Playing golf basically requires learning a new language and keeping all the quirky terms straight is not easy. Here’s a great cheat sheet that will help you get through a round of golf with out looking confused when your partner suggests you take a mulligan.
Ace: A hole-in-one. Hitting the ball into the hole in one stroke.
Albatross: A score of three less than par—as you can imagine, a very rare occurrence. You’ll also hear “double eagle.” It’s the same thing as an albatross.
Apron: The shorter grass directly in front of the green.
All square: When the score is tied in match play.
Away: The ball that’s farthest away from the hole, as in “you’re away.” The player farthest away typically hits first.
Back tees: The farthest set of tees from the hole on each hole, also referred to as “the tips.”
Ball marker: A coin-sized object, typically round, used to mark the position of a player’s ball on the green.
Ball mark: A small indentation on the surface of a green resulting from the impact of a golf ball.
Beach: Slang term for a bunker.
Best ball: A format of play typically used in tournaments, in which the team score for each hole is the “best score” of at least one of the players in a foursome.
Birdie: A score of one less than par.
Bite: A ball with lots of backspin is said to “bite,” since it stays pretty close to where it landed or even spins back toward the player. Sometimes a player will shout (pray) for a ball to bite if it looks like it’s going past the hole. (A humorous way of doing this is to shout, “Grow teeth!”
Bogey: A score of one over par.
Bunker: A concave area containing sand or the like, considered a hazard.
Chipping: A low-trajectory, short golf shot typically made from just off the green.
Cup: The four-inch deep, 4.5-inch wide hole on the green.
Dance floor: Slang term for the green.
Deep: A flagstick or hole that is located toward the back of the green.
Divot: The small chunk of turf that is dislodged when a clubhead strikes the ground as a player hits the ball.
Divot repair tool: A small metal or plastic tool with a prong(s), used to repair ball marks on the green.
Double bogey: A score of two over par. Generally shortened to “a double.”
Drained: Slang term for having sunk a putt.
Draw: A golf shot in which the ball gradually moves right to left (for a right-handed golfer).
Drive: The first shot taken at the teeing ground at each hole — even if you don’t hit it with a driver.
Driver: The longest club (and the one with the biggest head), used for tee shots as it’s designed to hit the ball the farthest.
Duff: A bad shot.
Duck hook: When a right-handed player strikes the ball such that it curves sharply from right to left and stays low to the ground.
Eagle: A score of two under par.
Etiquette: The rules governing a golfer’s behavior.
Executive course: A golf course that is shorter and has a lower par than regular golf courses. Consisting of mostly par 3 holes, it is designed to be played quickly by skilled golfers and to be welcoming for beginner golfers and juniors.
Fade: A golf shot in which the ball gradually moves left to right (for a right-handed golfer). Sometimes called “a cut shot.”
Fairway: The center, short-mown portion of a golf hole in between the teeing ground and the green.
Fat: A shot in which the club hits the ground (more so than intended) prior to striking the ball. Sometimes also called “thick” or “chunked.”
First tee: Where a round of golf play begins
Flyer: A ball, usually hit from the rough, that goes much farther than intended.
Fly the green: A shot that goes over the green.
Fore: A warning shouted when the ball is heading toward a person.
Forward tees: The teeing ground located closest to the green.
Fringe: The short grass surrounding the green that is kept slightly longer than the grass on the green.
Get up: A phrase shouted at a ball that looks like it’s going to land short of the target. If it looks like it’s going to land in a difficult spot (perhaps water or a bunker), you’d say “get over.”
Gimme: A putt that is so close to the hole that it’s assumed that the player will make it. You can only have a “gimme” in casual, non-tournament play or in match play. An old-fashioned term for this is “in the leather,” a reference to the ball being closer to the hole than the length of a putter from the putter’s face to the bottom of its grip.
Green Fee: The cost to play a round of golf. (This usually includes the cost of the golf cart rental and practice balls.)
Grounding: Setting the heel of the golf club on the ground, however briefly.
Handicap: A numerical representation of a golfer’s playing ability.
Honors: The right to tee off first based on having the best score on the last hole or being furthest away from the hole.
Hook: When a right-handed player strikes the ball such that it curves sharply from right to left.
Hot: A shot that goes faster or farther than intended.
Lie: The position or location of the golf ball while in play.
Lip: The edge of the hole. If your ball hits the lip but doesn’t go in the hole, then you have “lipped out.”
Loft: The degree or angle of the face of the club.
Match play: A format of golf in which the goal is to win individual holes rather than tallying the total of all of the strokes.
Modified scramble: Also known as a shamble or Texas scramble, a golf format in which the players select the best shot off the tee, move all balls to that spot, and play individual stroke play for the rest of the hole.
Mulligan: In casual play only, a “do-over” shot made to replace a poorly hit shot, taken without counting the stroke toward the score.
Nineteenth (19th) hole: A golf course’s restaurant or lounge.
OB: Out of bounds
Out of bounds: The area outside the course where play is not allowed, most often marked by white stakes.
Pin: The flagstick standing inside the cup on the green. Also known as “the stick.”
Pitching: A high-trajectory golf shot made near the green, intended to land softly with a minimum amount of roll.
Playing through: What takes place when one group of golfers passes through another group of slower playing golfers, ending up ahead of the slower group.
Provisional ball: A second ball that is played in the event that the first ball is or may be lost or out of bounds. If the first ball is found and is playable, the provisional ball is picked up. If the first ball isn’t playable (if it’s lost or out of bounds), the provisional ball is played and penalty strokes apply. Hitting the provisional ball when in doubt about whether a shot went out of bounds often speeds up the pace of play.
Pull cart: Used by golfers who prefer to walk but don’t wish to carry their golf bags.
Punching the greens: Aerating the greens by pulling small plugs (1/4″ – 3/4″ diameter) or using poking with small tines that leave the appearance of a pattern of “punched” holes in the turf.
Pure: A well-struck shot, often used as a verb. “She pured her shot!”
Putting: The golf stroke used to roll the ball on the green.
Ranger: The golf course staff member who provides player assistance on the golf course and who is responsible for keeping the overall pace of play.
Ready golf: Players hit when ready in order to speed up or maintain pace of play.
Regulation: When a player’s ball is on the green in one shot on a par 3 hole; 2 shots on a par 4; or 3 shots on a par 5
Rough: The long grass bordering the fairway. On some courses, there is a “first cut” of shorter rough and a “second cut” of heavier, longer rough.
Sand bunker: A bunker filled with sand.
Sand trap: Slang for “sand bunker”. “Trap” is not defined in the “Rules of Golf.”
Sandy: Hitting the ball out of a sand bunker and hitting (usually putting) the ball into the cup on the very next shot
Scramble: Probably the most popular format for charity golf tournament play. Each player in the foursome hits, then the group selects the best shot. Each player hits from that spot and the process continues until the ball is holed out.
Shank: Be aware, this is a word you should *not* use on the golf course — it’s considered bad luck and is therefore a breach of etiquette. However, you should still know what it is: a very poor shot that hits the hosel of the clubhead and “squirts” errantly off to the side. It’s sometimes called a “lateral.”
Shotgun start: When golfers are sent to every hole so that play begins for everyone at the same time.
Sit: A term shouted at the ball to encourage it to stick very close to where it lands. This is similar to “bite.”
Skull: A mishit golf stroke in which contact is made above the equator of the ball, resulting in a line-drive trajectory.
Slice: When a right-handed player strikes the ball such that it curves sharply from left to right.
Smoked: A term describing a well-hit long shot, particularly a drive.
Snowman: A darkly humorous reference to scoring an 8 on a hole.
Solheim Cup: A biennial women’s golf tournament in which teams from Europe and the United States compete against each other. It is named after Karsten Solheim (Ping Golf).
Starter: A golf associate who provides golfers at the first tee with any special information they will need during play and maintains the appropriate amount of time between groups of players starting off the first tee
Sticks: When referred to in the plural, “sticks” means golf clubs (as opposed to the flagstick). For example, “I’m buying a new set of sticks this season.” A putter is sometimes colloquially called a “flat-stick,” due to its lack of loft.
Stroke play: A golf format in which the objective is to finish the game using the fewest total shots.
Sweet spot: The center of the clubface, which will produce the longest shot from a given club.
Tap-in: A very short putt.
Tee box: The area on a golf hole where the ball is first struck, also known as the “teeing ground.” Although you hear “tee box” a lot, “teeing ground” or “tee” are the preferred terms.
Tees: Pieces of golf equipment used to raise the ball on the teeing ground for a player’s first stroke on the hole. Usually made of wood, plastic or earth-friendly composite material.
Thin: A shot that strikes near the center of the ball, typically causing a low trajectory. Sometimes also called “skinny.”
The tips: The farthest teeing ground from the green, usually demarcated by blue, black or gold tee markers. Also called the “championship tees” or the “back tees.”
The turn: The halfway point in a round of golf.
Up and down: Chipping or pitching the ball onto the green and putting it into the hole on the very next shot.
Woods: A type of golf club with a round head, usually made out of wood, metal or composite materials. The most common woods include the Driver, 3-wood and 5-wood.
Worm burner: A golf shot (not a putt) in which the ball never rises off the ground.
Yip: The inability to make short putts due to nervousness and lack of a smooth putting stroke.
Zone: When you’re playing well, you’re said to be “in the zone.” Sometimes described as “playing lights out.”