Our ever-evolving glossary of golf terms, from A to Z.
Your suggestions for additions/corrections are welcome. Please use the comments section near the bottom of the page.
Ace: A hole in one whether it be on a par 3, 4 or 5.
Action: To impart backspin onto the ball.
Address: When a player lines up to hit the ball and begins the pre-swing routine, adjusting one’s stance and position relative to the ball. If the ball moves once a player has addressed the ball, there is a one-stroke penalty.
Adolph: Taking two shots in a bunker.
Aim: Generally, the direction in which your target lies and the direction you intend for your ball to go.
Aimline: When lining up for a putt, the direction of the invisible straight line running from the ball directly to the pin, which you must then adjust according to the amount of break which you have determined the green to have, based on your read of the green.
Airmail the green: When a player overpowers a shot aimed at the putting green, and the ball flight carries it completely over the green.
Albatross: a hole played three strokes under par. They are statistically more difficult to get on a par 5 than it is to get a hole in one on a par 4.
Alignment: The position of a player’s body relative to the target line of the ball.
All Square: in match play, a match is all square (tied) when both players or teams have won the same number of holes. It is abbreviated “AS” on the scorecard.
Ambrose: A system of team play whereby each player takes a shot, and the ball is next played from the best position. All players then take a shot from this position, and so on.
Angle of Attack: Also referred to as “Angle of Approach”. The angle at which the club head strikes the ball. This affects the trajectory the ball will travel and spin.
Approach Shot: A shot intended to land the ball on the green.
Apron: The grass surface on the perimeter of the green that separates it from the fairway.
Attend (the Flagstick): When a player holds and removes the flagstick for another player.
Back nine: Holes 10 through 18 on a golf course.
Backspin: Striking the ball with a sloped clubface, a wedge for instance, with a downward motion that catches the rim of the ball along the ridges within the clubface, causing the ball to spin backward as is its lifted into the air. Backspin causes a ball to travel less far in the air, and to stop more quickly once it strikes the ground. Also called bite or action.
Ball: A small sphere used in playing golf, which is intended to be struck by a club and soar in the general direction of the green for a particular hole, if one is playing on a regulation golf course. The important thing is to be able to identify your ball and distinguish it from the balls used by other players. Normally this is done by noting the brand and number of a ball, though some players will often add personalized markings to further differentiate their own sphere of choice.
Ball-marker: any small object used to indicate where a player’s ball is on the green. Coins are common ball-markers.
Ballmark Tool: tool used to repair an indentation on the green caused by the ball on an approach shot (often inaccurately called a Divot Tool).
Banana-ball: an extreme slice.
Bare Lie: When your ball is almost completely visible and free from interference from the grass or other surface. Also often the case when practicing at home with mats and practice tees, as the ball is always slightly elevated and free.
Barkie: achieving a score of par or better on a hole after the ball hits a tree on the same hole.
Baseball grip: grip style with all ten fingers on the club. Also known as the “Ten-Finger Grip”.
Best ball: game for two teams of two players, in which each player plays all of their shots, and the low score on each side counts as the team’s score for the hole.
BIGGA: The British & International Golf Greenkeepers Association is the professional association dealing with all matters of golf management from a greenkeeper’s viewpoint.
Birdie: a hole played one stroke under par.
Bite: heavy backspin applied to a ball that causes it to stop quickly instead of rolling when it lands.
Blade: term used to describe the type of iron made by forging the metal rather than from a cast mold. Also, describes a shot struck “thinly” with an iron in the middle of the golf ball.
Blind: A shot that does not allow the golfer to see where the ball will land, such as onto an elevated green from below.
Block: a shot played severely to the right; as opposed to slices, which curve from left to right, a blocked shot goes directly right. Similar to the “push”.
Bogey: a hole played one stroke over par.
Bounce: technically, the measure of the angle from the front edge of a club’s sole to the point that rests on the ground when addressing the ball. Clubs (usually wedges) with a higher bounce angle will resist digging into the turf.
Break: the amount of lateral slope one must account for on a putt. In the United Kingdom, it is known as “borrow”.
Bump and run: a low-trajectory shot that is intended to get the ball rolling along the fairway and up onto the green. Similar to a chip shot, but played from a greater distance.
Bunker Fairway: Hazard of bare earth or sand usually in a recessed depression. Grass and wooden walls or banks are not part of the hazard.
Caddie: A person paid to carry a player’s clubs and offer advice or suffer abuse. Players are responsible for the actions of their caddies.
Carry: How far the ball travels through the air. Contrasted with “run.”
Cart: 1) The four-wheeled electrical vehicle for use in transporting players from hole to hole. 2) A hand-pulled cart for carrying a bag of clubs, also now available in powered versions controlled by remote.
Casual water: Any temporary standing water visible after a player has taken his stance. Snow and ice can also be taken as casual water, as well as water that overflows the banks of existing water hazards.
Chip: a short shot (typically played from very close to and around the green), that is intended to travel through the air over a very short distance and roll the remainder of the way to the hole.
Chunk: a swing that results in the clubhead hitting the ground several inches before the ball, resulting in a large “chunk” of ground being taken as a divot. Also called a “fat” shot, or “chili-dipping”.
Clone: An umbrella term for generic brand golf clubs.
Closed Face: Caused when the clubface does not strike the ball in a neutral plane of impact, but instead strikes it at an angle, sending the ball toward the player’s front foot, to the left for right-handed players.
Closed Stance: When a player’s front foot is closer to the ball, used to draw the ball or to prevent a slice.
Club: a tool for the player to hit the ball. 14 clubs are allowed by the rules.
Clubface: The angled surface of the club head that is used to strike the golf ball. The center of the clubface is known as the “sweet spot.” Players should strive to hit the ball with the center of the clubface to maximize distance and accuracy.
Clubhouse: This is where play begins and ends. The clubhouse is also your source for information about local rules, the conditions of the course, upcoming events and other essential information for the avid golfer. Normally, you can also purchase balls, clubs, clothes, and other golfing equipment at the clubhouse.
Come-backer: a putt required after the previous putt went past the hole.
Compression: The measurement for expressing the hardness of a golf ball, normally 90 compression. Harder balls (100 compression) can be used in windy conditions.
Condor: a four-under par shot, a hole-in-one on a par 5 . This has occurred on a hole with a heavy dogleg, hard ground, and no trees. Might also be called “a triple eagle”.
Cross-handed: putting (and, occasionally, full-swing) grip in which the hands are placed in positions opposite that of the conventional grip. For right-handed golfers, a cross-handed grip would place the left hand below the right. Also known as the “left-hand low” grip, it has been known to help players combat the “yips”.
Cut or the cut: after the first two rounds of a tournament, a select number of players will have earned the right to play over the weekend for a chance to win the championship on Sunday, by having a score at or lower than this number. The cut is calculated as (??) the mean average? median average? of all scores. As an example, if 5 players in a tournament score respectively 148, 144, 142, 140, and 146, then 142 would be the cut, and those scoring higher will watch as those who scored lower play on through the weekend.
Cut Shot: same as a fade, a cut curves from left to right, but is generally higher in trajectory and more controlled than a standard fade. The “high cut” is a staple among PGA Tour players.
Dance Floor: slang term for the green.
(The) Dawn Patrol: Term for those golfers who are almost always first on the course every day, starting most rounds at about sunrise.
Dead: TV-broadcaster slang for a shot in which there is no favorable outcome possible. Variations include “Get the body bags!” A favorite of Gary McCord.
Divot: the chunk of grass (either fairway or rough) displaced when an iron or wedge shot is played. The indentation on the green caused by the ball on an approach shot is called a pitch mark, not a divot).
Dormie: in match play, a player is dormie when leading a match by as many holes as there are left (i.e. 4 up with 4 holes to play). The player who is down must win every hole to save the match and force its continuation past the last regular hole (if a winner must be determined) or halve the match (in a team competition such as the Ryder Cup).
Double Bogey: a hole played two strokes over par.
Double Cross: a shot whereby a player intends for a slice and hits a hook, or conversely, intends to play a draw and hits a slice. So called because the player has aimed left (in the case of a slice) and compounds this with hitting a hook, which moves left as well.
Double Eagle: (or Albatross): a hole played three strokes under par.
Dogballs: scoring an ‘eight’ on any single golf hole. The origin of the term is in reference to what the number ‘eight’ looks like on its side.
Draw: a shot that, for a right-handed golfer, curves slightly to the left; often played intentionally by skilled golfers. An overdone draw usually becomes a hook.
Drive: a tee shot of great length, usually done with a driver (a type of golf club)
Duck Hook: see snap hook.
Eagle: a hole played in two strokes under par.
Explosion: a bunker shot that sends the ball, and accompanying sand, (hopefully) onto the green. Also known as a “blast”.
Fairway: the short grass between the tee and the green. Also, “fairway percentage” is a statistic kept on players in the PGA TOUR. A player is awarded a fairway if, after a tee shot, the ball comes to rest touching a fairway.
Fat shot: a poor shot in which the club is slowed by catching too much grass or soil, resulting in a short and slow ball flight.
Fade: a shot that, for a right-handed golfer, curves slightly to the right; often played intentionally by skilled golfers. An overdone fade usually becomes a slice.
Flier: a type of lie where the ball is in the rough and grass is likely to become trapped between the ball and the clubface at the moment of impact. Flier lies often result in “flier shots”, which have little or no spin (due to the blades of grass blocking the grooves on the clubface) and travel much farther than intended.
Flop shot: a short shot, played with an open stance and an open clubface, designed to travel very high in the air and land softly on the green. The flop shot is useful when players do not have “much green to work with”, but should only be attempted on the best of lies. Phil Mickelson is a master of the flop shot.
Fore: “Fore!” is shouted as a warning when it appears possible a ball may hit other players or spectators.
Fourballs: In fourballs teams of 2 players compete against each other. There are four balls in play at any time, one for each player, with the player with the lowest score among the four competitors winning the hole for his team. This shouldn’t be confused with the term ‘fourball’, which is often used to describe a casual or social game with 4 players. Fourballs are the opening matches played on the Friday and Saturday of the Ryder Cup.
Foursomes: In foursomes teams of 2 players compete against each other. Players alternate hitting the same ball. The first player tees off, the second player hits the second shot, the first player hits the third shot, and so on until the ball is holed. Players alternate hitting tee shots so that the same player doesn’t hit every drive; therefore, one member of each team will always tee-off on the odd holes and the other will tee off on the even holes. Only one ball is used by each pairing in foursomes. If Player A teed off on the first hole and Player B holed the final putt, Player B would still tee off at the second, even though this means in effect 2 consecutive shots (over 2 holes) by Player B. The team with the lowest score wins the hole. Foursomes can be played as stroke play or match play. As match play, foursomes are the matches played on the Friday and Saturday afternoon of the Ryder Cup, with 4 ‘foursome’ matches being played on each day.
Front nine: Holes 1 through 9 on a golf course.
Gimme: is a shot that the other players agree can count automatically without actually being played (under the tacit assumption that the putt would not have been missed). “Gimmes” are not allowed by the rules in stroke play, but this is often practiced in casual matches. However, in match play, either player may formally concede a stroke, a hole, or the entire match at any time, and this may not be refused or withdrawn. A player in match play will generally concede a tap-in or other short putt by his or her opponent.
Goldie Bounce: when the ball strikes a tree deep in the rough and bounces out onto the fairway.
Green or putting green: the area of specially prepared grass around the hole, where putts are played
Greensomes: A variation of foursomes. Teams of 2 players compete against each other. Players alternate hitting the same ball on every hole; however, both players tee off on every hole, with each team selecting the best tee shot on that hole. The first player becomes the player on that hole with the chosen tee shot and the second player hits the second shot i.e. the first player’s ball from its position after the tee shot. The first player then hits the third shot, and so on until the chosen ball is holed. The team with the lowest score wins the hole.
Green in regulation (GIR): a green is considered hit “in regulation” if any part of the ball is touching the putting surface and the number of strokes taken is 2 or less than par, i.e. with the first stroke on a par-3 hole, second stroke on a par-4, etc. Greens in Regulation percentage is a statistic kept by the PGA Tour.
Grounding the club: to place the clubface behind the ball on the ground at address. Grounding the club is prohibited in bunkers or when playing from any marked hazard.
Ground Under Repair (GUR): An area of the golf course that is being repaired. A free drop is allowed if the ball lands in an area marked “GUR”.
Halved: in match play, a hole is halved (drawn) when both players or teams have played the same number of strokes. In some team events, such as the Ryder Cup (though not in the Presidents Cup), a match that is level after 18 holes is not continued, and is called “halved”, with each team receiving half a point.
Handicap: A calculation that makes all golfers equal
Hardpan: a lie consisting of very hard turf.
Hazard: physical aspects of the course such as sand or water traps, hills, and bunkers that impede play and add strokes.
Hole In One (or ace): holing out the tee shot.
Hook: a poor shot that, for a right-handed golfer, curves sharply to the left (may occasionally be played intentionally but is difficult to control). Hooks are often called the “better player’s miss”, thanks to the fact that many of the game’s greatest players (Ben Hogan, for instance) have been plagued by the hook at one time or another in their careers.
Hosel: the crooked area where the clubhead connects to the shaft. Hitting the ball off the hosel is known as a “shank”.
Interlocking grip: grip style where (for right-handed players) the pinkie finger of the right hand is hooked around the index finger of the left. Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods use the interlocking grip.
Inward nine: the back nine holes, so named because older links courses were designed to come back “in” toward the clubhouse after going out on the front nine.
James Joyce: A green that’s impossible to read.
Jersey Bounce: Any ball that is advanced toward the green by virtue of the ball striking a cartpath, or highway running alongside a fairway, and remains or returns in bounds.
Knock-down: a type of shot designed to have a very low trajectory, usually employed to combat strong winds.
Lag: a long putt designed to simply get the ball close to the hole. Or, in the downswing, how far the clubhead “lags” behind the hands prior to release.
Lay-up: to hit a conservative shot intentionally short of a hazard.
Lie: the ground that the ball is resting on. “Good lies” include the fairway and the green, while bunkers, pine straw, and the rough are examples of “bad lies”. Also, the angle between the center of the shaft and the sole. Incorrect “lie angle” calibration will result in toe-first or heel-first contact with the ground when swinging the club.
Line: the expected path of the ball to the hole, particularly on putts. “Stepping in a player’s line” on the green is considered a major golf faux pas.
Links: a course on the ocean, usually devoid of trees and therefore windy. Many courses in the United Kingdom are links.
Loft: the angle between a vertical plane (usually the plane of the club’s shaft) and the clubface.
Mickey Mantle: making a score of 7 on a hole.
Medal play: style of scoring in which the player with the fewest strokes wins. Most professional tournaments are medal play. Also known as “stroke play”.
Member’s bounce: any favorable bounce of the golf ball that improves what initially appeared to be an errant shot.
Misread: when a player takes an incorrect line on a putt.
Mulligan: a do-over, or replay of the shot. It is not allowed by the rules and not practiced in tournaments, but is common in casual rounds in some countries, especially the United States.
Nassau: a type of bet between golfers that is essentially three separate bets. Money is wagered on the best score in the front 9, back 9, and total 18 holes.
Open stance: when a player sets up with their front foot to the inside of the target line.
Osama Bin Laden: A player that goes from one bunker to another.
Ostrich: a hole played five strokes under par. This is widely considered impossible, requiring a hole in one on a par six.
Outward nine: refers to the first nine holes, so named as links golf courses were set up where the first nine holes went “out” away from the clubhouse.
Out-of-bounds: the area designated as being outside the boundaries of the course. When a shot lands “O.B.”, the player “loses stroke and distance,” meaning that he/she must hit another shot from the original spot and is assessed a one-stroke penalty. Out-of-bounds areas are usually indicated by white posts.
Pace: the speed at which a putt should be moving to get to the hole. Pace and break are the two components of green-reading.
Par: An abbreviation for “professional average result”, a par is either the standard score for a single hole (defined by its length) or an entire course (sum of all the holes’ pars).
PGA: any Professional Golfers’ Association, especially the Professional Golfers’ Association of America.
Pin-high: at the same level as (distance to) the hole.
Pitch: a short shot (typically from within 50 yards), usually played with a higher lofted club and made using a less than full swing, that is intended to flight the ball towards a target (usually the hole) with greater accuracy than a full iron shot.
Pitch mark: another term for a divot on the green caused when a ball lands. Players must repair their pitch marks, usually with a tee or a divot tool.
Plugged Lie: a bad lie (typically in a bunker) where the ball is at least half-buried in sand. Also known as a “buried lie” or a “fried egg”.
Pop-up: a poor tee shot where the top of the clubhead strikes under the ball, causing it to go straight up in the air. In addition to being bad shots, pop-ups frequently leave white scuff-marks on the top of the clubhead, or dents in persimmon clubs. Also known as “sky shots”.
Pro: a professional is a golfer or person who plays or teaches golf for financial reward, may work as a touring pro in professional competitions, or as a teaching pro (also called a club pro).
Punch shot: a shot played with a very low trajectory, usually to avoid interference from tree branches when a player is hitting from the woods. Similar to the knock-down, it can also be used to avoid high winds.
Push: a shot played severely to the right; as opposed to slices, which curve from left to right, a pushed shot goes directly right. Similar to the “block”. Also, term used in Match Play where neither competitor wins the hole.
Putt: a shot played on the green, usually with a putter.
Putter: a special golf club with a very low loft that makes the ball roll.
Q-School: PGA or LPGA Tour Qualifying School, a week-long, six-round tournament in which the Top 30 finishers (of nearly 200 entrants) earn their “Tour Cards”, making them exempt for the following year’s tour. Aside from the major championships, Q-School may be the most pressure-filled tournament in golf.
Release: the point in the downswing at which the wrists uncock. A late release (creating “lag”) is one of the keys to a powerful swing.
Rough: the grass that borders the fairway, usually taller and coarser than the fairway.
Sandbagger: a golfer that carries a higher official handicap than his skills indicate, eg, carries an eight, plays to a two. Sandbaggers usually artificially inflate their handicaps with the intent of winning bets on the course, a practice that most golfers consider cheating.
Sand Save: when a player gets up and down from a greenside sand bunker, regardless of score on the hole. Sand Save percentage is a player statistic kept by the PGA Tour.
Sand Trap: a greenside sand filled bunker as opposed to a grass or waste bunker.
Sand Wedge: a lofted club designed especially for playing out of a bunker. The modern sand wedge was invented by Gene Sarazen.
Sandie: a Sand Save (see above) that results in a score of par or better. Sandies are counted as points in some social golf games.
Scotch foursomes: In scotch foursomes teams of 2 players compete against each other. Players alternate hitting the same ball. The first player tees off, the second player hits the second shot, the first player hits the third shot, and so on until the ball is holed. To this point, the definition of ‘scotch foursomes’ is the same as that of ordinary ‘foursomes’; however, players do not alternate hitting tee shots as they would in foursomes. If Player A teed off on the first hole and Player B holed the final putt, Player B would not tee off at the second, meaning that Player A could, in theory, play every tee shot on the round. The team with the lowest score wins the hole.
Scramble: when a player misses the green in regulation, but still makes par or better on a hole. Scrambling percentage is a player statistic kept by the PGA Tour. Also a two or four man format, similar to Best Ball, except in a scramble, each player strikes a shot, the best shot is selected, then all players play from that selected position.
Scratch golfer: a player’s whose handicap equals zero.
Shank: a severe mishit in which the golf ball is struck by the hosel of the club. On a shank, a player has managed to strike the ball with a part of the club other than the clubface. A shanked shot will scoot a short distance, often out to the right, or might be severely sliced or hooked.
Short game: comprised of shots that take place on or near the green. Putting, chipping, pitching, and bunker play are all aspects of short game.
Skin: a skins game pits players in a type of match play in which each hole has a set value (usually in money or points). The player who wins the hole is said to win the “skin,” and whatever that skin is worth. Skins games are often more dramatic than standard match play because holes are not halved. When players tie on a given hole, the value of that hole is carried over and added to the value of the following hole. The more ties, the greater the value of the skin and the bigger the eventual payoff.
Slice: a poor shot that, for a right-handed golfer, curves sharply from the left to the right (may occasionally be played intentionally but is difficult to control). 9 out of 10 golfers suffer from slicing the ball.
Snap Hook: a severe hook that usually goes directly left rather than curving from right to left. Also known by the somewhat redundant term “Pull-Hook”.
Stableford Scoring System: a scoring system using points. The winner accumulates more points over the course of a round. Stableford points are awarded as 1 point for one stroke over a fixed score, perhaps par, on a hole; 2 points for the fixed score; 3 points for one stroke under the fixed score; 4 points for two strokes under the fixed score; etc. There are “modified” Stableford scoring techniques, like that used in the International Tournament on the PGA Tour, which award points (or loss of points) for various scores over or under a fixed score.
Snowman: An eight on a hole.
Sit: Telling the ball to drop softly, and not roll after landing.
Swing: The movement a golf player makes with his/her club to hit the ball. A golf swing is made up of a series of complex mechanical body movements. A perfect golf swing is regarded as the “holy grail” of the sport, and there are many approaches as to how to achieve “perfection”. One of the classic approaches is that offered by Joe Dante’s Four Magic Moves to Winning Golf.
Tap-in: a ball that has come to rest very close to the hole, leaving only a very short putt to be played. Often recreational golfers will “concede” tap-ins to each other to save time.
Tee (part of the course): the specially prepared area, usually grass, from which the first stroke for each hole is made (teeing ground in official terminology).
Tee (piece of equipment): a small peg – made of wood or plastic – placed in the teeing ground, upon which the golf ball may be placed prior to the first stroke on a hole.
Tempo: the pacing of a player’s swing. Ideally, the swing should be like a metronome, with the same amount of time being used for the downswing and follow-through as was used for the backswing. Also known as the “rhythm” of the swing. Ernie Els’s tempo is the envy of many professionals.
Thin shot: a poor shot where the clubhead strikes too high up on the ball, resulting in a shallow flight path. Also known as “skulling” or “blading” the ball.
Through line: When putting, the imaginary path that a ball would travel on should the putted ball go past the hole. Usually observed by PGA players and knowledgeable golfers when retrieving or marking a ball around the hole.
Tony Blair: A shot with too much spin.
Topped: an errant shot where only the upper half of the golf ball is struck, causing the ball to roll or bounce rather than fly.
Up and down: when a player holes the ball in two strokes starting from off of the green. The first stroke, usually a “pitch” or a “chip”, gets the ball ‘up’ onto the green, and the subsequent putt gets the ball ‘down’ into the hole. (var.) “up and in.”
Vardon grip: grip style in which (for right-handed players) the right pinkie finger rests on top of the left index finger. Also known as the “overlapping grip,” most golfers grip with this style. It is named for Harry Vardon, a champion golfer of the early 20th century.
Wedge: a type of golf club
Whiff: an attempt to strike the ball which results in the player failing to make contact with the ball.
Wood: a type of golf club
X-out: an inferior golf ball that does not meet quality control standards and is sold at a discount (often with several X characters printed over the original logo).
The yips: A tendency to twitch during the putting stroke. Some top golfers have had their careers greatly affected or even destroyed by the yips; prominent golfers who battled with the yips for much of their careers include Sam Snead, Ben Hogan, and, more recently, Bernhard Langer.