The Golf Terms Beginners Need To Know

November 18, 2020

It’s undeniable that golf has a language of its own — one that can be slightly baffling for beginners. The quicker you begin to understand the lingo, however, the quicker you begin to really pick up the sport (and enjoy yourself!).

To help expand your golf lingo, the golf pros at CA compiled a list of the most common, need-to-know terms.

Before we dive into the master list, however, it’s important to explain perhaps the most important term of all: par. “Par” is the predetermined number of strokes a proficient golfer is expected to make on the hole or course. The majority of holes are either a par 3, par 4 or par 5. So on a par-5 hole, for instance, you’d be expected to finish play of that hole in five strokes. When it comes to 18 holes of golf, the par is the total number of strokes expected to require to complete the course. 

Okay…so now that we understand par, let’s get into the basics.

Golf terminology 101

Ace: An alternate term for a hole-in-one. We must say, it’s a pretty good feeling to get your ball into the hole with just one shot!

Albatross: When a player uses three fewer strokes on a hole than the par for that hole. Making an albatross=automatic bragging rights.

Birdie: Scoring one stroke under par on a whole. For example, scoring a three on a par 4. Making a birdie is something to celebrate.

Block: When a golfer hits a shot directly to the right (for righties).

Bogey: Scoring one stroke above par. For example, making a five on a par 4. While not a cause for celebration for a pro, making a bogey may be the peak of your round as a recreational golfer. 

Chunk: An unfortunate instance when your golf club gets stuck in the ground…and the ball ends up going nowhere. Also known as a fat shot or a heavy shot. 

Divot: The chunk of turf that comes out of the ground when your club makes contact with the ground. Divots are to be expected, but good golf etiquette calls for replacing it with a golf divot tool. 

Double Bogey: Scoring two strokes above par. You’ll want to try and avoid scoring a double bogey.

Draw: A controlled shot that curves right to left (for righties). A more exaggerated and unintentional version of this is called a hook. 

Duffer: A novice golfer (no offense meant to beginners, we all have to start somewhere!). Also known as a hacker.

Fade: A controlled shot that curves left to right (for righties). Also known as a cut shot. The more exaggerated and unintentional version of this is called a slice. 

Fore: If your ball is getting dangerously close to another golfer, shout “fore” as loud as you can to warn them. This is an important element of basic golf etiquette (learn more about the unwritten rules of the game here).

Fried Egg: A funny way of describing what the ball looks like when it gets buried in the bunker. 

Gimme: When your putt is close enough to the hole that everyone agrees that it counts as made. It’s so close to the hole that it’s considered unmissable, so you just pick it up and move on with the game. This is an informal putt used among casual groups or friends, and also known as a gimme putt. 

Handicap: A measurement of the average number of strokes over par a particular golfer makes during a round on an average golf course. Handicaps allow each golfer to compete with other golfers on a level playing field, regardless of their skill level. 

Lie: Where the ball sits when it’s in rest. You can have a “good lie” (i.e. ball resting in healthy fairway grass), a “bad lie” (i.e. ball is buried in deep grass), or all types of other lies that we won’t go into for the sake of brevity (hanging lie, flyer lie, hardpan lie, cuppy lie, fluffy lie, etc). 

Lip Out: The frustrating occurrence of when your putt hits the edge of the hole, but changes direction and doesn’t drop in. 

Mulligan: An unofficial do-over. Casual golfers might allow someone to “take a mulligan” to start the game on a generous note after someone’s first shot goes awry. 

Nineteenth hole: The bar/restaurant area. At Hobbit’s Glen, this would be the Turnhouse (yum!).

Pull: A shot that goes directly to the left. 

Shank: When you hit the ball off the neck, toe or heel of the club instead of making pure contact, resulting in a severe mishit and sometimes embarrassing shot.

Worm Burner: When you strike a shot that barely gets off the ground and just rolls.

A beautiful fall day at Hobbit’s Glen, which was just voted the Best Golf Course in Howard County for 2020 by Howard Magazine

Broaden your golf vernacular with CA

While this cheat sheet covers the basics, it’s by no means exhaustive. The best way to learn to talk the talk? Come out to CA’s beautiful golf courses and experience these terms in action! 

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