Golf Terminology for Beginners – Comprehensive List


Have you ever seen an ace or an albatross? How about on the golf course?

If you’re a beginner you may hear all sorts of terms on the golf course that might confuse you or make you wonder what the heck just happened. Golf terminology for beginners can be confusing, but by the time you get done reading this, you’ll have a firm grasp on golf slang and terms.

It’s good to get acquainted with these terms so that during play, you’ll know what is going on and what your fellow players are asking you. For example, if you get asked “did you double bogey that hole,” it would be beneficial to know what a double-bogey is. Otherwise, you might look a little foolish when you keep asking them to explain things in layman terms.

So, in this post, I’ll go over some of the common terms and slang used in golf, so when you hit the course, you’ll at least sound like a pro, even if you don’t score like a pro. To start this list off, we’ll go to the important stuff, the scoring.

Golf Scoring

Par
All the holes on the golf course will have a par number. They’ll either be a par 3, 4, or 5. This refers to the number of strokes the golf gods say you should be able to complete the hole in.

Another term you may hear is “even.” This means you’re using the number of strokes to complete the hole, so, neither up nor down any strokes.

Birdie
If you’ve managed a birdie, it means you completed the hole using one fewer stroke than par. For example, if it’s a par 5 hole, and it only took you 4 strokes to get the ball in the hole, you got a birdie.

And usually a high-five from your fellow players. On the scorecard, this is usually reflected the number of strokes inside a circle.

For beginners,in golf terminology, a birdie is one under par.

Eagle
If you’ve managed to get an eagle, it means you completed the hole using two fewer strokes than par. For example, if it’s a par 5, and it only took you 3 strokes to get the ball in the hole, you got an eagle.

If you pull this off, your fellow players will probably tell you “great job” out loud, but under their breath, it will be more like “lucky shot.” On the scorecard, this is usually reflected with the number of strokes inside two circles.

For beginners,in golf terminology, a birdie is two under par.

Double Eagle or Albatross
If you’ve managed to get a double eagle, it means you completed the hole using three fewer strokes than par. For example. if it’s a par 5 and it only took 2 strokes to get the ball in the hole, you got a double eagle.

At this point, you can start talking a little trash like, “this really isn’t a tough game, the holes not even moving.” This is obviously a pretty rare occurrence. On the scorecard, you can put the number inside three circles.

The double eagle is very rare, but if you would like to see some, take a look:

Ace or Hole in One
This one doesn’t need much explanation. If you had the shot using only 1 hit, and it went in the hole, you got a hole in one. The odds of making a hole in one is about 1 in 12,500, and tradition is, the person who makes the shot, buys a round of drinks. I’ll let you decide if that is in your budget.

To get a feel for what it’s like, take a look at some current aces.

The birdie, eagle, double eagle, and hole in one are all scoring for the better. Now let’s dive into what happens if it takes you additional shots over par.

Bogey
If you got a bogey, it’s not the end of the world, but it means it took you one more shot than par to get the ball in the hole. So, on a par 3, if it takes you 4 shots, then you got a bogey. On the scorecard, this is reflected with the number of shots inside a box.

In golf lingo, a bogey is reflected with the number inside a box.

Double bogey
If you got a double-bogey, it might be time to start drinking. Just kidding. This means it took you two over par to get the ball in the hole. So, on a par 3, if it takes you 5 shots, then you got a double bogey.

On the scorecard, this is reflected with the number of shots inside two squares.

Triple Bogey
As you’ve probably garnered by now, this is 3 over par.

Snowman
In the very unfortunate occasion that you get a snowman on the golf course, it has nothing to do with noses made of carrots and tophats. A snowman is a score of 8. At this point, it’s time for some aiming juice (alcohol).

Golfing

During the game of golf, you’ll encounter some terms. Some of the words will have four letters…especially after a bad shot. But those words aren’t necessarily specific to golf. The following words usually are used during golf.

Drive
Your drive is the first shot off the tee.

Green
This is the immediate really short grass surrounding the cup.

Fairway
This is the carefully maintained grass between the tee box and the green.

Putt
This is when you use your putter on the green.

Fore
When a golfer (like myself) hits a bad shot and it could potentially hit another golfer, proper etiquette is to yell fore. This gives the surrounding golfers a warning that a golf ball is heading their way, and to duck and cover. If you’re a beginner this may sound really bad, that you might hit a fellow golfer, but it’s common knowledge that we’re not all pro golfers. So, don’t anticipate getting scolded for hitting close to fellow golfers….unless you don’t yell fore, and it’s close to them.

Hazards
Hazards are pretty much the water and sand traps surrounding the holes and the golf course in general.

Hazards are part of golf terminology. You can't avoid them.

Hooks
A hook shot is when the ball moves right to left (for right-handers) and the opposite way for left-handed players. When this happens some elite four-letter words might be expressed. It’s one of the most common shots for beginners.

Slice
A slice is the opposite of the hook shot. It’s when the ball moves left to right and the opposite for left-handed players. Again, this is one of the most common problem shots for beginners.

Fade
A fade shot is similar to the slice but not as severe and usually done intentionally.

Draw
A draw shot is similar to the hook but not as severe and usually done intentionally.

The Rough
The rough is the area outside the fairway and is usually not kept up, so longer grass is involved. Depending on the course, it could be weeds and other unmanaged grass.

Mulligan
A mulligan is not something you’ll see on the PGA. This is basically a “re-do,” common golfers use. For example, at the first box, if you hit your drive way out of bounds, it might be common to use a mulligan. It’s a very unofficial free shot. Outside the pros and even the amateur competition a player typically gets one mulligan per nine holes. This will vary from golfer to golfer.

Beach
If you hit your shot into the beach this is slang for the bunker, which is a sandtrap. Obviously, the beach is typically a great place to be, except in golf.

Golf terminology for beginners includes words like beach and bunker.

Duff
If you duff your shot, it’s a slang term for just about any bad shot that doesn’t go very far. Any time you mis-hit your shot, you “duffed it.”

Shank
A shank is kind of similar to a duff. A shank is when you hit the golf ball with the hosel. This can send the golf ball in any direction.

Hack
A hack or hacker is someone that doesn’t play well and is usually considered a fairly derogatory term.

Approach Shot
Your approach shot is the shot from the fairway to the green.

Divot
If you take a divot out, it’s the patch of grass that comes up when your club goes below the ball and scrapes some of the grass up. Common etiquette is to grab your divot and put it back. You don’t want to leave divots all over the golf course.

Away
In golf, the person that is furthest from the pin (hole) is said to be away. They usually hit first.

Ready Golf
The opposite of away golf. Ready golf means if you’re ready to hit the ball while your fellow golfers are getting ready, you can hit without being away. It’s an informal way of playing golf.

Conclusion of Golf Terms

As you can see, golf really does have it’s own language. This might be what appeals to some people. It’s not so much a secret language but, it’s an effective way of communicating without using long explanations. If you’re new to golf take a look at our post about golf clubs for beginnersOpens in a new tab..

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