The Most Commonly Used Golf Terms: Understanding the Lingo

By dj-admin •  Updated: 07/14/23 •  6 min read

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Golf is a sport that is played by millions of people around the world. But, just because it’s easy to play doesn’t mean there aren’t rules or terms that go along with it. For example, in golf, you are given a set number of strokes and told how far you could hit your ball from where you stand on the course. This may sound simple enough, but when you start playing more often, golfers will quickly learn new words for different parts of their game, like “bogey” or “birdie.” If this sounds intimidating – don’t worry! There are many standard golf terms out there that we’ll discuss in this blog post, so you won’t have to feel left out next time someone starts talking about their round!

Most common golf terminology:

Par: The most common golfing term that is used to measure the difficulty of a course. It’s the number of strokes you would need on average with an ideal game, without taking into account any holes where par was not met

Birdie: This term refers to when a player finishes one hole at one stroke below their given “par” number. If a player finishes three strokes under par, they would have scored a birdie

Bogey: This term refers to when a player finishes one hole at two strokes above their given “par.” For example, if the players’ golfing game is better than what their average score shows and it’s only by one stroke – they would have scored a bogey

Eagle: This term refers to when a player finishes one hole at three strokes below their given “par.” For example, if the players’ golfing game is better than their average score shows and it’s by two strokes – they would have scored an eagle.

Double bogey: This term refers to when a player finishes one hole at four strokes above their given “par.” The scoring system for golf has a par for each hole, so if they finish one at four strokes above it – then that’s double-bogey.

Triple bogey: This term refers to when a player finishes one hole at five strokes above their given “par.”

Ace: This term refers to when a player gets the ball into or near the hole within one stroke.

Handicap: This term refers to how the golf course is adjusted for a player.

Swing: This term is used when describing the motion or path of the golf club back and through to strike an object ball with a given force, speed, direction, and follow-through that will produce maximum power at impact while minimizing unintended results such as slicing or hooking.

Short game: This term is used to describe playing the ball from a short distance after being hit off of a tee or out of play, such as chipping and putting.

Drive: This term refers to hitting the golf ball before another golf player on the first stroke with one’s shot furthest down the fairway.

Fore: This term refers to the golf ball’s direction, as in “to hit one out of bounds on the fore.”

Putt: A golf shot played with a putter from within two club-lengths of an unguarded hole.

Greenside bunker: The area around the putting green after the golf ball has been hit off a tee or discarded.

Lag: To putt with one’s backswing in front of the line between his body and head, usually to get more distance.

Green: The surface on which golfers play their game; also called “teeing ground.”

Scooped bunker: A bunker created by a golf ball that has not fully crossed the lip of an older, deeper type.

Over clubbing: To play the golf ball with too much force.

Bunker: A large sand trap set on a golf course for various reasons such as protecting it from errant shots or providing hazards around the putting green. This is usually done in areas with natural obstacles, hills, and depressions, which makes this task difficult.

Duff: To be in a position where one cannot play the golf ball.

Cup: The most common form of a hole or target for putting, consisting of an inverted cone that is set into the ground with its point at surface level; also called “hole” (or, colloquially, to “putt” when referring to making this shot in specific).

Greenie: A golf ball that is lying on the green.

Slice: To hit a golf shot to the left of where it was aimed; also called “hook.”

Go back and forth, play both sides, or switch between two things. For example, if you are playing golf with someone else, you might say, “I’ll play both sides.”

Hole: The hole or target into which the golf ball is to be played.

Sink a putt: To make it in from a distance so that the golf ball goes in the cup without coming out; also called sinking a putt.

Mulligan: A second chance on a hole.

Out of bounds: Area outside golf course boundaries, as designated by stakes or lines set into the ground and yellow paint applied to them; also called out-of-bounds.

Bunker: A sand-filled depression or hole in the ground, usually with a raised lip all around it.

Bump: To strike an object lightly so that it moves up and away from the surface upon which it was resting; also called bumping something.

Drive: The act of hitting a golf ball off a tee to start each new hole, also called driving.

Hole out: To make it in the hole with one stroke less than par on a given hole, or to be able to do so should you miss your putt; also called holing out from a distance.

Mashie: A golf club with a wood shaft and an iron head and is designed for medium-length shots (from 50 to 150 yards).

Niblick: A golf club, similar in design but smaller than a mashie. The niblick is used mainly for short shots around the green, also called a nibble.

These are some of the most commonly used “terms” when playing golf. You’ll start to pick up on this terminology more and more as you increase your game’s overall play. Remember that it’s not necessary to know all of the terminologies right off the bat. It will take some time to learn all of these, but after a few rounds of golf with some others that have played often, you will pick up on the terminology and feel like a pro before you know it! Lastly, remember to enjoy yourself and have fun out on the course. That’s what it’s all about!