Golf Terms Every Beginner Golfer Should Know

 

There are tons of golf terms out there but you’ll get overwhelmed if you try learning them all right away. If you are just beginning to learn how to play, you can start with these common phrases that every golfer should know. Once you’ve memorized these, you can move on and learn all of the slang golf phrases and maybe even a few golf puns!

 
 
 


The Golf Course

 
Golf ball next to hole with flagpole
 


Tee Box

The area where you start each hole on a golf course. It can be called “tee”, “tee box” or “teeing ground”. The boundaries of this area are defined by a pair of tee markers. Learn about its origins here.


 
Tee box on golf course with bench and trees
 

Fairway

The area that runs between the tee box and the putting green of a golf hole. This does not include the rough, trees, or hazards.

The fairway grass is cut short enough so it’s easier to hit shots off of, but it’s not cut as short as the grass on the green where you putt the ball into the hole. The goal is to hit your first stroke (tee shot) onto the fairway to avoid the hazards (water, sand, etc.) and longer grass (the rough).

Green

Also known as the “putting green”, this is the smooth grassy area where the flagstick and hole are located. Greens can vary widely in shape and size.

After the ball lands on the green, the player uses a putter to roll the ball into the hole. Every hole on a golf course ends at the putting green, and getting the ball into the hole is the object of the game.

 
Golf green with white flagpole and bench
 

Rough

The unkept area with taller grass outside of the fairway where it is usually difficult to hit the ball from. Some golf courses cut their rough at different heights making it more difficult to hit the ball the farther you get from the fairway.

Penalty Areas

Difficult obstacles on a golf course designed to be hazardous to one’s score. This term changed from “hazard” in 2019. Penalty areas are where a ball is often lost or unable to be played, such as in ponds, lakes, and streams.

Bunker

Commonly known as a “sand trap” in today’s golf terminology, bunkers are shallow pits filled with sand. The ball is oftentimes more difficult to be played from here than from grass since there is usually a raised barrier that borders the sand. “Beach” is a slang term for a bunker.

 
Sand trap with raised grass border
 

Front Nine

The first nine holes of an eighteen-hole golf course.

Back Nine

The last nine holes of an eighteen-hole golf course.

Casual Water

Water on the golf course that accumulated (usually after heavy rains) but is not part of a penalty area. The player is allowed to move the ball without penalty.

Divots

Marks made in the grass caused by golfers as they play.

Gameplay

Round

Typically eighteen holes of golf.

 
Woman swinging a driver to hit the golf ball off of the tee
 

Stroke

This term is used when making a swing at the golf ball.

Drive

The shot off the tee when a golfer takes their first stroke on every hole.

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Tee

A small peg that is used to rest your ball on and raise it off the ground. Tee’s are usually only used from the tee box.

Fore!

Golfers yell this when their ball is in danger of landing near or hitting another golfer or group of players on the course. This is considered good golf etiquette since the other players will have a chance to turn in the direction of your voice and look out for the ball to avoid injury.

Putt

A golf stroke made on a putting green in an effort to cause the ball to roll into the hole.

Away

If you hear someone ask “who’s away?” they are referring to the golfer whose ball is farthest from the hole. It’s like asking “who’s next to play?”

Ball Mark

The indentation your ball makes when it lands on the green.

Ball Marker

Any small object used to mark the position of a golf ball that has been lifted off the green. Coins are commonly used as ball markers.

Caddy

A person who carries or handles a player’s clubs during a round of golf. They are also responsible to clean the golfers club after they use it. Not to be confused with an electric golf caddy which is a motorized golf trolley.

The Turn

The halfway point in a round of golf.

Duff

A bad shot typically due to very little contact being made between the club and the ball.

Explosion Shot

When a golfer swings their club down into the sand just under and behind the ball to get it out of a sand trap.

 
Woman hitting a golf ball out of a sand trap
 

Overclub

Using a club that causes the shot to go too far. If you’re just learning how to play, there are golf clubs for beginners that are easier to use.

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Approach

An approach shot is a full swing golf stroke a golfer makes intending to land the ball on the green.

Mulligan

A do-over which is only used during casual play since these aren’t allowed in competitions. You get to replay your stroke from the spot of your previous stroke without penalty after you hit a bad shot.

Chip Shot

A shot that has more ground time than air, with very little carry and more time bouncing and rolling on the green. This shot often occurs within a few yards from the green and requires a smaller swing than a pitch shot

Pitch Shot

Longer than a chip shot but not long enough to be classified as a full swing. A pitch shot spends more time in the air than on the ground but is designed to go a short distance.

Bank Shot

This is a term that was borrowed from pool. It describes a shot that bounces off something like a mound, tree, or structure, and returns to the fairway or green.

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Scoring

 
Golf score card with tee and ball on top
 

Handicap

A system used to rate a golfer's potential to enable players of varying abilities to compete against one another. Someone who just started learning how to play golf would have a higher handicap. Better players are those with the lowest handicaps. There is a section to record this on your scorecard.

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Ace

When you hit the ball in the hole in one stroke. Also known as a “hole in one”.

Par

Every golf hole has a par assigned to it based on difficulty and length. This is the golf score that an expert player would be expected to make for a given hole.

Birdie

If your score on any given hole is one stroke under par.

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Eagle

If your score on any given hole is two strokes under par.

Albatross or Double Eagle

If your score on any given hole is three strokes under par.

Bogey

If your score on any given hole is one stroke over par.

Double Bogey

If your score on any given hole is two strokes over par.

Triple Bogey

If your score on any given hole is three strokes over par.

Penalty Stroke

A stroke added to your score for a golf rules violation.

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