The game of golf is much easier to understand when you know what the most common golf terms and lingo mean.
You’ll find more than 150 golf definitions below. This glossary is in alphabetical order so that you can scroll down to find the definition for the words you don’t yet know.
You can also use the links below to skip around based on the number or letter the golf term starts with.
19th hole – The bar or restaurant, which players often visit after playing a normal round of golf (18 holes).
Ace – A hole in one.
Address – When a golfer sets up to hit the ball. The golfer takes their stance and places their club behind the ball.
Aerification – The process of punching holes into the greens so that air can get into the soil under the green.
All square – When both players or teams have won the same number of holes in match play.
Albatross – A hole played three strokes under par.
Alternate shot – A format in which two golfers play as partners using only one ball. They take turns on each stroke.
Animal – A betting game played over nine holes that uses the name of animals to track situations that happen on the golf course within your group.
Approach – Any shot a golfer makes with the intent of hitting the putting green.
Apron – A section of the course where the grass is cut slightly higher than the putting green and slightly lower than the fairway. Similar to a fringe or collar.
Away – Describes whose ball is farthest away from the hole. The player who is away plays their ball first.
Back nine – The 10th to 18th holes. The second half of a golf round. Playing the back nine is called “heading in.”
Backspin – A spin that rotates towards the player which happens when the golfer hits the ball. Backspin causes the ball to stop faster after it lands.
Back tees – The tees furthest away from the hole. Also called “the tips.”
Backswing – The first part or half of the golf swing where the club is moving away from the ball and often above and behind the golfer’s head. Also called the take-away.
Ball marker – An item or token used to spot the ball’s position on the putting green before the golfer picks up their ball.
Bank shot – A shot that bounces off a mound, tree, or structure and returns to the fairway or putting green. A term borrowed from pool/billiards.
Beach – Another term for a sand bunker.
Bentgrass – A type of grass used on golf courses. Known for allowing balls to roll fast and smooth on the putting greens.
Bermuda grass – A popular type of grass used on golf courses.
Best ball – A team format used in golf tournaments. The score for each hole is the best score of at least one of the teammates. Often mistakened for a Scramble.
Bingo, bango, bongo – A points-based game that you can play between two or more golfers. Players earn points for being the first on the green, the closest to the pin once all balls are on the green, and who holes out first.
Birdie – A hole played one under par.
Bite – A shot that stops abruptly on the green because of the high rate of backspin.
Block – A shot that goes straight right (for a right-hander) of the target with no curve.
Bogey – A hole played one stroke over par.
Bracket – A tournament tree diagram used during knockout tournaments.
Break – The amount a putt moves from right to left or left to right on a green due to the slope or grain in the green.
Bump and run – A chip shot from just outside the green that spends more time rolling than it does in the air.
Bunker – A shallow pit filled with sand. Also known as a sand trap.
Caddie – Someone who helps the golfer by carrying their bag/clubs, figuring out yardage, reading the greens, and providing moral support.
Cart path – The path used by golf carts.
Casual water – A temporary build up of water on the course that is not a water hazard and is visable before/after you address the ball.
Chip – A shot played from near the green. Usually spends more time rolling towards the target than flying (unlike a pitch shot). Part of the “short game.”
Choke down – To grip further down the club. Also known as choking up.
Chunk – To hit the ground before you hit the ball. Also known as a “fat” shot.
Club fitting – Measuring a golfer’s physical dimensions and their golf swing to build clubs with the proper lie and shaft flex. Can eliminate many errors due to playing with clubs that don’t fit.
Coming over the top – Overusing the upper body on the downside which results in the club going outside the swing plane and hitting the golf from the outside in.
Dance floor – A term used for the putting green.
Deep – A flagstick or hole that is towards the back of the green.
Divot – A chunk of turf taken from the ground during a golfer’s swing.
Dogleg – A fairway that is crooked, that bends to the left or right.
Double bogey – A hole played two strokes over par.
Double cross – A shot that flies in the opposite direction from where the golfer meant to hit it.
Downswing – The second part of the swing when you hit the ball. Comes after the backswing.
Drained – To sink a putt. Also known as to “hole out” or “holing out.”
Draw – A ball that curves to the left (for a right-handed golfer). Describes the ball’s flight path.
Drive – A long distance shot played from the tee box, usually with a driver. Also known as the tee shot.
Driver – The club with the biggest head, longest shaft, and the least loft. This is used to hit the ball long distances off a tee (usually on par 4 and 5 holes).
Duck hook – A shot that curves hard to the left of your target (for right-handed golfers).
Duff – A badly mishit shot.
Eagle – A whole played two strokes under par.
Executive course – A shorter course with more par 3-holes than a standard golf course. The name “executive” came from the customers these courses attracted – business executives who would play the course on lunch breaks or for meetings.
Explosion shot – A shot made from the bunker, usually spraying sand (and hopefully sending the ball) onto the green.
Fade – A shot in which the ball curves slightly to the right (for a right-hander).
Fairway – The part of a course between the tee box and putting green where the grass is cut short.
Fat (shot) – When your club hits the ground before you hit the ball. Also known as a chunk shot or chunking.
Flag – Attached to a (flag)stick. The flag is several feet high and is used to pinpoint the cup for that hole.
Flop shot – A shot used to get onto the green and stop quickly. Often used to get over hazards (like a bunker) or when the golfer is short-sided.
Fly the green – A shot that goes over the green.
Flyer – A shot that goes further than intended.
Follow through – The last part of the swing in which the golfer’s weight is on their lead foot, their chest and hips are facing the target, and the club is done rotating.
Fore! – A warning golfers shout when they mishit the ball in the direction of other people.
Fried egg – A term used for a golf ball buried in a sand bunker. It looks like a fried egg.
Front nine – The first nine holes on an 18-hole golf course.
Gimme – A shot that other players agree can count without being played, such as a short putt. One stroke is counted, but they don’t play the ball.
Grain – The direction the blades of grass are growing or facing on the green. The grain influences the speed and roll of the ball.
Green – The putting green where the hole is located. This is the culmination of the golf hole.
Green fees – The fees golf courses charge to gain access to the course (to play a round of golf).
Green in regulation – To get the ball onto the green within two or fewer strokes of par for that hole.
Greenie – When you hit your tee shot onto the green on a par-3 and make par or better.
Grip – The top part of the club you hold in your hands. The grip helps you hold onto the club.
Gross score – The total number of strokes taken during your round of golf including penalty strokes.
Hacker – Someone who is bad at playing golf or has bad golf etiquette.
Halfway house – A hut between the 9th and 10th holes that provides refreshments.
Handicap – A numerical measure of a golfer’s potential. The lower the handicap, the better a golfer is.
Hard pan – An extremely hard (and bare) lie.
Hazard – Anything on the golf course that is hazardous to a golfer’s score including obstacles like water (lakes/streams) and bunkers (sand traps).
Honors – A side bet in which a golfer (or the “side”) earns a point every time they earn the honor on the tee. The side keeps teeing off first until the other side wins a hole.
Hook – A right to left ball flight (for a right-handed golfer).
Hosel – The part of the golf club that connects the shaft to the club head.
Hot – A shot that goes faster or farther than intended.
Iron – A type of club that is made of iron or steel that has a shorter shaft and smaller clubhead compared to woods and rivers.
Knockdown – A type of golf shot in which the golfer intentionally hits the ball lower than normal.
Lag putt – A long putt.
Lie – Refers to how the golf ball is positioned on the course. A good lie makes it easier for the golfer to hit the ball clean. A bad lie makes it difficult. Lie also refers to the clubhead angle coming off the shaft.
Links – Golf courses on coastal sand dunes. Links comes from the Old English word “rising ground, ridge.”
Lip out – When a putted ball touches the lip of the cup and doesn’t fall in, but changes direction and continues rolling instead.
Loft – Refers to the angle of the clubhead that affects the golf balls trajectory and distance. Drivers have the least loft. Wedges have the most loft.
Match play – A format where each player or team earns a point for each hole they beat their opponents on.
Mulligan – A second chance to play a stroke. A do-over.
Nassau – A type of golf bet. There are three separate bets. One is for the front nine, one is for the back nine, and one is for the total round. This betting format is usually used with match play but can also be used with other types.
Out of Bounds (OB or OOB) – Area outside the golf course in which you’re not allowed to play. Balls hit OOB usually incur a (one or two stroke) penalty.
Pace of play – How quickly you play a hole or go from hole to hole. Tournaments often have rules for “pace of play” to prevent players from taking to long to make a play.
Par – The number of strokes you have to get the ball in the cup to earn a “0” or even on your scorecared. All other scores and score names are based off the number of strokes to achieve par.
Pitch – A shot often made with a high lofted club with the intent of hitting the ball high over a short distance (40-50 yards or closer). Pitches or pitch shots usually spend more time in the air than they do rolling on the ground.
Pitch mark – Another name for divot – a mark the club leaves in the turf at the bottom of the golfer’s swing.
Playing the tips – The rearmost set of tees. The tees furthest away from the hole.
Playing through – An invitation to a faster or smaller group of players to pass ahead of a larger and/slower group.
Poley – A side game in which a player earns a point from each player for sinking a putt longer than the length of the flagstick.
Press – A second bet that joins and runs concurrently with the first and original bet. The second bet is usually for the same amount as the first bet. The second bet is “pressing” the (original) bet.
Pull – A shot in which the ball flight starts on the left of the target and travels straight, ending up on the left side of the target (for a right-handed golfer).
Pull cart – A cart with 2-4 wheels that you use to carry your golf bag around the golf course instead of on your person.
Punching the greens – Aerating the putting. Punching holes into the green so that air can circulate into the soil.
Pure – A perfect golf strike. To hit the ball on the club’s sweet spot.
Putt – A stroke made using a putter on the putting green.
Putter – A type of golf club used for “putting” on the green.
Rangefinder – A device you use to determine the yardage between your ball and the flag. Used for other activities too such as hunting and forestry.
Ranger – A person who patrols the golf course and driving range to ensure the golfers are following the course’s rules and regulations.
Rating – A rating that tells you how difficult a golf course plays. The course rating tells the world’s best golfers how hard it is for them, while the slope rating tells recreational players how hard the course is for them.
Ready golf – A method used to speed up play. Instead of the person furthest away from the pin hitting first, whoever is “ready” will hit next.
Rickshaw – A pull cart with two large tires.
Rough – The area of grass on the outside of the fairway that has higher and thicker grass. The rough is harder to hit from compared to the fairway.
Round – One time through all the holes on a golf course.
Sand trap – Another name for the (sand) bunker. A pit filled with sand that is incredibly hard to hit out of.
Sandbagger – A term applied to cheaters who pretend to be worse golfers than they are to win a tournament or bet.
Scramble – A golf tournament format with two or more players on a team. Each teammate hits a tee shot, but from there you play the best shot.
Scratch – A player with a course handicap of zero on any/all rated golf courses.
Shamble – A type of golf tournament where each teammate hits a drive and then everyone hits their own ball from the position of the best drive. Similar to a scramble but uses stroke play after the drive.
Shank – A shot in which you hit the golf ball with the hosel (on your club) instead of the club face. Shanks often go to the right (for a right-handed golfer).
Short sided – The ball is positioned near the green where they have less putting green to work with relative to the pin.
Shotgun start – A golf tournament format in which groups of golfers tee off simultaneously from different holes.
Skins – A gambling format where each hole has a set value. The golfer that wins a hole is said to win the “skin” and whatever that skin is worth.
Skull (shot) – To hit the ball with the leading edge of your ironor wedge. Also known as “blading the shot” or “hitting it thin.”
Slice – A golf shot in which the ball curves from left to right (for a right-handed golfer).
Slope – The difficulty rating of the golf course that ranges from 55-155.
Smoked – A great (far, straight) drive onto the fairway.
Snake – A golf betting game that “bites” the member of your group that has the most recent 3-putt at the end of your round. This players owes the rest of the players in your group money.
Snowman – A score of 8 on any hole (8 strokes over par).
Stableford – A scoring system that doesn’t count the total number of strokes taken but instead awards points based on the number of strokes taken.
Starter – A person who controls the pace of play on the golf course by directing players to the first tee at specific times.
Sticks – Another term used for golf clubs.
Stimpmeter – A device used to determine the speed of the putting green.
Stroke play – A scoring system that determines your score by the number of swings you taken over the course of a round. Also known as medal play.
Sucker pin – A pin positioned close to a bunker, out of bounds, or water hazard.
Sweet spot – The best spot on the golf club to hit the ball for optimal results.
Tap in – A short putt.
Tee – A stationary stand you put in the ground that is used to elevate the ball off the ground. Used during tee shots.
Tee box – The area on each hole where players tee off.
Texas wedge – A shot off the green in which the player decides to hit with a putter instead of a different club like a wedge or iron.
The turn – After the 9th hole or halfway through a golf round where you “turn” for home.
Thin (shot) – A golf shot in which the golfer strikes the top of the ball. Thin shots struggle to get airborn.
Three putt – When it takes you three strokes on the green to sink a putt.
Triple bogey – Three over par for a hole (+3).
Twilight rate – A discounted rate for playing a round that most golf courses offer after 2pm-4pm. Rates are cheaper as the day goes on as there’s less time to play a round of golf.
Twitchies – A wrist spasm that affects you when you putt. Also called the “yips.”
Two putt – When it takes you two strokes on the green to sink a putt.
Up and down – When it takes you two strokes to get the ball in the cup when starting from just outside the green (fringe or bunker). You hit the ball onto the green and one-putt.
Waggle – A motion made with your wrists where your hands stay over the golf ball but your wrists mimic the start of a backswing. Many players feel waggling is important because it loosens and readies your body for the backswing.
Wolf – A team based game in which the teams change on every hole. One player is designated the wolf on every hole. The wolf decides to hunt alone against his three opponents or partner with one of them. The hole is won by the better score.
Wood – A golf club that has a longer shaft and larger, rounder head compared to irons and wedges.
Worm burner – A term used for a golf shot that barely comes off the ground or doesn’t come off the ground at all. A hard hit ground ball.
Yips – A wrist spasm that impacts golfers when they try to putt.