A Golfers Dictionary: Golf Terminology For beginners That Every Golfer Needs To Know

By Anthony Mahone
Updated on
infographic showing a golf terms that golfers need to know. the book is in the middle branching out to important parts

If you are new to the game of golf or have been away for quite some time, there are a lot of golf terms that you should know. You have probably heard of stroke play, sand trap, or course rating. In this article, we will discuss the most essential golf terms and meanings that you should know.

Beginner Golf Terminology

We have all been there, and we have all started at this point. Our team of experienced players will help you navigate the terminologies of this great game.

With years of competitive golf between us, we hope to provide excellent value to you on your journey. While we will provide many standard golf terms, this will only be some-encompassing.

Golf is a second language you will need to learn. We recommend reading this post and checking out our golf tips for beginners to speed up the process.

Golf Terms By Format

Golf format refers to a round or tournament’s specific rules and structure. Different formats determine how players or teams compete against each other and how they score.

From stroke play to Stableford, each format adds a unique element to the game and creates various challenges and strategies.

Common Golf Terms By Format

Stroke Play

Stroke play format is when players complete their rounds with scores on each hole. Each hole adds up to determine the score for the round.

Golfers compete against all others playing by comparing their scores amongst the others. Players will end up under par, even par, or over par for the round. The golfer with the lowest score is deemed the winner. Stroke play is the most common and widely known golf play format.

Match Play

Players compete hole by hole, and the player or team with the lowest score on each hole wins that hole. The player or team that wins the most holes wins the match.

An example might be, you birdie the first hole, and I par, you go one up in the match. The match is over when a golfer leads by more than the number of holes left. For example, you win the 16th hole to go up three with two holes to go. This match concludes with you winning three and two. Match play is the primary form of head-to-head competition in golf.


Players form teams, and all members hit their golf balls. The team then chooses the best shot, and all players play their next shots from there. This best-shot process continues until the ball holes. Scramble formats are prevalent with golf outings and smaller, sponsored events.

Newer players can still contribute to the overall score with a scramble format. Therefore, new players have fun in the process.

Less Common Golf Terms By Format

Best Ball (Fourball)

Best ball, a form of match play, consists of teams of two players, and each player plays their own ball throughout the round. On each hole, the lowest score of the two players is the team’s score. Golf organizations often use four ball in the Ryder Cup, the Solheim Cup, and the President’s Cup. Fourball is also a local pro-am favorite.

Alternate Shot (Foursomes)

The alternate shot format consists of a team of two players taking turns hitting the same ball. The team will continue this process until the ball is in the hole. Once in the hole, the total strokes become their score. One player tees off on odd-numbered holes, and the other on even-numbered holes.


Players earn points based on their score relative to par on each hole. Lower scores on a hole earn more points. The player with the most points at the end wins. Even par gets you two points, one under gets you three points, two under gets four points, and so on. The player with the highest score wins.

Golf Score Terminology

In golf, there are a variety of scores and golf terms that players use to describe their performance on the golf course. The following are the standard scores that you can receive on the course. We also discuss what a handicap is and a scratch golfer’s definition.

What is a handicap in golf?

infographic showing a picture of handicap emblem and a golf hole


A golf handicap is a numerical representation of one’s ability to play golf. Golf handicaps level the playing field in match play or specific tournament formats. Golf handicaps represent the number of strokes a player is expected to take above or below the course’s par score. A higher handicap indicates a less experienced player, while a lower handicap indicates a more skilled player.

Scratch Golfer

A scratch golfer is a golfer who consistently shoots par or better on a golf course. This player should consistently shoot around the course rating for their respective tees. Scratch golfers are experienced players and manage their way around the course well. Their handicap will be a zero.

Golf Scoring Terms

Albatross (Double Eagle)

With the ultimate double eagle, you complete a hole in three strokes less than its par value. Achieving an albatross (double eagle) is rare and usually happens on par-5s. Scoring a double eagle on the course might be one of golf’s most outstanding achievements. Making an albatross on your first hole would put you three under par.

Ace (Hole in One)

A hole-in-one completes a hole with a single stroke from the tee shot by holing the golf ball. Most commonly, a hole-in-one occurs on a par three but can happen on a shorter par 4. According to the national hole-in-one registry, the odds of scoring an ace is 1 in 3500.


With an eagle, you complete a hole in two strokes less than the number of strokes required for par value. For instance, making a two on a par-4 hole is an eagle. More often, scoring a three on a par-5 is likely. Making an eagle on your first hole would make you two under par.


By scoring a birdie, you have completed a golf hole in one stroke less than the number of strokes required for par value. For example, making a three on a par-4 hole is a birdie. Making a birdie on the first hole would put you one under par.


Par is the score assigned to each golf course hole based on length and difficulty. Par values typically range from 3 to 5 strokes per golf hole. Par is the number of strokes you should play that hole in. There is also a par for the course. These total to be 70, 71, or 72. This number indicates the sum of all 18 holes played during the round.


With a bogey, you complete a hole in one stroke over its par. For instance, making a five on a par-4 hole is a bogey. A bogey on your first hole would put you one over par.

Double Bogey

A double bogey is completing a hole in two strokes over its par. Making a six on a par-4 hole is a double bogey. A double bogey on your first hole would put you two over par.

Triple Bogey

You complete a hole in three strokes over its par value with the triple bogey. Making a seven on a par-4 hole is a triple bogey. Making an eight on a par 5 is also a triple bogey (or a snowman). A triple on your first hole would put you three over par.

Golf Terminology To Know

The following golf terms are words you might use during a round of golf. We hope these terms help you grow within the game of golf.

Prior To Tee Time

Before getting onto the golf course, there are a few terms you should know. These terms are generalized terms that are commonly seen, spoken, or heard on the course.

Pace of Play

The pace of play is how long a group completes the course, ensuring a smooth flow for all players. The average pace of play for a round of golf is 4 1/2 hours.


The clubhouse is the main building on the golf course property. It houses the pro shop, dining facilities, locker rooms, restrooms and showers, and event spaces. Most golf clubhouses contain the offices of the golf professionals and the general managers. It also houses the 19th hole, another name for the bar.

Driving Range

The driving range on a golf course is where golfers go to hit golf balls before a round of golf. Golfers also use the range for practice sessions. The driving range will consist of fairway-style grass or mats and multiple greens you can hit. Many times, next to the practice area, there will also be a practice putting green. Driving ranges are not limited to the golf course, however. Standalone driving ranges exist throughout the world.

Cart Path Only

Cart path only is a term used at courses when the golf carts are intended to remain on the cart path traveling around the golf course at all times. Cart path only the choice of the superintendent and is used to decrease potential damage to the course by ruts from tires. This could be from heavy rains or making needed repairs to the course.

Links Golf Courses

Links Golf Courses are known for their natural landscapes, firm fairways, and challenging conditions. Situated along coastlines, they feature undulating terrain, dunes, and minimal water hazards. Strong winds, strategically placed pot bunkers, and fast greens add to the difficulty.

Examples include the Old Course at St. Andrews and Royal County Down.

Front Nine

The front nine are holes 1 through 9 on a golf course.

Back Nine

The back nine are holes 10 through 18 on a golf course


The scorecard in golf is the physical paper on which you write your score when you play. In competitive golf, the scorecard must contain the competing players’ signatures. Apps for your phone also have scorecards for golf courses. Golf courses will provide you with a scorecard.

golf scorecard infographic showing various parts of scorecard

Course Rating

Course Rating represents the difficulty of a golf course for a Scratch Golfer (0.0 Handicap Index) and calculates to the nearest 0.1. Each set of tees on the course has a different rating.


The slope measures the golf course’s difficulty for the average bogey golfer. According to the USGA, slope rating measures the relative difficulty of a golf course for players who are not scratch players compared to those who are scratch players.

Parts of a Golf Course

Tee Box

The area on the course from which players start each hole by hitting their first tee shot. This area is the only location where a player may hit the golf ball using a tee.

The golfer’s tee shot will end up in the fairway, rough, hazards, bunkers, or the green. The tee box is also a fairway style of shorter, well-manicured grass. The first shot to a golf round starts on the tee box.

Picture of tee boxes and fairway


The fairway is the well-maintained portion of grass on a golf course that leads from the tee box to the green—often called the “short grass.” Fairways are the middle portion of the hole when in a direct line with the green. Fairways offer the best chance to get the ball safely onto the green, leading to better scores.


The area of short-cut grass surrounding the golf hole where players putt. The green is also known as the putting surface. The green is where the completion of a golf hole occurs. The putter is the club of choice when on the green.

Flagstick or Pin

The flagstick is the tall, thin flagpole with a flag on top that indicates the hole’s location on the putting surface. Before 2019, the flagstick was to be removed while putting. Holing the putt with the flag stick-in would result in a penalty. Nowadays, the flag stick can remain in the cup while putting.


The cup is the hole in the green where the ultimate goal is to sink the golf ball. The cup has a slot in the center portion of the hole that allows the flagstick to fit snuggly into the cup.


The rough is the longer grass surrounding the fairway and green on golf courses, making shots more challenging. There are often first cuts and second cuts of rough. The first cut of rough is longer than the fairway grass but shorter than the second cut of rough. The first rough cut is less penalizing than the longer, thicker second cut of rough. Long fescue grass is also a common type of rough that golfers will encounter while playing golf.

Bunker or Sand Trap

A bunker is a sand-filled hazard, often found near the green or along fairways. Many times, it is called a sand trap. Bunkers are well designed to be penalizing in nature. The goal is to avoid the bunker altogether.

This is a picture that shows the fairway, first cut of rust, second cut of roof, and a fairway bunker


Any obstacle on the course that can affect your shot, such as bunkers or water. Hazards are golf architecture features designed to add difficulty to the course. Reputable golf architects place hazards in precarious locations by design to add to the test of the course.

Water Hazard

On a golf course, a water hazard contains water and is often a pond or stream. Landing in a water hazard will result in penalty strokes if you cannot hit the shot.

Out of Bounds

Out of bounds on a course are the areas outside the golf course boundaries, marked by white stakes or lines, resulting in stroke and distance penalties if your golf ball travels there. Property lines, residential, housing areas, or other portions outside the regular golf course could be out of bounds.

diagram showing multiple locations of golf course such as putting green, water hazard, and out of bounds

Provisional Ball

You play a provisional ball if you suspect your ball hits out of bounds or is lost. You are presuming that the first ball went out of bounds or had an increased chance of becoming a lost ball. A golfer might say, “I’m going to play a provisional”.

A stroke and distance penalty is applied if the provisional ball comes into effect.


On a golf course, a dogleg is a layout of holes that bends to the left or right, requiring strategic and precise shots to navigate. A dog leg could be a slight bend or a 90° turn in the fairway.

image showing a dogleg left and a dogleg right golf hole
Photo Credit Golf Info Guide

Golf Course Terms

Golf Etiquette

Golf Etiquette

Golf etiquette is the rules and guidelines that golfers abide by. Proper golf etiquette makes the game more enjoyable for everyone.


The player with the best score on the previous hole tees off first on the next hole. I will have the honors if I get a par and you get a double bogey. For example, “Mr. Mahone, you have the honors”.


A divot in golf is when a chunk of grass is removed and displaced by using a golf club to hit the ball and then the grass. A proper divot is about the size of a dollar bill and should be a manageable depth. Having too thick of a divot meant the swing was steep and drove further into the ground than necessary.

Make sure to replace all divots when playing golf. Replacing divots will help improve the natural recovery of the grass on the course.

Ball Mark

A ball mark, or pitch mark, is a depression left when the golf ball lands on the green; players should repair these marks. An unrepaired pitch mark will cause long-term damage to the greens.

Golf Swing Terms


A stroke is a single golf swing or putting stroke. A stroke can also come in the form of penalties.


Putt is a gentle shot made on the green with a putter to roll the ball into the cup.


The drive is the first shot from the tee box when using a driver or three wood on a par 4 or 5.

Approach Shot

The approach shot is when you hit the ball, intending to land the ball on the green. An example of an approach shot would be when a golfer hits their second shot on a par 4, 2nd or 3rd shot on a par 5—an approach shot typically begins at least 100 yards from the hole.

Bunker Shots

A bunker shot is one played from a bunker, requiring a specific technique to escape. For many amateurs, bunkers produce extreme anxiety. However, bunker shots can become relatively easy with proper practice and technique. Professional golfers often would rather play from the bunker than the rough, unless they have a fried egg on their hands.

Pitch Shot

A pitch shot is a short shot used for longer distances than chip shots, thus requiring a slightly longer swing. The pitch shot spends more time in the air than on the ground. Pitch shots often produce more spin than a standard chip, allowing for more stopping ability.

Chip Shot

A chip shot is a shorter shot with a lofted club, usually near the green. The chip shot is generally on a lower trajectory and travels mainly on the ground. This shot aims to get the ball rolling like a putt as early as possible. The chip is quite comparable to the bump and run.

Flop Shot

The flop shot is a high-lofted shot made for soft landings onto the green. As a player hits the flop shot, the ball is lifted highly into the air and tends to stop quickly. This shot is necessary when there is limited room between the edge of the green and the golf hole. Phil Mickelson has consistently executed the flop shot with great success.

Golf Terms By Shot Shape

In golf, shot shape terms refer to how a golf ball travels through the air based on the path and spin caused by the golfer. Different shot shapes are achieved by manipulating factors such as clubface angle, swing path, and ball position.

Draw Vs Fade

Draw Shot

A draw is a controlled shot that curves gently from right to left (for the right-handed player) or left to right (for left-handed players). The draw can help navigate obstacles and add distance.

Fade Shot

A fade is a controlled shot that curves gently from left to right (for the right-handed player) or right to left (for the left-handed golfer). It’s often used for accuracy and controlling the ball around obstacles.


A pull is a shot where the golf ball starts left as the ball travels and stays left for right-handed players. The golf ball would start right and stay right for the left-handed golfer.


A push is a shot where the golf ball starts and stays right for the right-handed golfer. A push could be from a tee shot or a putt. The golf ball starts left and stays left for the left-handed player.


A slice is a shot that curves dramatically from left to right (for the right-handed golfer) or right to left (for left-handed players). It results from an open clubface at impact and an over-the-top golf swing.


A hook is a shot that curves dramatically from right to left (for the right-handed player) or left to right (for left-handed players). It results from a closed clubface at impact with an inside-out golf swing.

Punch Shot Golf

Punch Shot

A punch shot is a low-flying golf shot with a shorter backswing and controlled follow-through. It is helpful in windy conditions or when navigating obstacles like trees. This type of shot produces a lower ball flight and will help get you out of trouble on the course.


A stinger is a very low, penetrating ball flight struck with a long iron or hybrid club, popular for accuracy and distance control. Tiger Woods perfected this shot in the early 2000s. Stingers are very beneficial in high wind conditions.

Bump and Run

The bump and run is a chip shot with a putting-like motion, allowing the ball to roll more than it flies. The bump and run is an excellent use of a 7,8, or 9 iron around the greens. The bump and run is a great option when just off the green, in the fringe, and when large amounts of green lie between you and the hole.

Golf Club Names

During a round of golf, players use a set of clubs designed for different types of shots and distances. A standard set of clubs consists of 14 clubs. 14 clubs is the maximum number of clubs that one can have in their bag.

Here’s a breakdown of the types of clubs that the average player hits.

Names of Different Golf Clubs


The driver, mainly used when hitting tee shots, is used on longer holes. The driver has the second lowest loft of any club, allowing maximum distance off the tee. (Putters have the least loft) Drivers produce the highest ball speed of any shot when you play golf.

Drivers are not only used on tee shots. However, sometimes, drivers are used by hitting the “Driver off the Deck” (hitting it off the fairway)

Fairway Wood

A fairway wood (3-wood, 5-wood, etc.) is used for shots from the fairway or rough when a golfer wants distance and accuracy. They have more loft than the driver and are used for your tee shot on shorter holes and from the fairway for your second shot on longer holes.


Hybrids, also known as rescue clubs, combine the characteristics of irons and fairway woods. They are versatile and used for various situations, especially when hitting longer shots from challenging lies. Hybrids are beginner-friendly and an excellent replacement for long irons.

Types of Golf Irons


Irons are clubs used for different distances. Lower-numbered irons have less loft and are longer, resulting in greater distance, while higher-numbered irons have more loft, are shorter in length, and go less space. Irons found in golf gags are 3-9. However, one and two irons do exist.

Different Golf Wedges


Wedges are similar to irons and include the pitching wedge (PW), gap wedge (GW), sand wedge (SW), and lob wedge (LW). They have high lofts designed for shots around the green and out of bunkers. The sand wedge is a commonly used golf club in the golf bag.


The putter is used on the green to roll the ball into the hole. The putting stroke is the method of a gentle golf swing that is more of a stroke than a swing. There are various styles and designs of putters to suit a golfer’s preferences and strokes. The blade and mallet putter are two of the most common types.

Parts of a Golf Club Terminology

What Are The Parts Of A Golf Club?

Club Head

The head is the part of the golf club that physically strikes the golf ball. Heads are constructed of various metals and have changed vastly over the years.


The shaft of a golf club is the part that makes up the length of the club. The shaft is the part between the grip and the head. Shafts made of steel or graphite.


The golf club’s grip is the part of the club where your hands physically grip the golf club. Grips are constructed from rubber material and designed to allow golfers’ hands to maintain control while swinging.

Other Parts of Golf Club


According to the PGA, the loft is the angle between the club face and the ground. The loft is created by the correlation of the golf shaft to the face angle made. Golfers can increase or decrease the golf club’s loft by the position of their hands at impact.

Lie Angle

The lie angle exists between the shaft and the ground when your golf club is in a normal position. Having the correct lie angle on your clubs is crucial. Having an incorrect lie angle will result in consistently errant shots.


The bounce angle indicates how much the club’s sole, or bottom-most part, lifts the leading edge. The angle created by the leading edge of a golfing iron (particularly a wedge), the sole of the club, and the ground

Golf Lie

In golf, the term “lie” refers to the position and condition of the golf ball on the course. The ball’s lie can significantly influence the type of shot a golfer can play. Golf has several common types of lies, each presenting its challenges.

What is a Lie In Golf?

Fairway Lie

The fairway lie is when the ball is on the closely mowed grass of the fairway, providing a clean and favorable lie for most shots.

Rough Lie

The ball is in the thicker, longer grass that borders the fairway. Shots from the rough can be more challenging to control due to the increased resistance from the grass.

Bunker Lie

The ball is in a sand bunker or bunker, requiring a different technique to escape. Sand shots need an open clubface and a descending strike to lift the ball out of the bunker. The sand is what propels the ball out of the sand.

Divot Lie

The ball is on a divot cut out of the fairway by a previous shot. Hitting from a divot can be challenging, as the player must navigate the uneven surface. The divot lie is very similar to the bare lie.

Uphill Lie

The ball is on a slope where the golfer’s front foot is higher than the back foot. The right foot is lower than the left for right-handed players. Uphill lies can and will produce a higher ball flight and require adjustments in stance and swing.

Downhill Lie

The ball is on a slope where the golfer’s back foot is higher than the front. The left foot is lower than the right for right-handed players. Downhill lies can make it harder to make solid contact with the ball and cause it to fly lower. The downhill lie is a more challenging shot played than most.

Sidehill Lie

The ball is on a slope with the ground slanted to one side. Sidehill lies can affect the direction and trajectory of the shot. If the ball is above your feet, and you are a right-handed player, the ball will want to travel on a right-to-left trajectory. If the ball is below your feet and you are a right-handed player, the ball will want to travel on a left-to-right trajectory. The opposite is true for left-handed players.

Fried Egg Lie

Also known as a “plugged” lie, this occurs when the ball is buried in the sand, creating a challenging lie in a bunker. With the fried egg, approximately one-half of the golf ball buries beneath the surface of the sand.

Bare Lie

The ball is sitting directly on the ground without any grass underneath it. This type of lie can make getting clean contact on the ball difficult. What is also known as hitting off the hard pan?

What Are The Four Golf Majors?

In golf, the term “major” refers to the four most prestigious and historically significant tournaments where golfers compete. These tournaments are considered the most important events for professional golfers and significantly impact a golfer’s career and legacy. There are also essential organizations that govern golf that we will discuss.

Major Golf Tournaments

The Masters Tournament

The Masters Tournament is always at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia, USA, in April. It is the first major of the year and is known for its rich tradition and iconic green jacket awarded to the winner.

US Open

The US Open is held in June by the United States Golf Association (USGA). The venue changes each year and is known for its challenging course setups that test the players’ skills to the limit.

The Open Championship

Usually held in July, The Open Championship is the oldest major championship in golf. It takes place at various links-style courses in the United Kingdom. It is known for unpredictable weather and challenging course conditions.

PGA Championship

The PGA Championship is organized by the Professional Golfers’ Association of America (PGA of America) and is typically played in August. It moves to different courses around the United States and features a solid American and international player field.

Grand Slam

Collectively winning all four majors is a grand slam. The Tiger Slam is collectively having all four trophies at the same time.

Golf Organizations

Augusta National Golf Club

The organization behind The Masters Tournament.

United States Golf Association (USGA)

Organizes the US Open and is responsible for establishing the rules and standards for golf in the United States.

The R&A

This organization is responsible for organizing The Open Championship and governing golf outside the United States and Mexico. The R&A has its base in the United Kingdom.

Professional Golfers’ Association of America (PGA of America)

Organizes the PGA Championship and is also responsible for promoting the growth of golf and the development of golf professionals in the United States.

The Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) is an organization that governs and promotes women’s professional golf.

Golf Slang

Golf isn’t just about swings and putts; it’s a playground of laughter, too. The following are golf terms often used in and around the course. Use and listen to some of these commonly used terms during your next round.

Catchy Golf Terms


A gimme is a short putt conceded by opponents in a friendly match, typically within a putter’s length.


Fore is a warning shout to alert players of an errant shot that might hit them. In golf, yelling fore is the only permissible time when golfers yell. Fore is a serious golf term, not to be taken lightly, and is the most used of this list. When heard on the course, you should protect yourself from getting hit.


A mulligan is a “do-over” shot, where a player gets a second chance to hit the ball, often used in friendly rounds. The mulligan does not exist in competitive golf.


A duff is a poorly struck shot that doesn’t go as intended; we will use the word duff to describe a lousy shot humorously. Duff would classify as a mishit.


A sandbagger is a player who intentionally understates their playing ability to gain an advantage in a match. This action is also known as sandbagging. An example of sandbagging would be a golfer stating they are a ten handicap to gain more strokes when, in reality, they are a five handicap.


When a shot flies over the green, it is often humorously likened to sending the ball by air to the next hole.


A terrible golf shot where the ball is struck off the club’s hosel, often leading to unexpected direction and hilariously referred to as the “hosel rocket.” Shanks are the worst of all mishits.

Dance Floor

In golfing terms, the dance floor is slang for the green or putting surface.

Lip Out

A lip out is when a putt hits the inside edge of the hole with too much speed and circles briskly around the hole without going in, most likely leaving yourself a short putt.


A snowman is when a player gets an eight on a golf hole.


The golf term bite refers to a golfer wanting their ball to stop quickly. A golfer might yell bite when their golf shot appears to be going further than intended.


The golfing yips are involuntary spasms or flinches of the hands with the short game. In lay terms, it is a movement disorder with shorter shots, especially putting.

Ready Golf

Ready golf is when players do not abide by the honor system. The first player who is preparing to hit their ball goes. Ready golf speeds up the pace of play.

Golf Terms Conclusion

In golf, unique words help us understand the game better. These golf terms are like keys that unlock the secrets of how to play. By learning these essential terms, you can become a better golfer, whether just starting or playing for a while.

Learning these words is like having a map for golf. They help you understand what’s happening during the game. So, the next time you’re on the course, use these words to play and talk about golf like an experienced player.

Photo of author


Anthony is the founder of Swingcrafters and a lover of all things golf. Anthony was the individual champion of the 2005 West Virginia State Golf Tournament and worked as the Assistant Golf Professional at Heatherwoode Golf Club in Ohio. He is a career Firefighter/Paramedic and loves the outdoors.