The language on the golf course is unique and sometimes hard to follow (and not only because of the cursing after poor shots) because the words and phrases are unique to golf or have a different context on the course than is used anywhere else.
By no means is this an exhaustive list of golf definitions, but it does contain many words that we have heard or used during our last rounds of golf.
In your Bag:
Clubs: What you use to hit the ball. Different types for the length of shot you need/want to play. The shortest shots are usually on the green with a putter. The longest is from the tee, often with a driver.
Driver: The biggest head, longest shaft of all your clubs and for good reason. The driver is designed to hit balls the farthest. However, you need to treat it a bit like a celebrity. It only emerges from your bag at the tee box on longer holes, always has a cover on, needs to hit the ball when perfectly placed (on the tee) and can be super temperamental.
Woods: Unfortunately, Tiger likely won’t be in your bag to help you hit a shot, but these woods are essentially your mini-drivers that you can use even on the fairway or for less distance/more control off the tee.
Hybrid: A blend between your woods and your irons, usually a 3- or 4-hybrid. Increased distance off the tee, but can also be used for longer approach shots from the fairway or rough.
Irons: These are the most common clubs in your bag, usually consisting of between 7 and 11 clubs, including your wedges. They range from relatively flat (for increased distance) to drastically angled (for increased loft over shorter distances) and are used for a variety of shots around the course.
Wedges: By the 16th hole, I’m thinking about the potato wedges in the clubhouse, and in my bag is a friendly reminder that your wedge has a specific task. These clubs are designed to help in particular circumstances like hitting from sand or giving you a high loft. Often, these clubs are measured in the number of degrees the club face is angled.
Putter: A straight, flat-surfaced club used for “putting” the ball when it is on the green. This should be the only club you use on the greens as you try to get the ball into the hole.
Shots you’ll take while playing golf (not counting the ones from a glass):
Stroke: Not the health condition, but another name for each shot you take. Each of the following are types of strokes.
Drive: Your first shot of every hole, hit off the tee box (even if you aren’t using a tee).
Approach: A shot taken after your drive, as you’re “approaching” the green.
Chip: A short-range, controlled shot designed to get your ball onto the green.
Putt: Any shot that uses your putter, generally on (or very near) the greens.
Up-and-Down: A close shot from relatively near the green that requires you to give yourself a chance to sink a putt on your next shot.
On the Golf Course:
Fairway: The closely-cropped grass in the middle of the hole between the tee box and the green. This is where you’re aiming your drive, as the shorter grass allows you to better control your shots as you approach the green.
Sand Trap/Bunker: Throughout the course, these “little beaches” are targets to avoid as hitting the ball out of the sand can be much more challenging than off the grass. Fairway bunkers are often found near the “average” landing zone of your drives, and they attempt to prevent you from reaching the green on your second shot as your distance will likely be reduced, even with good contact.
Rough: Very familiar with this one. The “less groomed” part of the hole, usually containing longer grass that is troublesome to hit from. As an incentive to hitting your ball on the fairway, the rough is a tough place to play from. The conditions mean you can’t hit your optimal shot as your clubs are primarily designed to hit from a tee box, fairway, sand trap or green.
Scoring by hole:
Hole-in-One: I’m getting this one out of the way because it didn’t come up during our last round… or any of them. Sink your tee shot for a score of 1 on any given hole.
Eagle: Often discussed but rare in recreational golf. Accomplishing 2-strokes under par. Only really possible on a Par-4 (2 shots) or a Par-5 hole (3 shots) since an eagle on a Par-3 would be a hole-in-one, it requires a combination of excellent shots.
Par: Par is the “recommended score” for any given hole and goes down as an “even” on the scorecard. Hopefully, if you’ve missed your birdie putt you’ve left yourself a reasonably makeable putt for par.
Bogey: One stroke above par. It’s amazing how quickly you can end up “over par” on any given hole. Double/triple/quadruple bogeys are exactly what they sound like – increasingly saddening scores in relation to par.
Defining how good your golf game is:
Scratch Golfer: Not quite a pro, but someone who plays any golf course to a handicap of 0.
Mini Golf: Also known as “putt-putt” in some areas, these tiny “courses” require only a putter to navigate as even the tee box is already on the green.
Pitch-n-Putt: A shorter-length course (still often 18 holes though) that usually only consists of par-3’s. No need for your driver here!
Executive Course: A course that features shorter than normal holes when compared to a full course. These holes are longer than a pitch-n-putt and you’ll likely be able to use your driver on a number of them. A great way to get introduced to “real golf” without having to be overly intimidated by the length of every hole.
Full Course: A regulation-size golf course, usually with a par score ranging between 70 and 72 over 18 holes.
Arnold Palmer: Yes, he is an icon. A Legend. One of the most recognizable names in Golf. He also has an amazing drink named after him. Often thought to be a cocktail, a true Arnold Palmer is actually ⅔ iced tea (traditionally chilled, brewed tea) and ⅓ lemonade. Now often made as a 50/50 mix, Palmer himself was adamant that the iced tea be the dominant side of the drink.
Get out there and improve your golf game. With these handy terms in your back pocket, you’ll be sounding like you’re a scratch golfer, even if you’re shooting well over 100. If you’re looking for even more terms to dig into, check out our glossary that’s filled with lots of (mostly useless) definitions of golf terms and slang. You’ll also see common definitions highlighted throughout the content on our site so you don’t need to go hunting to find out what all these golf terms mean.