually visit the nineteenth hole for refreshments and chitchat. (Elite Golf)

Above the Hole – This term is used to describe the position of a golf ball anytime it is on a sloping green such that the next putt is downhill. Since downhill putts present more risk and are also more difficult to judge in speed and scope, golfers are advised to avoid placing their golf balls in an above the hole position. (Golf Today)

Ace – Commonly known as a hole in one, an ace is when a golfer manages to hit his or her golf ball from the tee into the hole with a single stroke. (Elite Golf)

Albatross – Also called a Double Eagle, an albatross refers to a hole played three strokes under par score. (Elite Golf)

Approach – An approach is a golf shot made with the intention of landing the golf ball on the green. (Elite Golf)

Apron – Also called the fringe, this term refers to the grass area on the green that separates it from the surrounding fairway. (Elite Golf)

Away – This term is used to point out which golfer is furthest from the hole. The said golfer will always be the one to play first. (Elite Golf)

Banana – A banana ball, or simply a banana, refers to a golf shot that curves strongly from the left to the right. (All Square Golf)

Below the Hole – The opposite of ‘above the hole’, a ‘below the hole’ position means your next putt points uphill. Golfers are encouraged to keep their golf balls in a ‘below the hole’ position since uphill putts are easier to strike and there are fewer risks of hitting further away from the hole. (Golf Today)

Birdie – A hole played in one stroke under par. (Elite Golf)

Bogle – A hole played in one stroke over par. (Elite Golf)

Break – When a golfer putts, the tendency of the golf ball to roll left or right of its straight trajectory is called a break. Several external factors such as the course’s surface, the uneven terrain, and the strength of the wind can all affect how the putt breaks. (Elite Golf)

Caddie – Someone hired to carry clubs and provide necessary assistance to the golfers. Caddies can also provide golfing advice for beginners and veterans alike. (PGA of America)

Carry – When the golf club strikes the ball, the distance that the ball travels from the moment of impact until it hits the ground is called the carry. (PGA of America)

Condor – Also known as a Triple Eagle or a Double Albatross, the Condor is one of the rarest scores a player can get in golf. To score a Condor, the golfer needs to hit four under par on a hole. (Golf Today)

Dead Hands –When a golfer makes a shot in which his or her hands remain passive in the hitting area afterward and the shot ends up flying a distance shorter than it usually does, the shot is called a dead hand. (PGA of America)

Double Bogey – A hole played two strokes over par. (Elite Golf)

Double Eagle – Also called an Albatross, a Double Eagle refers to a hole played three strokes under par score. (Elite Golf)

Downswing – The motion made by a golfer as he or she swings the club from its topmost point to the point of impact. (Elite Golf)

Draw – When a right-handed golfer’s shot curves to the left, the shot is called a draw. (Elite Golf)

Duck Hook –When a right-handed golfer’s shot flies sharply from right to left, the shot is called a duck hook. Duck hooks are normally made unintentionally since they are difficult to control. (PGA of America)

Eagle – A hole played in two strokes under par. (PGA of America)

Explosion – When a golfer hits a shot from a sand bunker, usually when the golf ball is buried under the sand, the shot is called an explosion. (PGA of America)

Extension – This term refers to the width of a golfer’s swing, measured from the target arm on the backswing to the trailing arm on the follow-through after the hit. (PGA of America)

Fade – When the golfer makes a gentle shot that flies faintly from left to right, the shot is called a fade. (PGA of America)

Fat Shot – When the golfer’s club head hits the turf behind the golf ball leading to little impact and a shot that comes up short, it is called a fat shot. (PGA of America)

Fly – This term refers to the total distance that the ball carries once the golfer makes the shot. It can also be used to address a shot that carries well over the intended goal. (PGA of America)

Follow-through – When a golfer swings to make a shot, the motion that occurs after the golf club strikes the ball is called the follow-through. (PGA of America)

Fore! – Often heard around the golf course, this term is a warning shout made when a shot may pose danger to another player or spectator on the field. (Elite Golf)

Gilligan – Golfers can agree on a gilligan when in a match. Once a gilligan is in effect, your opponent can ask you to play a shot again, usually on a long putt holed. (Golf Today)

Gimmie – This term refers to a putt that a number of players agree to count as made even without it being played. It is also called a conceded putt in official games. (PGA of America)

Handicap – A handicap is defined by the United States Golf Teachers Federation (USGTF) as a measure of a golfer’s current ability over an entire round of golf, represented by a numerical value. The lower the number is, the more skilled the golfer being rated should be. The handicap is used to show how many strokes above or below par a golfer is able to play in. (Golfweek)

Happy Gilmore – A swing named after a movie of the same name that came out in 1996. In the film, the main character runs up behind the ball when he is on the tee, and hits the ball as he is running to it. While the impact may help add distance to the shot, it can be quite hard to hit the ball in the right direction due to the golfer’s running momentum. (IMDB)

Hole in One – Also known as an ace, a hole in one occurs when a golfer is able to hit his or her golf ball from the tee into the hole with just one stroke. (Elite Golf)

Iron Byron – Named after Byron Nelson, the Iron Byron is a testing device used to determine the quality of golf clubs and balls. (PGA of America)

Knock-down – A golf shot intended to fly at an extremely low trajectory. Golfers normally use a knock-down shot against strong winds. (Elite Golf)

LPGA – An acronym for the Ladies Professional Golf Association, an American organization for female professional golfers. (LPGA)

Mulligan – Players who agree on a mulligan accept doing a replay of a shot without counting it as a stroke and without handing any penalties. Mulligans are not allowed in official games and are mostly used in casual play. (Elite Golf)

Par – The par refers to the standard number of strokes for each hole on the golf course, which includes two putts. Although most golf holes are at par 3, 4, or 5, there are newer courses that use longer par 6 holes. (Golf Today)

Putt – A shot made on the green. (Elite Golf)

Sandie – A term used when golfers play for bets and money. Can also refer to making a shot when the ball is in a bunker and hitting it into the hole in two. (Golf Today)

Slice – When a golfer’s shot curves strongly to the right in the shape of a banana, the shot is called a slice. The slice is one of the most common shot shapes in golf, seen in both beginners and experienced players. (Golf Today)

Trajectory – Once the golf ball is struck as the golfer makes the shot, it travels a certain height and angle. These measurements make up the trajectory of the shot. (PGA of America)

Whiff – When a golfer attempts a shot but fails to make contact with the golf ball, the attempt is called a whiff. A whiff still counts as a stroke despite the failed shot. (Elite Golf)