If you're new to golf, the first thing you should do is familiarize yourself with basic golf terms.
This will give you confidence on the course and help you focus on the game instead of on trying to decode what your golf partner is saying.
We have compiled a guide, arranged alphabetically for convenience.
Let's get started!
Basic Terms and Definitions Used In Golf
Albatross — a case when a golfer is three shots under par on a hole—for example, when a golfer completes a par-5 hole completed in two shots. This has more to do with luck than skill.
Bag — a bag for clubs. It has several compartments for different types of clubs, and is equipped with many pockets, an umbrella holder, carrying straps, a rain cover, and more.
Birdie — a case when a golfer is one shot under par on a hole. For example, if the hole is par-3, then a birdie means completing the hole in two shots instead of three. On a par-3 hole, you'd need to get the ball onto the green in one shot and then get it into the hole with a second shot.
Bogey — a case when a golfer is one shot over par on a hole. A double bogey means going two shots over par, a triple bogey means going three shots over par, etc. On a par-3 hole, a bogey is four shots, a double bogey is five shots, and a triple bogey is six shots.
Bunker — a sand trap specifically added to the course to complicate the game. Bunkers can be located on fairways or near greens and can vary in depth.
Caddy — the golfer's assistant who carries the clubs and has the right to advise the golfer during the game.
Cart — a small electric or gasoline-powered vehicle used to move around the course. The vehicle may also be known as a buggy or a golf cart.
Chip — a short-range, low-trajectory shot. After landing, the ball rolls a relatively long distance. This shot is usually used when playing in close proximity to the green.
Collar — the section of the course around the green. It's trimmed shorter than the fairway but longer than the green.
Divot — a piece of turf that is knocked out when the ball is hit.
Draw — a shot that makes the ball fly straight after being hit but then curve to the left for right-handers or to the right for left-handers.
Driver — a club used for the first shot on the course. It allows striking distances of up to 350 yards. It has the smallest loft and the longest handle. It's also known as a 1-wood.
Drive — a long-distance shot performed from the tee box to send the ball as close to the green as possible. Golfers use the driver club for drives.
Eagle — a case when a golfer is two shots under par on a hole. On a par-5 hole, this would mean completing the hole in 3 shots.
Fade — when the ball flies straight after being hit but then deviates slightly to the right for right-handed players or to the left for left-handed players.
Fairway — the stretch of the course from the teeing ground to the green. It has short grass, up to 50mm. Fairways come in a variety of widths, shapes, slopes, and more.
Flight — a group of golfers that starts and plays together during an event or tournament.
Fore — the word golfers shout to warn others that they are in danger of being hit by the ball.
Green — the part of the golf course with the shortest grass. The hole is on the green.
Greenkeeper — a specialist who maintains the course and monitors its condition. This is a very difficult profession due to the specific requirements for golf courses.
Grip — the part of the golf club handle that's covered with rubber or leather.
Handicap — a measure of a player's ability. It is calculated as the difference between the number of shots taken by a golfer to complete the course and the par of the course. For example, if an 18-hole course has par 72, a golfer who completes the course in 90 strokes has a handicap of +18 (90-72=18). A golfer who completes it in 68 strokes has a handicap of -4 (68-72=-4).
Hazard — an element of the course specially constructed or deliberately left in order to complicate the game. It can be a bunker, a water hazard, or a tree.
Hole — this term has two meanings:
- The hole on the green that has an inner diameter of 4.25 inches, a depth of at least 3.9 inches, and a flag mount.
- A section of a course that includes a teeing ground, a fairway, a green, and sometimes several bunkers and/or other hazards. The length of a hole is 200 to 700 yards on average. A golf course includes 18 holes of various lengths with different terrain and bunker locations, and with and without trees and small bodies of water.
Hole-in-one — when a player hits the ball into the hole from the teeing ground with just one shot. This happens very rarely. Sometimes special prizes are established for multiple holes-in-one at competitions. This is the highest step in the "luck, not skill" series of shots.
Hook — when the ball flies straight but then deviates significantly to the left for right-handed players and to the right for left-handed players.
Iron — a flat-head club. The most common set of irons includes golf clubs numbered 3 through 9, a pitching wedge, a sand wedge, and a lob wedge.
Lateral water hazard — a water hazard that prevents you from hitting the ball behind the hazard. It is marked with red stakes.
Loft — the angle between the face of a golf club and the shaft of a golf club.
Long game — shots made from beyond 100 yards of the green. The first shot (the drive) is part of the long game.
Marker — this term has two meanings:
- A circle marking the position of the ball on the green.
- A scorer or referee counting the player's shots.
Marshal — the official on the course who oversees player pace and etiquette.
Match play — one of the two main types of golf competition, in which the result is calculated separately for each hole and the golfer who wins the most holes wins the competition.
Obstruction — an object that prevents the player from completing a shot, and which the architect did not intend to be on the field. A player has the right to remove an obstacle that interferes with play or to move the ball to another point.
Par — a conditional standard used to calculate scores and assess players' skill. Par is the number of shots within which a golfer should get the ball into the hole if they play well.
PGA — the Professional Golfers Association. It brings together instructors (club professionals) and golfers, the latter of whom play on the PGA tour.
PGA tour — the cycle of professional competitions that take place throughout the year.
Pitch — a shot that is made at close range. The ball has a high trajectory and only moves a short distance. The shot is most often performed with a pitching wedge.
Pitching green — a training field for practicing short-range shots with high trajectories. With these types of shots, the ball barely continues to roll after hitting the ground.
Pitching wedge — the club next in the set after the 9 iron.
Pro shop — a shop where you can buy golf equipment, clothes, and souvenirs. Typically, this definition is applied to a shop located in a golf club.
Putt — a short-distance shot that rolls the ball along the ground. These shots are used on the green, with the goal of getting the ball into the hole. In most cases, a putt is the finishing shot that sends the ball into the hole. Use a putter for this type of shot.
Putter — the club used on the green for putting.
Pull — when the ball flies to the left of the target for players with a right-handed stance and to the right of the target for players with a left-handed stance.
Push — when the ball flies to the right of the target for right-handers and to the left of the target for left-handers.
Rough — a tall-grass area that starts just behind the fairway. If the ball hits the rough, it can be difficult to hit back out. It is even more difficult to make it fly in the desired direction and for the desired distance.
Sand wedge — an iron club used to hit the ball ball out of a bunker.
Set — a set of clubs. Golfers are allowed to have no more than 14 clubs, and usually their set includes a driver, 2 woods, a hybrid, 9 irons, and 1 putter.
Shaft — the metal or carbon-fiber shaft of the club. The head is attached to one end, and the grip is attached to the other end.
Shank — when the golfer accidentally hits the ball with the hosel of the club, or any part of the club other than the head. This causes the ball to fly to the side: to the right for a right-hander or to the left for a left-hander.
Short game — shots taken on or close to the green. For example, on a 250-yard hole, you can take a chance and use a driver to get straight to the green. But if you hit an inaccurate shot, you risk being far from the green and in a very uncomfortable position. It won't be possible to return to the green in one shot. To avoid this situation, you play 2 shorter shots to get to the green. The second shot, as long as it's taken within 100 yards of the green, is part of the short game.
Slice — when the ball flies straight but then deviates significantly to the right for right-handers and to the left for left-handers.
Swing — the main movement when taking a shot. The swing consists of swinging the club back, the club's downward movement, hitting the ball, and finishing (swinging the club forward).
Tee; Teeing ground — this term has two meanings:
- A specially marked area of the course where play begins on each hole.
- The wooden or plastic stand on which the ball is placed for the first shot.
Wood — a club with a large head. The higher the number of the club, the shorter the handle and the greater the loft. Usually there are two woods in a player's bag: a 1-wood and a 3-wood. However, some golfers who find woods easier to use than irons also carry a 5-wood.