Bob and weave in boxing, can of corn in baseball, alley-oop in basketball, or spitting Chiclets in hockey — every sport has its fair share of slang. So it should come as no surprise that golf is no exception. Whether you’re flubbing a shot, sinking a birdie, or hitting a Texas wedge, learning a bit of golf lingo can give you more insight into the game, make you appear more knowledgeable, and inject a bit of fun into the game.
So if you’re struggling with the slang or you’re merely a beginner, check out the ultimate guide to golf lingo and sound like a natural.
Regardless of how much you’ve played in the past, you should probably step on the golf course with at least a basic level of golf lingo and terminology. While a golf ball, golf bag, and golf club are self-explanatory, add a few of these terms to your lexicon to endear yourself to the veteran players around the club.
If you hit a shot and manage to take a chunk of grass out of the ground, the piece of grass is known as a divot (also referred to as a beaver tail). This is usually a good thing meaning you are hitting down on the ball, but golf etiquette dictates that you should replace these divots as a courtesy to other golfers, the groundskeeper, and the course itself, especially in short grass like the fairway or fringe.
You probably wouldn’t call your office putting green a dance floor, but when you hit a ball onto the green on a golf course, you are "on the dance floor". Like a dance floor, the putting green is free of any other objects and all eyes are on you. Just make sure you putt like nobody’s watching.
A clubhead is just the end of the club that you use to hit the ball while a clubface is the part of the clubhead you use to strike the ball. Hit the ball with the centre of your clubface to rip a great shot, regardless of which club you’re using.
If you really want to impress people, the hosel is the part of the golf club that connects the shaft to the clubhead.
The tee shot is your first shot of each hole. When you take the tee shot, you usually put your golf ball on a tee, hence the name. Moreover, the tee shot takes place on the tee box or teeing ground, which is the marked area where you’re allowed to take your tee shot.
Different skill levels have different tee boxes, so make sure you’re hitting from the right one, or you might hold up the pace of play on the course. And always look for the tee markers, which are two blocks of various colors that show you where to hit your tee shot.
This is the scheduled time when you’re supposed to hit your first tee shot. Arrive about a half-hour before your tee time to pay for the hole, get some practice in, and talk some smack.
Also known in golf slang as a tap-in, a gimme in golf is a very short putt that a golfer is unlikely to miss. In most cases, it’s about 2 to 3 feet from the golf hole, but players in a friendly game can decide this ahead of time or on a case-by-case basis when to issue a "gimme" to save you the time of tapping your 2 foot putt in.
Just keep in mind that gimmes are allowed only in informal settings. If you’re caught taking a gimme in a tournament or when you’re playing for money, you’ll get a penalty stroke.
The place you go to pay for your round, grab a cold drink, get your clubs, mingle with others, and otherwise commiserate or brag about your day on the course.
A caddie is the person who carries your clubs and gives advice on how to take your next shot or what club to use. In the amateur golf ranks, that’s probably you unless you are playing at one of the world's most expensive courses. But in the pros, a caddie is a vital part of top-tier playing — just ask Tiger Woods about his caddie.
If you don’t know what this is, you might want to try tennis.
Golf scoring is already an interesting and confusing idea compared to other sports, considering the lowest score is the best score. But if you’re hitting the golf course for the first time, you may hear scoring terminology thrown around that sounds more like you’re in an aviary than anywhere else. Here are some of the most common golf terms for scoring to help you determine whether you’re sinking a putt for birdie or attempting a chip for double bogey.
A birdie is golf lingo for shooting a one under par. For example, if you shot a 4 on a par-5 hole, you would have a birdie, or a score of -1.
No one’s quite sure where this term came from, but the Atlantic City Country Club claims that the phrase was created on its course in 1903. At the time, “bird” was slang for something good or cool, so a “bird of a golf shot” became a birdie.
Building on the same idea as a birdie, an eagle is slang for shooting two under par on a single hole. If you hit a great fairway shot into the hole on the third stroke of a par-5 that's an eagle. The same goes if you made a hole-in-one (sinking your shot on the first stroke) on a par-3.
Eagles are extraordinarily rare in the sport, with each golfer on the PGA Tour averaging only about three eagles each year.
Also known as a double-eagle, an albatross is another avian term for three under par on a single hole. Hitting a hole-in-one on a par-4 would give you the albatross, which is indescribably rare. According to one study, the odds of getting an albatross are about one in 6 million.
Albatross is aptly used in this sense, as sightings of these birds are extremely rare — just like hitting one on the course.
Bogey is golf lingo for one over par, but it can extend even further depending on how poor your putting game is or whether you’re hitting shots out of bounds. So if you shot a 4 on a par-3, you’d hit a bogey. Two over par is a double bogey, and three over par is a triple bogey. After triple bogey, the term disappears, ostensibly to remove insult to injury.
The idea behind this word comes from a Scottish song that was famous in the 1890s. In the song, the lyrics read, “I’m the bogey man, catch me if you can.” Originally used to describe par, it eventually got pushed out to a shot over par — making it synonymous with the negativity of the bogey man.
If you happen to go beyond triple bogey, you’re probably headed for the dreaded snowman. A snowman is when you shoot an 8 on a hole, named simply because the number 8 looks vaguely like a snowman.
If your golf game is a bit rough around the edges, people might use a few phrases to cut you down to size. It’s all in good fun. But if you learn a few of these phrases and do a few putting drills, you can be the one dishing out the insults. Other than a birdie or albatross, it’s one of the more fun things to do when you’re on the course.
Some people think it’s a slang term for a beginner while others say it’s just a name for a poor golfer. Either way, you probably never want to be referred to as a duffer. Originally, the Scottish term referred to a “dull or stupid person.” Don’t be a duffer.
If you need a blanket and suntan lotion because you’re never going to get off the beach — but you’re on a golf course — you’re probably in the sand trap. Also known as the sand bunker or just bunker, these are the sand-filled holes that pose problems when you’re laying up your approach shots toward the green.
If you hit into the sand trap and the ball lands with a thud, you might have a fried egg. This is when half of the ball is submerged in the sand while the other half remains visible, giving the visual impression of a fried egg.
Like the name generally implies, a water hazard is any body of water that can swallow your golf ball. Stay away from these to avoid a one-stroke penalty.
Multiple stories exist surrounding the phrase mulligan, but all it means for you is that you get another shot without incurring an added stroke. Like a gimme, you should only use these in informal or casual play. Taking a mulligan on your tee shot on hole #1 is referred to as taking a 'Breakfast Ball'.
Think of a worm burner as the equivalent of a line drive in baseball. You hit the ball hard, but it doesn’t get the elevation that you want. Hence, it may stay slightly above the ground and then suddenly skip along the grass.
While worm burners have their place in high winds, don’t be a perennial worm burner.
Keeping your ball on the fairway isn’t always easy, but don’t freak. It’s so common that golf has it’s own phrases for your terrible shots — ones that are perfect for s***-talking or getting in the head of your opponent.
A shank is any shot in a round of golf that doesn’t go where you want it to.
A slice is when your shot curls in the same direction as your handedness. If you’re a right-handed player and your shot flies to the right, it’s a slice. If you’re a lefty and you slice your shot, it goes to the left.
A hook is a shot that goes the opposite direction as whatever your dominant hand is. For example, a right-handed golfer would hook the ball to the left; vice-versa for lefties.
A duck hook is an extreme hook that curls quickly, but never gets any height and goes straight into the ground. It’s usually caused from a closed clubface and is one of the mortal enemies of first-time golfers.
In the spirit of giving you as many golf terms as possible, here’s a quick breakdown of some of the other common golf terms:
Now that you have a basic idea of golf lingo, you can put your knowledge to the test. But the only way to keep your knowledge and skills sharp is by playing regularly. So keep up the practice, hop in on a golf scramble, or organize an outing to Top Golf. The more you play, the better your linguistics and your game will get. Just avoid the ol’ shank and snowman — or you might just get a slang term all your own.