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70 Golf Terms: Need-to-Know Lingo Among Golfers

From basic terms—Ace, Par, Handicap—to hilarious golf slang that sounds nothing like golf talk—Chili Dip, Chicken Stick—get to know or catch up on your golf phrases!

From basic definitions to etiquette to slang to funny phrases—here’s a golf term glossary to help you hone your understanding of the great game! 

With more and more people watching and playing golf, there’s a lot more people out there head-scratching over some of the terms used on the course, over beers at the 19th hole, or standing around in a buddy’s home golf simulator.

And like with this challenging sport that never lets you rest on your heels, the lingo that goes along with it is ever-evolving—even if just to entertain fellow golfers with new ways to describe their shots.

Want to get caught up on your golf speak? We’ve put together a list, starting with the most notable phrases every new golfer wants to know—and then some! 

Have fun!

Top 15 Most Popular Golf Term Questions & Answers

1 – What is a handicap in golf?

Ah, the great equalizer. Simply put, a golf handicap is a number that represents your ability based on your previous golf rounds’ scores. 

Until you play golf, your handicap does not exist. You must calculate it using the average of your 3 previous 18-hole scores. Now it serves the purpose of comparing your performances with other golf players. 

Calculating a handicap is fairly complex. And, unlike what a lot of people believe, it is not simply an average of how far above or below par you typically shoot. If you're interested in learning how the number is calculated and what it means, read our full handicap calculation breakdown.

2 – What is a par in golf?

Every golf hole has a par assigned to it. Most are a par 3, par 4, or par 5. So, for example, on a par 4 hole, an expert golfer is expected to take 4 strokes to sink his ball. 

3 – What is a birdie in golf?

A player makes a birdie when they use one less stroke than the par of the hole. 

4 – What is a bogey in golf?

A bogey is a golf score of 1 over par on a hole. If you score a 5 on a par-4 hole, you made a bogey.

5 – What is an eagle in golf?

More impressively, an eagle occurs when a golfer completes a hole two strokes under par. 

6 – What is an albatross in golf?

Extremely rare (hence, the name), an albatross happens when a golfer completes a hole three strokes under par. For example, if you only use 2 strokes to complete a par-5 hole, you've achieved an albatross. It’s also referred to as a double eagle.

7 – What is a slice in golf?

Often a problem for beginning golfers, a slice happens when excessive sidespin in a shot causes ball flight to curve from left to right (right to left for lefties) in the air, resulting in a shorter overall shot distance.

8 – What is a draw in golf? 

For right-handed players a draw in golf is a ball flight that moves slightly right-to-left in a controlled manner, or slightly left-to-right for left-handers. If this is done too far, too fast, i.e., not in a controlled manner, then it is a hook.

9 – What is a fade in golf?

A fade is the opposite of a draw—that is a ball flight that moves slightly left-to-right in a controlled manner for right-handed players, or slightly right-to-left for lefties. When it is unintended and extreme, it is a slice.

10 – What is a mulligan in golf?

Not accepted in tournament play, a mulligan (think “do-over”) is slang for re-hitting a shot with no penalty. Usually accepted among friends and on first holes in cases when players may not be warmed up.  

11 – What is a provisional in golf?

A provisional ball is a rule allowing a golfer to play an additional ball for a ball that may be lost in a water hazard or out of bounds. This rule helps pace-of-play by allowing you to re-hit before you go looking for your original ball. Your provisional ball is not technically in play until you have arrived at the spot where your original ball is thought to be and cannot be found. It’s a just-in-case solution so that you don’t have to walk 200-250 yards to look around for a ball that might be missing. 

12 – What is a shotgun start in golf?

A shotgun start is when all groups of players in a tournament tee off simultaneously from different holes. Each hole on a course will be the starting hole for one or more foursomes. Each group starts play at the same time, allowing a tournament to end at the same time it takes the slowest foursome to finish 18 holes of golf.

13 – What is a scramble in golf?

In a scramble golf tournament format, the gameplay consists of a team of four players where each member tees off. The team captain chooses the best shot and each player hits from there until the lowest score on the hole is achieved. This is repeated for every hole.

14 – What is match play in golf?

While stroke play totals strokes for the entire round, match play involves winning individual holes against opponents. Essentially, you compete with another player on a hole-by-hole basis. 

15 – What is skins in golf?

A skins game is generally played in threeballs or fourballs (match play between three or four players). Each hole is worth one “skin” — often worth a set monetary value. 

When a player wins the hole outright, he wins the skin. If no one wins the hole, the value of the skin gets added to the skin for the next hole. It’s not uncommon for skins to build up, and since scores on previous holes have no bearing on the next, any player can win a many-skin hole.

The stakes often allow for increased competitive drive and bold decision-making. Tremendous fun for the right group of players!

More Golf 101 Basic Terms …


Also known as the hole-in-one, the ace is the ultimate of scoring in golf. Every golfer dreams of sinking the ball with just one stroke, typically on par-3 holes but occasionally on par-4s. When an ace occurs, traditionally drinks are shared at the 19th hole. 


The set-up stage of your golf swing; it begins with the takeaway when you first start to wind up and take your club away from the target. The extent of your backswing determines how much power you will be able to generate on your swing.

Double Bogey

A double bogey is when a golfer takes two more strokes over par to finish a hole. For example, on a par-4 hole, a double bogey is a score of 6.

Triple Bogey

A triple bogey, or “trip” for short, occurs when a golfer finishes a hole three strokes over par (you can also say “above par” to mean the same).


The caddy is there to help provide assistance to the golfer and serve their needs. They have many different types of responsibilities that go beyond carrying the golfer’s clubs and keeping score. They often have additional course knowledge and can help improve your performance. 

A “fore-caddie” is another type of caddie who walks ahead to locate shots and assists the entire group without carrying clubs.


A chip is a low-trajectory shot that is played along the ground and spends little time in the air. Typically, chip shots are hit close to the green where the golfer doesn’t need to carry the ball very far in the air and only needs it to get started and roll out towards the hole like a putt.


“Fore!” is a warning to everyone on the golf course that a ball has been hit and is coming their way instead of the intended area.

This warning is shouted when a ball might hit or come close to other players. Always yell “fore” if there’s even the slightest chance your shot might endanger someone else.


A golf shot that moves severely right to left for right-handed hitters and the opposite way for lefties.


A measurement of the angle between the hosel/shaft and the ground when the head is at rest or when the grooves are parallel with the ground. The greater the lie angle, the more “upright” the club is. The less the lie angle, the more “flat” the club is.


“Links” can refer to flat European golf courses with larger greens, or it can simply mean playing a round of golf.

But, according to

“True links courses are mostly found in Scotland, Ireland and England. The course must be along the coast with sandy soil underneath. Links golf is where the game was founded as this sandy soil was perfect for the game and not great for much anything else. The land wasn’t of any use for agriculture so people started looking for a different use for it. The sandy soil drains remarkably well, keeping the ground firm — ideal for a golf course.”


The angle created between the clubface and the ground. The more loft a golf club has the higher the ball will launch. In many ways, loft is your friend. It allows you to get the ball in the air easily.


A “pull” occurs when a right-handed golfer’s shot goes straight left, while a “push” is the opposite.


A putt is when you use your putter to hit the ball softly on the green. You want to have as few putts as possible. 


Slope measures a golf course’s difficulty for amateur players and can range from 55 to 155, with higher numbers being more challenging.


A “scratch” golfer has a handicap of zero and typically plays at or below par.


Being short-sided means hitting an approach shot to the same side of the green where the pin is located, making chips or pitches more difficult.


When it takes you three putts to get your golf ball in the hole.

Up and Down

When you chip your ball onto the green, and by the grace of the golf gods, you sink the next putt.

Golf Course Elements


The objective of the game, consisting of a circular hole in the ground on the green, into which players aim to get the ball in as few strokes as possible.

Tee Box

A tee box is where you take your tee shot at the beginning of each hole. Also called a “teeing area” or “teeing ground”. Always tee your ball behind the markers to avoid a one-shot penalty.


The fairway is part of the golf course, close to the tee, where you’d ideally want your tee shot to land. It provides the easiest surface for hitting the ball, and a high rate of tee shots successfully landing in the fairway often correlates with lower scores.


The green is the area where the hole and flag are located. The area around the hole has been prepared specifically for putting.


The fringe is a slightly higher-cut area of grass encircling the green. Although you can putt from the fringe if you land in it, if you are tracking putts—this one does not count!


Another term for the fringe, referring to the area immediately around the green.


The rough in golf is the area of grass that typically borders a fairway but which is deliberately kept longer than that of the fairway grass—making shots landed in it more difficult.

Water hazard

Water hazards are typically either streams or ponds, situated between the teeing ground and the hole. They can affect play and penalize players for hitting their ball into it.

Out of bounds

The area beyond the course's designated boundaries, usually marked by white stakes, where play is prohibited.


A tall pole with a flag, inserted into the hole to indicate its location on the green.

Yardage markers

Colored markers or plates on the course that indicate distances to the green, usually measured in yards.

Bunker/Sand Trap

A bunker is a sand-filled obstacle on a golf course. There are two types: greenside bunkers near the green and fairway bunkers located along the fairway.


A hole that features a significant bend in the fairway, requiring strategic shot placement to navigate successfully. When the fairway goes right after the turning point, golfers call the hole a “dogleg right”. When the fairway goes left, it is a “dogleg left.” A hole that has two bends in its fairway – which only happens on a par 5 hole – is called a “double dogleg”. Cart Path

A designated path for golf carts to travel on, minimizing wear and tear on the course.


Any obstacle on the course, such as bunkers, water, or thick rough, designed to challenge players and add difficulty to shots.

Ground Under Repair (GUR)

An area of the course temporarily marked as out of play due to maintenance or damage, typically indicated by white lines or stakes.

Common Rules and Etiquette for Golfers

Teeing ground: Golfers must start each hole from the designated teeing ground, placing their ball within the tee box's boundaries and no further than two club-lengths behind the markers.

Order of play: The player with the lowest score on the previous hole tees off first on the next hole, known as having "honors." After teeing off, the player whose ball is farthest from the hole plays first.

Lost ball: If a player cannot find their ball within three minutes of searching, they must declare the ball lost and take a one-stroke penalty. The player must then play a new ball from the original spot or, if applicable, the last point of entry into a hazard or out-of-bounds area.

Unplayable lie: If a player judges their ball unplayable, they have three options: 

  • take a one-stroke penalty and drop the ball within two club-lengths of the original spot, no closer to the hole;
  • take a one-stroke penalty and drop the ball on a line extending from the hole through the original spot, as far back as desired; 
  • or replay the previous shot with a one-stroke penalty.

Funny Golf Slang & Phrases

Chili Dip

A slang term in golf referring to a mis-hit chip shot that can land you in a hail of jokes from your golfing buddies. When a golfer chili-dips his chip, the golf club strikes the ground behind the ball, digging up turf, resulting in, embarrassingly, little or no contact with the ball itself. 


Refers to fixing a divot or repairing a ball mark.

Juicy Lie

A juicy lie indicates the ball is sitting on top of grass as if it is mounted on a short tee, offering a nice, clean approach.


Worse than the dreaded triple bogey, a snowman refers to a score of 8 on any individual hole. “Because the 8 looks like a snowman,” says Captain Obvious. 

The Beach

Your shot is on the beach when it goes in a sand bunker.


A slang term in golf that is most commonly applied to approach shots that are hit too far, so that they fly over the green. 


When a player's ball hits a tree but still finds the fairway or green, managing to make par.

Cabbage (also Spinach)

Describes where you are if you hit the ball into high grass or deep rough.

Chicken Stick

A golfer’s go-to club when presented with a difficult shot and chooses a play-it-safe option.


DNF is an acronym for not finishing a hole or tournament: Did not finish. DFL is a way to say you finished last, as in dead f-ing last.


A flusher is a putt that circles the entire cup and then goes in.

James Joyce

A putt that's an impossible read


A short putt, which you really shouldn't miss, but often do.


A player who plays well on wet courses.


Hitting a ball out of bounds and still making par—not normal like a platypus.


If you get a sharkie, you found water and made par on the same hole. 

Victory Lap

A victory lap is a golf term for when a ball spins around the lip of a hole and falls in.

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