Golf Terminology For Beginners

List of Golf Terminology for Beginners

Our list of golf terminology for beginners is comprised of a complete list of all relevant golf terminology we could think of. Some golf terminology is very rarely used so we only listed the golf terminology you most likely will come across on the golf course or in conversation.

Golf terminology for beginners



Abnormal Ground Conditions: An abnormal ground condition refers to any casual water, ground under repair or hole, cast or runway on the golf course which has been made by a burrowing animal, reptile or bird.

Ace: You are said to make an ‘ace’ when you sink your ball in one shot on a par 3 hole.

Address: The way that a golfer positions his or her body immediately before hitting the ball. Every golfer has his or her own unique address.

Alignment: The way that you position the clubface and line up your body at the address.

Amateur: Golf players who play competitive golf but who do not play for prize money. In order to earn prize money from golf tournaments, a player has to compete as a professional.

Approach Shot: A shot which aims to place your ball on the green area.

Away: You are said to be ‘away’ when you are the farthest distance from the hole.


Baby Shot: A shot which is much shorter and softer than would normally be expected from a club which is ordinarily used for that shot.

Back Nine: The second half, or last 9 nines holes, of an 18-hole course.

Backspin: A reverse spin on a golf ball which has been hit towards a target.

Backswing: The initial part of the golf swing which finishes as the club stops moving above your head in preparation for the downswing.

Balata: A type of tree sap which was formerly used the manufacture of golf ball covers.

Ball In Play: A ball is in play as soon as a player makes a stroke on the teeing ground and remains in play until it is holed, except when it is lost, out of bounds or lifted, or another ball has been substituted, whether or not the substitution is permissible. A ball which is substituted becomes the ball in play.

Ball Marker: Any small flat object which is used to mark the position of your ball when it is on the green.

Ball Mark Repair Tool: A fork-shaped tool which is used to fix marks made when your ball lands on the green.

Baseball Grip: A specific grip used to hold the club in which all 10 of your fingers remain in contact with the club grip.

Best Ball: A golf game in which the better score from a 2-person team is counted.

Birdie: You are said to make a ‘birdie’ when you sink your ball in one less shot than the par for a specific hole. For instance, if the hole is a par 4 and you sink your ball in only 3 shots then you have made a birdie.

Blade: A term which can be used as both a noun and a verb. As a noun it is used to describe the club head of an iron. As a verb it refers to hitting the ball on its equator with the bottom of the blade.

Blocked Shot: A blocked shot occurs when a ball is hit straight ahead by a right handed golfer but then sweeps to the right of the intended target.

Bogey: You are said to make a ‘bogey’ when you sink your ball in one more shot than the par for a specific hole. For instance, if the hole is a par 4 and you sink your ball in 5 shots then you have made a bogey.

Break: When you are putting on the green and your ball begins to turn, the term break is used to refer to the amount of turn which occurs.

Breaking Down: The term breaking down refers to the movement of your wrists as you bend them while putting.

Bump & Run: As the name suggests a bump and run describes a ball which is hit into the air flies towards the target and then ‘bumps’ into the ground and ‘rolls’ the rest of the way towards its target.

Bunker: A bunker is a hazard area which is filled with sand in his usually sited near the green or on the fairway.

Golf terminology for beginners


Caddie: Caddies are individuals who are paid to carry your golf clubs around the course for you and who are also able offer advice on how to play the course.

Carry: The carry is a term which refers to how far your golf ball flies through the air.

Cart: A golf carts can either be a small vehicle which players use to drive around the course or a small dolly which travels on 2 wheels and is pulled manually.

Casual Water: Casual water refers to puddles of water which have accumulated on a course as a result of rain, as distinct from designed water hazards on a course.

Cavity Back Iron: A cavity back iron is a particular type of iron which has the majority of the club head’s weight distributed around its perimeter. The back of the club head is basically just a large cavity and this helps to reduce the mass in both the center and the back of the head, thereby creating a bigger head and a larger ‘sweet spot’ on the face.

Certified PGA Professional: A certified PGA professional golf player is any individual who has attained or exceeded the golf teaching standards of the Professional Golfer’s Association of America.

Check: A check refers to the action of the golf ball as it stops rolling as a result of the amount of backspin on it.

Chip: The chip is a shot that is normally played from just off the green.

Closed Face: A club face is described as being ‘closed’ when it points to the left of the target (This term is normally applied to right handed golfers).

Closed Stance: A closed stance refers to a stance in which your body alignment is facing to the right of your intended target (This term is normally applied to right handed golfers).

Club Face: The club face is the bottom part of the golf club which makes contact with the ball.

Clubhouse: A clubhouse is normally an indoor area located on a golf course which provides services such as the golf pro shops, restaurants, restrooms and sometimes conference rooms.

Collar: The collar, which is similar to a fringe, is the strip of grass which runs around the green and which is usually longer in length than the grass on the putting surface.

Coming Over The Top: Coming over the top is a phrase used to describe the movement of the club as it travels through the downswing and into a right-to-left pathway across the ball (for right handed golfers). Another term sometimes for this movement is the out-to-in blow.

Compression: Compression refers to the squeezing in of a golf ball when it is impacted by the head of a golf club.

Course Rating: Every golf course is given a rating which refers to the degree of difficultly of the course. The higher the course rating, the more difficult the golf course is to play.

Crossed Over: Crossed over is the term which describes the shaft of a golf club when it is at the top of the backswing and facing towards the right of the target (for right handed golfers).

Cross Handed: A ‘cross handed’ grip is a specific putting grip in which the left hand is positioned below the right hand (for right handed golfers).

Cup: The cup is simply another word the hole in the green which is the ultimate target for the golf ball.

Cupped Lead Wrist: A cupped lead wrist refers to a backward bend in your lead hand when you strike the ball. The lead hand is the hand which is nearest to the hole once you are set up for your swing. (For a right handed golfer the lead hand is the left hand)

Cut: A cut is another term for a shot which bends towards the right (for right handed golfers).


Deloft: ‘Delofting’ a club is simply decreasing the amount of loft on the club face by tilting your club shaft in the direction of your target.

Dimple: Dimples are small indentations which cover the surface of a golf ball.

Divot: A divot is a small piece of turf which is removed by your golf club when you hit a ball. Divots should be repaired (replaced) as a matter of basic golf course etiquette.

Dogleg: A ‘dogleg’ refers to the curved pathway (right or left) from the tee to the cup.

Double Bogey: You are said to make a ‘double bogey’ when you sink your ball in two more shots than the par for a specific hole. For instance, if the hole is a par 4 and you sink your ball in 6 shots then you have made a double bogey.

Double Eagle: The double eagle describes the completion of a hole in 3 shots under par.

Downhill Lie: A downhill lie refers to a stance in which your front foot is below your back foot when you are addressing the ball.

Draw: A draw describes a shot which bends to the left (for right handed golfers).

Drive: The drive is the initial shot on each hole which is taken from the tee.

Driver: The driver is the longest club in your golf bag and is the club which gives you greater distance than any other golf club.

Driving Range: A driving range is an off-course facility which is designed to allow golfers to practice their swing. Driving ranges has individual ‘booth-like’ areas from which you can practice hitting balls as long and as far as you want. In some cases driving ranges also have areas for you to practice your short game.

Drop: A drop is the practice of returning your ball to the course by dropping it onto the playing surface after it has been hit out of bounds or into an area from which it is unplayable.

Duff: To duff is simply to miss or totally mess up a shot.


Eagle: You are said to make an ‘eagle’ when you sink your ball in two less shots than the par for a specific hole. For instance, if the hole is a par 5 and you sink your ball in only 3 shots then you have made an eagle. You can also ‘eagle’ a par 3 hole but, in this case, you are said to have made an ‘ace’.

Executive Course: An executive course is a small 9-hole par 3 course that can be played in under 2 hours.

Explosion Shot: An explosion shot is a bunker shot which sends an ‘explosion’ of sand flying through the air.


Fade: A fade is a shot which sends the ball veering slightly to the right (for right-handed golfers).

Fairway: The fairway is the entire in-bounds distance which runs from the tee to the green and which is kept neatly trimmed.

Fat: A ‘fat’ occurs whenever your clubface strikes the ground before hitting the ball.

Flagstick: The flagstick is the flagged pole that rests inside the cup to mark the position of the hole on each green.

Flex: Flex refers to the amount of bend within the shaft of a golf club.

Flier Lie: A flier lie is the lie that you have after you take a swing and too much grass comes between the ball and your clubface. This also has a tendency to reduce the amount of backspin on the ball.

Flop Shot: This is a form of pitch shot which shoots the ball high up into the air after which it falls short and lands softly.

Follow Through: Having taken your swing and made contact with the ball, the ‘follow through’ refers to the subsequent movement of your club and your body.

Forecaddie: A forecaddie is an individual employed by the Committee to indicate the position of balls to players during play and is an outside agency.

Fore: The word ‘fore’ is shouted loudly as a warning signal when a ball is hit and heading in the direction of another player.

Forms of Match Play:

  • Single. A match where one player plays against another player.
  • Threesome. A match where one player plays against two other players and where each side plays one ball.
  • Foursome. A match where two players play against two other players and where each side plays one ball.
  • Three-Ball. Three players play a match against one another with each playing his own ball. In effect, each player is playing two distinct matches.
  • Best-Ball. A match where one player plays against the better ball of two other players or the best ball of three other players.
  • Four-Ball. A match where two players play their better ball against the better ball of two other players.

Forms of Stroke Play:

  • Individual. A competition where every competitor plays as an individual.
  • Foursome. A competition where two competitors play as partners and play one ball.
  • Four-Ball. A competition where two competitors play as partners with each playing his own ball. The lower score of the partners is taken as the score for the hole. If one partner does not complete the play on a hole then there is no penalty.
golf terminology for beginners

Fringe: The fringe is a collar of grass which surrounds the green in which the length of this grass is typically shorter than that of the fairway but longer than the green itself.

Front Nine: The first half, or first 9 nines holes, of an 18-hole course


Gimme: A ‘gimme’ occurs when your ball lies on the green so close to the hole that your playing partner does not require you to actually hit the ball in.

Glove: Golfers typically wear a glove on their lead hand to help their grip.

Grain: The grain refers to the direction in which the grass on the green is growing.

Green: The green area is a closely mowed area on which the hole is situated. It is also referred to as the putting surface.

Green In Regulation: This is a term used for getting your ball onto the green in one shot on a par 3 hole, in two shots on a par 4 hole, or in three shots on a par 5 hole.

Greens Fee: This is the sum of money charged for playing a round of golf.

Grip: The grip refers to either the manner in which you hold your club or the rubber covering on the shaft of a club where you place your hands.

Grooves: Grooves are the etched lines on the face of the club which are designed to help you to put the desired backspin on the ball.

Ground Under Repair: Ground under repair refers to any part of the course marked as such by order of the Committee. All of the ground (and any tree, bush, grass or other growing thing) within the ground under repair are deemed to be part of the ground under repair. Ground under repair includes such things as material piled for removal or a hole made by a greenkeeper. Grass cuttings and other similar material left on the course which have been abandoned and which it is not intended to remove are not considered to be ground under repair unless so marked.


Handicap: A handicap is a system of adjustment to the score system so that golfers of different skill levels can compete with one another without the better players dominating the game.

Hard Pan: Hard pan refers to areas of ground on the golf course that are extremely hard-packed.

Hazard: Hazards are area of the golf course (typically sand and water) which are designed to make life difficult for players.

Hole: The hole (or cup) is the ultimate target for the golf ball on each hole.

Holed Out: A player is said to ‘hole out’ when his ball enters the hole.

Honor: To be ‘given the honor’ is to be granted the privilege of playing first within your group.

Hook: A hook shot is a shot which bends to the left (for right-handed golfers).

Hosel: The hosel is the part of the clubhead which attaches it to the shaft of the club.


Impact: Impact refers to the moment at which that you hit the ball and the clubface ‘impacts’ the ball.

Impediment: An impediment is loose debris around the ball which is obstructing your shot and which can be moved away from your ball.

Interlocking Grip: This is a form of grip in which the index finger of one hand is ‘interlocked’ with the small (pinky) finger of the other hand.

Iron: An iron is a club which uses a metallic blade for the clubhead. Most golfers carry in the region of 8-10 irons which range from a number 2 iron to a sand wedge. Each club is designed to provide a different degree of loft on the ball.


Lag Putt: A lag putt is a long putt the goal of which is to have the ball stop within a short distance (typically 2 feet or less) of the hole.

Laid Off: This occurs when the club shaft is pointing to the left of the target at the top of the backswing (for right-handed golfers).

Lateral Water Hazard: A lateral water hazard is a water hazard or that portion of a water hazard which is situated so that it is impossible, or impracticable, to drop a ball behind the water hazard. All of the ground and water within the margin of a lateral water hazard are considered to be part of the lateral water hazard.

Lay Up: This term refers to a shot which is deliberately intended to fall short of the green in order to avoid getting into trouble.

Lie: The lie is the position of your ball following a shot and, in particular, refers to the condition of the ground in the area in which the ball has landed.

Line of Play: The line of play is the direction which a player wants his ball to take after playing a stroke, together with a reasonable distance on either side of the intended direction. The line of play is considered to extend vertically upwards from the ground, but does not however extend beyond the hole.

Line of Putt: The line of putt is the line that a player wants his ball to take following a stroke on the putting green. The line of putt includes a reasonable distance on either side of the intended line but does not extend beyond the hole.

Lip Out: A lip out occurs when the golf ball travel right up to the hole and teeters on the edge of the cup but, instead of dropping into the hole, rolls back from the hole.

Loft: Loft can refer to the angle that the head of a golf club with the ground and to the relative height to which a particular club will hit the ball.

Loose Impediments: Loose impediments are natural objects including leaves, twigs, branches, stones, dung, worms and insects (and the casts and heaps made by them) which are not growing or fixed, solidly embedded or ahering to the ball.

golf terminology for beginners

Lost Ball: A ball is said to be lost if:

  • It is not found (or identified as his) by the player within five minutes after the player, his partner(s) or caddies(s) have begun to search for it.
  • The player has hit a provisional ball from the spot where the original ball is likely to be or from a point nearer the hole than that place.
  • The player has put another ball into play under the penalty of stroke and distance.
  • The player has put another ball into play because it is known or almost certain that the ball has been moved by an outside agency, is in an obstruction, is in an abnormal ground condition or is in a water hazard.
  • The player has made a stroke at a substituted ball.


Marker: A marker is an individual who is appointed by the Committee to record a competitor’s score in stroke play. A marker may be a fellow competitor. The role of the marker is solely to record the competitor’s score and he is not a referee.

Match play: This term refers to the original manner in which golf was played, which was on a hole-to-hole basis. The player with the lowest score on the first hole is the winner of that hole and goes ‘one up’. If that player is then the winner on the second hole then he goes ‘two up’ and this scoring pattern continues for each hole thereafter. Should you lose a hole then you go ‘down one’ and if a hole is tied you then ‘halve’ the hole. The outcome of the matchplay is decided by how many holes you are either up or down by in relation to the number of holes left. For instance, if you are 4 up with only 3 holes left in the game then you are the winner of the match.

Mulligan: A mulligan is an illegal second attempt at a shot which went wrong.

Municipal Course: This is a golf course which is both owned and operated by the local authority and is also often referred to as a ‘muni’.


Nuked Shot: A nuked shot is a shot which is hit far harder and longer than you would normally hit the ball with a particular club.

Nearest Point Of Relief: The nearest point of relief is the reference point used for taking relief without a penalty from interference by an immovable obstruction, an abnormal ground condition or a wrong putting green.

Neutral Grip: This grip is one in which a right-handed golfer is able to see 2 knuckles of the left hand when looking down at the grip during address.

Neutral Stance: This stance is one in which both feet are in line and parallel to the target line.


Observer: An observer is an individual who is appointed by the Committee to assist a referee in deciding questions of fact. An observer is also responsible for reporting any breach of a Rule.

Obstruction: An obstruction is anything which is artificial (including the artificial surfaces and sides of roads and paths and manufactured ice) except:

  • Objects defining out of bounds areas, such as walls, fences, stakes and railings.
  • Any portion of an immovable artificial object which is out of bounds.
  • Any construction which is declared by the Committee to be an integral part of the course.

An obstruction is said to be a movable obstruction if it can be moved without undue effort, without overly delaying play and without causing damage.

Open Face: The club is said to have an ‘open’ face when it is aligned to the right of the target line (for right-handed golfers).

Open Stance: This stance in one in which your body alignment points towards the left of the target when set up (for right-handed golfers).

Out-of-Bounds: This is the area which is outside of the course and which is often marked with white stakes.

Out-to-in Blow: This term is simply another way of saying ‘Coming Over The Top’ which describes the movement of the club as it travels through the downswing and into a right-to-left pathway across the ball (for right handed golfers).

Outside Agency: In match play, an outside agency is any agency other than either the player’s or opponent’s side, any caddie of either side, any ball played by either side at the hole being played or any equipment of either side. In stroke play, an outside agency is any agency other than the competitor’s side, any caddie of the side, any ball played by the side at the hole being played or any equipment of the side.

An outside agency includes a referee, a marker, an observer and a forecaddie. Wind nor water are not considered to be outside agencies.


Partner: A partner is a player who is associated with another player on the same side. In threesome, foursome, best-ball or four-ball play, where the context so admits, the word player is taken to include his partner or partners.

Penalty Stroke: A penalty stroke is one which is added to the score of a player or side as specified within the rules. When playing in a threesome or foursome, penalty strokes do not affect the order of play.

Provisional Ball: A provisional ball is a ball played for a ball which may be lost outside a water hazard or which may be out of bounds.

Putting Green: The putting green is all of the ground surrounding the hole being played which is specially prepared for putting or otherwise defined as such by the Committee. A ball is said to be on the putting green when any part of the ball touches the putting green.


Referee: A referee is an individual appointed by the Committee to accompany players in order to decide questions of fact and to apply the rules. He is obliged to act on any breach of a rule which he observes or which is reported to him. A referee ought not to attend the flagstick, stand at or otherwise mark the position of the hole, or lift a ball or mark its position.

Rub of the Green: A rub of the green is said to occur when a ball which is in motion is accidentally deflected or stopped by an outside agency.


Stance: A player is said to be taking his stance when he places his feet in position for and in preparation of making a stroke.

Stipulated Round: The stipulated round consists of playing the holes of the course in their correct order (unless otherwise authorized by the Committee) and the number of holes in a stipulated round is 18 (unless a smaller number is authorized by the Committee).

Stroke: A stroke is the forward movement of the club made with the intention of striking at and moving the ball. Should a player check his downswing voluntarily before the clubhead reaches the ball then he has not made a stroke.

Substituted Ball: A substituted ball is a ball which is put into play in place of the original ball which was in play, lost, out of bounds or lifted.


Tee: A tee is simply a device which is designed to raise the ball off the ground. A tee must not be longer than 4 inches and it must not be either designed or manufactured in a manner which would enable it to indicate the line of play or to influence the movement of the ball.

Teeing Ground: The teeing ground is the starting point for each hole. It is a rectangular area of ground two club lengths in depth the front and sides of which are defined by two tee-markers.

Through The Green: Through the green refers to the whole area of the course except for the teeing ground, the putting green of the hole being played and any hazard areas.


Water Hazard: A water hazard is any sea, lake, pond, river, ditch, surface drainage ditch or other open water course (whether or not it contains water) and anything of a similar nature on the course.

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