Glossary of Golf Terms for Beginners

By Ryan Watson

Tee 6 Par 4 328m Hcp 9

Golf, like any other sport, has a large amount of specific terms that can make the game hard to understand for beginners. By learning some of the basic terms of golf, newcomers to the sport can find more enjoyment playing, watching, and discussing golf. Below is a list of the terms that any beginning golfer needs to learn. 


A - C

Albatross: Scoring 3 under par on a hole. Also called a double eagle. 

Alignment: The placement of the golfers body in relation to both the ball and the target. 

Approach: A shot intended to land on the green. Generally the second or third shot a golfer takes.

Backswing: The part of the golf swing when the golfer lifts the club backwards in preparation for hitting the golf ball. The height of the backswing depends on the club used and the power needed to make your shot. 

Birdie: A score of one under par on a hole.  

Bogey: A score of on over par on a hole. 

Break: The direction that a ball will curve to when putting. Caused primarily by the slope of a green, breaks can also be caused by strong wind. 

Bunker: Any obstacle on a golf small depression or hollow on the course. Most obvious when filled with sand, though grass bunkers also exist as a tricky obstacle.

Caddie: The person employed to carry golf clubs. As someone familiar with the course, caddies can often provide tips for how best to play a specific hole. 

Compression: The amount of give a golf ball will have when hit. Golf balls are rated on compression from 80-100, with 100 having the least compression. 


D - G

Divot: Term describing the imprint left by a golf ball landing on the turf. Also used to describe the hole left after hitting the ball caused by the golf club. Divots should be repaired to ensure the integrity of the course. 

Double Bogey: Scoring two over par on a hole. A score of 5 on a par 3 would be a double bogey. 

Double Eagle: A very rare score of three under par on a hole. Also known as an albatross. 

Downswing: The part of the golf swing when the club swings down to the golf ball. The downswing follows the backspin.

Driver: Club used to get the most distance while golfing, generally used when teeing off. These clubs are known as woods. 

Driving Range: Area made available for golfers to practice their shots. May be part of a golf course or an independent business. 

Eagle: Scoring two under par on a hole. 

Follow-through: The last part of the golf swing that occurs after the ball is struck.

Footwork: Describes the motion of a golfer's feet during a golf swing. 

Grand Slam: Term to describe winning the US Open, The Masters, the British Open, and PGA Championships (known collectively as the Majors) in a calendar year. A Grand Slam has never been completed. A Career Grand Slam describes winning each Major Championship over the course of a professional's career and has been completed 5 times. 

Green: The area of short well manicured grass surrounding the hole. The green is distinguished from the surrounding areas by the type and length of its grass. 

Grip: How a golfer holds the golf club. There are various kinds of grips including the overlapping, baseball, and interlocking grips. Grip also refers to the part of the golf club held during the golf swing. 


H - L 

Handicap: Calculated average of your best potential scores for a course. This is designed to allow a level playing field between golfers of different levels by effectively giving lesser skilled golfers a head start. In addition, official handicaps are often used as a requirement to enter certain amateur tournaments. 

Hook: For a right-handed player, a shot the curves right-to-left. Opposite for left-handed players. 

Iron: Type of club used in golf that is smaller and shorter than a wood. Made with heads of various angles, irons are used in order to get the ball from the fairway to the green. 

Lag: A shot that purposefully tries to stop short of the intended target, namely the hole or green. 

Level-Par: A score that is even with par. 

Lie: Describes where a ball is after a shot. Golfers have a good lie after a well hit shot, and a bad lie after mishit shots. 

Links: Term that generally means golf course in American English. More specifically, a links course refers to a golf course built on coastal land, or linksland in British English. Links courses represent the earliest kind of golf courses, such as the historic St. Andrews in Scotland. 


M - S

Mulligan: Informal rule allowing players to hit a second ball without penalty. Mulligans are against the official Rules of Golf.

Par:  The baseline score set for a hole or course. Scores are often recorded as +/- par.

Putter: The golf club used in putting. Putters come in many various styles. 

Scramble: A form of golf where all players tee off, pick the best hit ball and all play from that position. This is repeated until the ball is in the hole. Most often played as a team game with rival teams vying to best each other. 

Short Game: The part of golf played on or near the green. A golfer's short game emphasizes accuracy over power. 

Slice:  For a right-handed player, a shot the curves left-to-right. Opposite for left-handed players. 

Stroke Play: Competition format based upon the total number shots, called strokes, over a set amount of rounds. 

T - Z

Tee Box: Term to describe the place where players tee off at the beginning of a hole. 

Visualization: The act of imagining a shot before taking it. Visualizing the ideal shot helps most golfers relax and play their best game. 

Waggle: The motions taken by a golfer before their swing. The waggle is generally a subconscious motion that helps keep a golfer relaxed and ready for the next shot. 

Wood: Term for the kind of golf club used for maximum distance.

Yips: A physical tick or other momentary loss of muscle control that inversely affects your game, common with putting. Yips are caused by a mental block rather than any physiological issue.   



About The Author

Ryan Watson is a freelance sportswriter and history professor. He has been an avid fan of golf since his father signed him up for golf camp as a young child. Ryan enjoys following the professional game and learning about new equipment and gadgets.


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