golf terms

Golf Terms: Complete Guide for Beginners (Golf Words to Know)

If you’ve recently just started playing golf for the first time, you’ll want to learn some of the basic golf terms so you can understand these golf terms on the course when you hear playing partners speaking the golf slang.

A few golf terms you might hear early on include “get in your home, shank, slice, hook, draw, plugged,” and if you have no idea what these golf terms mean, no worries because we have you covered below in this in depth guide to golf vocabulary.

Keep reading to see the full list of golf terms, including many golf terms for beginners so you can quickly catch up to speed on learning golf vocabulary used out on the golf course as well as on TV during PGA Tour events.

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Basic Golf Terms for Scoring

Hole-in-One

A hole in one is also known as an Ace. It signifies getting the ball into the hole with just one stroke. A hole in one is most common on a short hole such as a par 3 where your tee shot hit the ball onto the green and the ball rolled into the hole. It’s very rare to get an Ace but it’s a huge accomplishment in the golf world.

Albatross

An albatross is a golf term that represents scoring 3 strokes under the par score for a particular hole. For example, on a Par 5 if you were able to get the ball into the hole in just two strokes, you would have scored an Albatross (-3 under par).

Eagle

An eagle is a golf term for scoring two strokes under par for a particular hole. It’s most common on a Par 5 when a golfer makes it into the hole with just 3 strokes. But it can also happen on a Par 3 when a golfer gets a hole-in one and in rare cases on a Par 4 when the second shot goes in.

Birdie

A birdie is the golf vocabulary word used when a golfer scores one stroke below par for the hole. On a Par 4, for example, a birdie would be scoring a 3. A birdie is a great golf term to get accustomed with because golfers love birdies! It should be your goal to get as many birdies on your scorecard as possible each round of golf.

Par

Par is the expected number of strokes it should take a golfer to get the ball into the hole. Par is determined by the difficulty and length of the hole. Longer distance holes usually have higher par numbers assigned to them since it takes more swings to get the ball to the hole. As a beginner, making par is great! Once you improve at golf, focus on trying to beat par by making birdies and eagles.

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Bogey

A bogey is a golf term for one stroke above par. For example, on a Par 4 if it takes you 5 strokes to get it into the hole, you would have scored a bogey. The goal is par, but sometimes a bogey is the next best score. We want to avoid big numbers like double bogey and triple bogey which we will cover next in this golf vocabulary section.

Double Bogey

A double bogey is making the ball into the hole 2 strokes more than the par for the hole. On a par 5, for example, if you score a 7, you would have made a double bogey. Many beginner golfers will make double bogey scores and the goal is to make as few as possible if you want to shoot a low golf score.

Triple Bogey

Getting even worse on the scorecard would be a triple bogey. This represents 3 strokes worse than par so on a par 5, for example, making an 8 would constitute as a triple bogey. Try to keep triple bogey scores to a minimum during your golf round. They can hurt your score quickly!

Scratch Golfer

A scratch golfer is someone who can score par on the golf course. If par is 72 for the 18 holes, then a scratch golfer would be expected to score 72 or lower.

Handicap

A golf handicap is a scoring system that tracks several rounds of golf and determines your average score. You’re given a handicap number which represents the average number of strokes above par you score. For example, a golfer who averages 80 strokes on a par 72 course after 10 rounds of golf, would receive a handicap of 8, meaning they tend to score 8 strokes above par (72).

Basic Golf Terms for the Golf Course

Pro Shop

This is the facility room at a golf course where you will check in to purchase your round of golf, get the keys to your golf cart and make any other purchases like buying golf balls or snacks.

Golf Cart

The golf cart is an electric vehicle you and your playing partner will drive around the golf course in to get from your ball’s location to the next location. It saves time and energy compared to walking the golf course.

Caddie

Some golf courses will provide you with a caddie. A caddie is someone who follows you around during your golf round and gives you tips and suggestions on how to play the course. They are experienced at knowing where the best places to hit the ball are as well as helpful when it comes to putting and reading the greens for break.

On the PGA Tour, golf pro’s will have a caddie with them carrying their golf clubs and helping them choose which golf club to play based on wind and course conditions.

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Tee Box

The tee box is the designated area where you’ll hit your first shot on each hole. There are tee markers on the tee box that you must remain behind. Don’t tee your ball up in front of these markers or it will cost you a penalty.

Fairway

The fairway is the nicely mowed grass down the middle of the hole when you’re standing on the tee box. The goal is to hit your tee shot onto the fairway. This grass is shorter and thus easier to play from than if your ball would fly left or right of the fairway and end up in the rough (taller grass).

Rough

The long grass on each side of the fairway is called the Rough. Longer grass is more challenging to play from and also can hide your golf ball making it hard to find, sometimes resulting in a lost golf ball penalty.

Green

The green is where the hole is located that you’re trying to get the golf ball into. It’s marked by a flagstick, giving you something to aim at on your approach shot. Getting your golf ball onto the green in as few shots as possible is the goal. You can track a stat called “Greens in Regulation” to help judge your skills and performance over time.

Fringe

On most greens, you’ll notice an outer ring of grass that is slightly longer than the rest of the grass on the green. This outer ring of taller grass is called Fringe. It’s still possible to putt from but you can also chip from it. It doesn’t technically count as being on the green so if you’re tracking Greens in Regulation, fringe won’t count as a green hit.

Fore

If you hear golfers yelling “Fore” while on the golf course it can be quite confusing if you’re new. This golf term is an alert for golfers to watch their heads and protect themselves from a flying golf ball coming their way. When golfers hit a bad golf shot and it starts flying towards a group of people, they yell “fore” to warn those people to watch out for the incoming golf ball.

Out of Bounds

When you hear golfers mention their ball went out of bounds, this golf phrase means the ball went beyond the allowed boundary for the hole. Out of bounds is often marked with white ropes, white lines, or white stakes in the ground. There is a penalty for going out of bounds so try your best to keep the ball in play.

Approach Shot

Approach shot is a golf term for hitting a golf shot at the green. Approach, meaning you’re approaching the green.

Your first shot is called the tee shot and your goal is to get the tee shot onto the fairway. Then your second shot will be your approach shot and the goal is to hit the ball onto the green.

Bunker

Along the golf course you’ll see ground that’s been dug out and filled with a white colored sand. This is known as a sand bunker. It’s meant to make golf more challenging and provide you with an obstacle. Most bunkers are found near the green, guarding the hole to make it more difficult. But there will also be fairway bunkers that serve as obstacles to avoid on your tee shots.

Chip

When you miss the green on your approach shot, you’ll have a short distance left to get the ball onto the green. A chip shot will hit the ball onto the green, covering this small remaining distance you had left to get your ball onto the green.

A chip is a type of golf shot from a short distance to the green and uses a special club known as a wedge, which is short for “chipping wedge.” It doesn’t require a full swing. You’ll take a less powerful swing so the ball can travel the precise distance you have left.

Putt

A putt is when you’re on the green and you use your Putter to hit the ball into the cup. A putt rolls across the green, unlike previous golf shots that flew through the air. Putts stay down on the ground and they roll. The putter is a special club that helps achieve this.

Slope

Slope is a way to measure difficulty of a golf course. Look on your scorecard and you’ll see a slope rating. Golf courses with lots of hills and undulation will usually have a higher slope rating, meaning they are more difficult golf courses than flatter, less sloped courses.

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Golf Terms for the Golf Swing

Slice

A slice is a golf shot that flies with curvature. For right handed players, a slice occurs when the ball curves from the left to the right during flight. For left handed players it would be the opposite with the golf ball flying right to left in the air. A slice is a common swing fault for many beginners and takes some time to correct and straighten out your ball flight.

Hook

The opposite of a slice is a hook. This is when the ball curves severely from right to left for a right handed golfer. It can be difficult to fix and straighten out your swing but a hook tends to travel a further distance than a slice based on the golf ball spin direction.

Pull

A pull is when the golf ball is hit straight left for a right handed golfer. The ball went left of the intended line.

Push

A push is when the golf ball goes straight right of the intended target line.

Draw

A draw is a golf term for a golfer who can shot shape the golf ball to have some curve, but not severe curve like a hook or slice. A draw is a movement of the ball from right to left during it’s flight in the air for a right handed player. A draw is usually preferred by players who want extra distance on their tee shots.

Watch this video on how to hit a draw – golf swing 101

Fade

Fade is the golf term for a less severe slice. This golf shot moves from the left to the right, curving less severely during its flight through the air. It’s a pretty golf shot to be able to pull off when needed on the golf course. A fade can stop quicker, and is a good shot to use for hitting at the green to help the ball stop on the green.

Flop Shot

When chipping, golfers will try to hit high flying, quick stopping chip shots that are pretty to watch but difficult to pull off. The proper golf term for this type of golf chip shot is a flop shot.

Bump n Run

The other type of chip shot is a lower trajectory, more roll chip shot. It gets on the green quicker with less flight time in the air, and thus has to roll further to get to the hole. It’s a safer chip shot for most beginners to learn to play.

Other Golf Terms for Beginners

Gimme Putt

A gimme putt is a putt so close to the hole that your playing partners say “that’s good” and don’t make you finish putting it into the hole. It saves time since the odds are low that you’d miss that short of a putt. It’s used in friendly matches and sometimes in Match Play of tournaments.

Shank

A shank is when the golf ball doesn’t get much height at all. It’s a low, mishit golf shot that ends up not too far from where you hit it. Shanks are bad and if you have the shanks, there are simple golf drills to help fix them.

Snowman

A snowman is a simple golf term for the number “8”. When you look at the number 8, it looks like a snowman and thus when a golfer scores an 8 on a hole, they say “Snowman”

Lip Out

On the putting green you will hit putts that just go over the edge of the cup but don’t go in the hole. These putts can even bend around the hole for a lap or two before staying out of the hole. This is known as a lip out and it’s frustrating to watch happen to your putt.

Yips

The yips are caused by a lack of focus / mental error by the golfer, whether from nerves or a spasm with your muscles during the golf shot. It’s a jerky motion like during the putting or chipping stroke, rather than the normal, calm, controlled motion.

This spasm like movement can cause the ball to go off its intended line and miss the target. For putts, you’d miss the putt. On chip shots, the ball might only travel a few feet in front of you and not make it out of the rough onto the green.

Frequently Asked Golf Questions About Golf Terms

What is a Condor in golf?

A condor is making a 4 under par on a hole. The only way to achieve this would be making a 1 on a par 5.

What is a Cart Path?

The cart path is the road path that runs next to each hole for the golf cart to drive on. Golf carts can leave the cart path if allowed by the golf course, so you could drive on the fairway in addition to cart path. Up by the green however, driving on the green is prohibited so the cart should return to driving on the cart path.

What’s the Lowest Score in Golf?

Rhein Gibson shot a 55 on May 12, 2012 at River Oaks Golf Club in Edmond, Oklahoma. He made 12 birdies and two eagles on a Par 71 golf course, giving him the 16 under par score of 55.

Final Thoughts on Golf Terms

There are many different golf terms to learn. We only covered the basic golf terms for beginners today but if you want to expand your golf vocabulary you can keep reading more golf blogs on our website as well as tune in to watch golf on TV each weekend on NBC or the Golf Channel.

Golf is a massively popular sport around the globe and professionals earn millions of dollars per year playing golf. If you have dreams of bettering your golf skills, starting off by learning golf terms is a smart first choice.

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