Glossary of Common Golfing Terms

The following glossary of common (and not so common) golf and golfing terms, phrases and definitions is not exhaustive and we would welcome any additions to the list.




Albatross: a hole played three strokes under par.

All Square: in match play, a match is all square (tied) when both players or teams have won the same number of holes. All Square is abbreviated “AS” on the scorecard

Ace: This is a hole in one whether it be on a par 3, 4 or 5.

Address: to take a stance at the ball.

Air shot: missing the ball entirely.

Apron: the short grass surrounding a putting green



Bandit: someone who regularly plays below their handicap

Ball-marker: any small object used to indicate where a player’s ball is on the green. Coins are common ball-markers.

Banana-shot a shot with an extreme bend.
Bare lie: When a ball is to be played from a position of little or no grass.

Baseball grip: grip style with all ten fingers on the club. Also known as the “Ten-Finger Grip”.

Best or better ball: the best score out of two partners in a four-ball or better ball game.

Birdie: a hole played one stroke under par.

Bite: heavy backspin applied to a ball that causes it to stop quickly instead of rolling when it lands.

Blade: the hitting part of an iron. Also denotes the type of head design as different from a cavity back iron. Also, describes a shot struck “thinly” with an iron in the middle of the golf ball.

Blast: a bunker shot that sends the ball, and accompanying sand, (hopefully) onto the green. Also known as an “explosion”.

Block: a shot played severely to the right; as opposed to slices, which curve from left to right, a blocked shot goes directly right. Similar to the “push”.

Bogey: a hole played one stroke over par.

Borrow: the amount of lateral slope one must account for on a putt. In the USA, it is known as “Break”.

Bounce: The curvature of the sole of an iron from back to front, usually in connection with the “bounce of a wedge”.

Break: the amount of lateral slope one must account for on a putt.Also known as “borrow”.

Bunker: a sand hazard on a golf course

Bump and run: a low-trajectory shot that is intended to get the ball rolling along the fairway and up onto the green. Similar to a chip shot, but played from a greater distance.



Carry: the distance required for the ball to travel through the air to reach a target.

Chip: a short shot (typically played from very close to and around the green), that is intended to travel through the air over a very short distance and roll the remainder of the way to the hole.

Chunk:(usa) a swing that results in the club head hitting the ground several inches before the ball, resulting in a large “chunk” of ground being taken as a divot. Also called a “fat” shot, or “chili-dipping”.

Club: a tool for the player to hit the ball. A maximum of 14 clubs are allowed in the golf bag by the rules.

Come-backer:(usa) a putt required after the previous putt went past the hole.

Condor: a four-under par shot, a hole-in-one on a par 5 . This has occurred on a hole with a heavy dogleg, hard ground, and no trees. Might also be called “a triple eagle”.

Cross-handed: putting (and, occasionally, full-swing) grip in which the hands are placed in positions opposite that of the conventional grip. For right-handed golfers, a cross-handed grip would place the left hand below the right. Also known as the “left-hand low” grip, it has been known to help players combat the “yips”.

Cut Shot: same as a fade, a cut curves from left to right, but is generally higher in trajectory and more controlled than a standard fade. The “high cut” is a staple among PGA Tour players.



Dead: A ball so near to the hole that the remaining putt is almost unmissable.

Dimple: describes the depressions on the surface on a golf ball

Divot: the chunk of grass displaced when an iron shot is played.

Dormie: in match play, a player is dormie when leading a match by as many holes as there are left (i.e. 4 up with 4 holes to play). The player who is down must win every hole to save the match and force its continuation past the last regular hole (if a winner must be determined) or halve the match (in a team competition such as the Ryder Cup).

Double Bogey: a hole played two strokes over par.

Double Cross: a shot whereby a player intends for a slice and hits a hook, or conversely, intends to play a draw and hits a slice. So called because the player has aimed left (in the case of a slice) and compounds this with hitting a hook, which moves left as well.

Double Eagle (or Albatross): a hole played three strokes under par.

Dog balls: (usa) scoring an ‘eight’ on any single golf hole. The origin of the term is in reference to what the number ‘eight’ looks like on its side.

Draw: a shot that, for a right-handed golfer, curves slightly to the left; often played intentionally by skilled golfers.

Drop: To drop a ball as in the case of an unplayable lie or if the original ball has been lost.

Drive: a shot of great length played from the tee, usually with a driver.



Eagle: a hole played in two strokes under par.

Explosion: a bunker shot, in which the ball is exploded from sand sand.



Face: the part of a club head that hits the ball. e.g. club face

Fairway: the short grass between the tee and the green.

Fat shot: a poor shot were the ground is hit behind the ball.

Fade: a shot that, for a right-handed golfer, curves slightly to the right; often played intentionally by skilled golfers. An overdone fade usually becomes a slice.

Flier: a type of lie where the ball is in the rough and grass is likely to become trapped between the ball and the club face at the moment of impact and result in the ball traveling too far due to lack of backspin.

Flop shot: a short shot, played with an open stance and an open club face, designed to travel very high in the air and land softly on the green. The flop shot is useful when players do not have “much green to work with”, but should only be attempted on the best of lies. Phil Mickelson (2004 Masters winner) is a master of the flop shot.

Fore: “Fore!” is shouted as a warning when it appears possible a ball may hit other players or spectators.

Four-Ball: Played with two sides consisting of two players.

Full shot: A shot played with any club with it’s full swing.



Gimme: when a player has only a short putt left to play, other players may grant a gimme, i.e. one stroke is counted, but the ball is not actually played (under the tacit assumption that the putt would not have been missed). “Gimmes” are not allowed by the rules in stroke play, but this is often practiced in casual matches. However, in match play, either player may formally concede a stroke, a hole, or the entire match at any time, and this may not be refused or withdrawn. A player in match play will generally concede a tap-in or other short putt by his or her opponent.

Grain: the direction in which the blades of grass grow on a putting green.

Green or putting green: the area of specially prepared grass around the hole, where putts are played.

Green in regulation (GIR): a green is considered hit “in regulation” if any part of the ball is touching the putting surface and the number of strokes taken is 2 or less than par, i.e. with the first stroke on a par-3 hole, second stroke on a par-4, etc.

Grip: The way in which a players hands are positioned in holding a club. Also the part of the golf club on to which the player positions his hands.

Gross: A score actually made before the deduction of any handicap.

Grounding the club: to place the clubface behind the ball on the ground at address. Grounding the club is prohibited in bunkers or when playing from any marked hazard.



Halved: in match play, a hole is halved (drawn) when both players or teams have played the same number of strokes.

Hole In One (or ace): holing out the tee shot.

Honour: The privilege of driving off the tee first

Hook: a shot that, for a right-handed golfer, curves sharply to the left .

Hosel: the area where the clubhead connects to the shaft. Hitting the ball off the neck of the hosel is known as a “shank”.



Interlocking grip: grip style where (for right-handed players) the little finger of the right hand is hooked around the index finger of the left. Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods use the interlocking grip.





Knock-down: a type of shot designed to have a very low trajectory, usually employed to combat strong winds.Also known as a punch shot.



Lag putt: a long putt designed to simply get the ball close to the hole.

Lay-up: to hit a conservative shot intentionally short of a hazard.

Lie: the ground that the ball is resting on. Also, the angle a clubhead is set on a shaft.

Line: the correct path of the ball to the hole, particularly on putts.

Links: a course laid out by the sea, usually flat and devoid of trees.

Loft: the angle on the front of a clubface.



Match play: The original form of competition in golf, the contest is decided between two sides and the score by holes.

Medal play: style of scoring in which the player with the fewest strokes wins. Also known as “stroke play”.

Mis-read: when a player takes an incorrect line on a putt.



Nassau: a type of bet between golfers that is essentially three separate bets. Money is wagered on the best score in the front 9, back 9, and total 18 holes.



Open stance: when a player sets up with their front foot to the inside of the target line.

Out-of-bounds: the area designated as being outside the boundaries of the course. Out-of-bounds areas are usually indicated by white posts.



Pace: the speed at which a putt should be moving to get to the hole. Pace and break are the two components of green-reading.

Par: standard score in strokes assigned to each hole determined by the length of that hole.

PGA: any Professional Golfers’ Association, especially the Professional Golfers’ Association of the UK and the Professional Golfers’ Association of America.

Pin-high: at the same level as the hole.

Pitch: an approach shot usually played with a higher lofted club and made using a less than full swing.

Pitch and run: A short approach shot followed by considerable run.

Pitch mark: another term for a divot on the green caused when a ball lands. Players must repair their pitch marks, usually with a tee or a divot tool.

Pivot: Rotation of the body during a swing.

Plugged Lie: a bad lie (typically in a bunker) where the ball is at least half-buried in sand. Also known as a “buried lie” or a “fried egg”.

Pro: a professional is a golfer or person who plays or teaches golf for financial reward.

Punch shot: a shot played with a very low trajectory, usually to avoid interference from tree branches when a player is hitting from the woods. Similar to the knock-down, it can also be used to avoid high winds.

Push: a shot played severely to the right; as opposed to slices, which curve from left to right, a pushed shot goes directly right. Similar to the “block”. Also, term used in Match Play where neither competitor wins the hole.

Putt: a shot played on the green, usually with a putter.

Putter: a special golf club with a very low loft that makes the ball roll.



Q-School : PGA or LPGA Tour Qualifying School, a week-long, six-round tournament in which the Top 30 finishers (of nearly 200 entrants) earn their “Tour Cards”, making them exempt for the following year’s tour.



Rabbit: a golfer of little ability or a beginner to the game.

Release: the point in the downswing at which the wrists uncock. A late release is one of the keys to a powerful swing.

Royal and Ancient: The home of golf at St Andrews, Scotland

Rough: the grass that borders the fairway, usually taller and coarser than the fairway.

Rub of the green: an accident that moves or stops a ball in play, not caused by the player or caddie, for which no relief is given.



Sand Save: when a player gets up and down from a greenside sand bunker, regardless of score on the hole.

Sand Wedge: a lofted club designed especially for playing out of a bunker.

Scramble: when a player misses the green in regulation, but still makes par or better on a hole.

Scratch golfer: a player’s whose handicap equals zero.

Shank: a severe mishit in which the golf ball is struck in the neck of the hosel of a club.

Short game: comprised of shots that take place on or near the green.

Sky: when a ball is hit of the top of a metal wood usually a driver and goes almost vertical.

Skin: a skins game, for players in a type of match play in which each hole has a set value (usually money ) to be won. If a hole is halved the value is carried over to the next hole, until a player wins a hole outright.

Slice: a poor shot that, for a right-handed golfer, curves sharply to the right.

Smother: a ball that goes a short distance along the ground.

Snap Hook: a severe hook that curves directly left.

Stableford: a form of play in which points are won instead of stokes scored.

Snowman: An eight on a hole.

Stop: when backspin causes a ball to stop dead or nearly so on landing

Stiff: a shot that lands close to the flag stick.

Sit: Telling the ball to land softly.

Socket: a ball hit from the hosel of an iron. The same as a shank.

Sole: the bottom of a golf club.

Swilken: The famous Swilken Burn bridge on the old course at St Andrews.

Swingweight: A measurement of balance of a golf club via the grip, shaft and head.



Tap-in: a ball that has come to rest very close to the hole, leaving only a very short putt to be played. Often golfers will “concede” tap-ins to each other to save time.

Tee (part of the course): the specially prepared area, usually grass, from which the play of a hole is begun.

Tee (piece of equipment): a small peg – made of wood or plastic – placed in the teeing ground, upon which the golf ball is placed prior to the first stroke on a hole.

Tempo: the control of timing in a golf swing.

Ten-Finger Grip: grip style with all ten fingers on the club. Also known as the “Baseball grip”.

Thin shot: a poor shot where the clubhead strikes too high up on the ball, resulting in a shallow flight path. Also known as “skulling” or “blading” the ball.

Topped: to hit a ball above its center causing it to run along the ground.

Trap: Filled with sand, also known as a bunker.




Up and down: when a player holes the ball in two strokes from off of the edge of the green.

Underclub: to select a club giving too little distance for the shot required.



Vardon grip: grip style in which (for right-handed players) the right little finger rests on top of the left index finger. Also known as the “overlapping grip,” most golfers grip with this style. It is named after Harry Vardon, a champion golfer of the early 20th century who used this grip.



Whip: the flexibility of a golf shaft




Yardage: The length of a hole or course traditionally given in yards

The yips: A tendency to twitch during the putting stroke.



Articles & Reviews