If you’re an aspiring golfer, it’s a good idea to begin familiarizing with golf terms prior to jumping in with the seasoned pro’s.
In this post, we will explore a wide variety of golf terms, both popular and obscure. Some terms are fun and can be considered golf slang, while others are significant and a necessity to understand if you’re to be considered a serious golfer; all terms are deeply rooted in the game’s history.
Having a firm grasp on these terms won’t simply allow you to better engage in camaraderie on the course and in the clubhouse, but it will also allow you to gain a deeper understanding of the game and its tradition.
This guide will explain the origins and definitions of golf terminology, and in what situations you are likely to encounter them.
By working through this guide, you can begin to widen your golfing vocabulary and impress your golfing associates!
Whether you’ve played golf or not, you’ve probably heard of the terms that are used to describe scoring and performance. They are some of the most commonly used phrases out there and aren’t confined to golf alone. In this section, we’ll give you the low down on all of the golf-scoring lingo you’ll ever need to know.
People commonly use golfing terms to describe situations in everyday life. For instance, if things are going just as planned, you might hear someone say:
“Par for the course!”
The fact that these terms are also used in everyday conversation makes it even more useful for you to learn them, as you can easily relate to and converse with those around you by using such phrases.
Without further delay, here is our comprehensive list of the most commonly-used golf scoring terms and what they mean.
Par is likely the term that you are most familiar with and is one of the easiest golf terms to understand. The reason that we’ve started with par, is that many of the other terms that you’ll encounter in this guide build upon and are defined by their relation to par.
The term par refers to the number of strokes that a golfer would be expected to take to complete a hole.
Different holes will require a different number of strokes, and par is determined by the length, difficulty, and terrain of any given hole.
It’s a rule of thumb that par will always account for two putts. For example, for a 150-yard hole, scorers would expect a golfer to be able to hit the green with their tee shot.
From there, they get two putts to make par. Therefore, this hole would be a par-3.
Most of the time, a hole will be either a par-3, par-4, or par-5. Scorers assessing golf courses have determined that these are the most common amount of strokes needed to complete holes on a golf course.
It is possible for you to play a par-6 hole, but these are extremely rare.
Since par is the number of strokes that are considered to be necessary to complete a hole, and the primary objective of golf is to have the lowest score possible, golfers aim to finish the hole with fewer strokes than the average number of strokes it takes to complete the hole, e.g. the par.
However, if the golfer does finish the hole or the entire course with exactly as many strokes as set out by the par,, they have finished “on par.”
This means that they lived up to the scorer’s expectations and did not do better or worse.
If you are unable to make par (take more shots than par to complete a hole), or if you do even better than the par score (complete the hole in fewer strokes than par), then your score will likely be described by a different term. Let’s have a look at those!
If you can complete a hole in fewer strokes than par, congratulations! Few golfers are ever able to do this consistently, and that’s what makes golf such an elite sport that is hard to excel in.
If you’ve ever done really well on a course, you may have heard the term ‘birdie.’ A birdie is a term used to describe a situation whereby a golfer can successfully complete a hole in one less stroke than par.
When a player achieves a birdie, their total score is decreased by 1, which is a positive outcome. For that reason, birdies are considered to be a very desirable outcome on any given hole.
If you love getting birdies, you’ll love eagles even more! The term ‘eagle’ refers to an instance where the golfer completes the hole in two fewer shots than par.
Eagles are not very common, but they happen frequently enough that you should be familiar with the phrase. If you can get an eagle, your score will be reduced by two strokes; again, a very good outcome.
In a game like golf, every stroke matters because the leaders are often so closely grouped together. That’s why an eagle is considered to be incredibly valuable and is well sought after during a round of golf.
Then we have the double eagle.
As the name suggests, the double eagle is just like the regular eagle, except one stroke better.
A double eagle is considered to be extremely rare and is hardly ever achieved. It is used to describe a hole that is completed 3 strokes under par and is also known as an ‘albatross.’
A double eagle will reduce your score by 3, but you probably won’t ever have to worry about achieving one unless you get a hole-in-one or make an incredibly accurate shot from the fairway.
To conclude our analysis of positive scoring terms, I give you, the ace…
Otherwise known as a hole-in-one, the ace is the rarest score of all, and it pretty much does what the name suggests; provides the golfer with a score of 1.
Unfortunately, aces very rarely ever happen, but when they do they are extremely helpful to your score.
An ace is the most desired outcome for a golfer and can vault them to the top of the standings very easily.
Getting an ace is a mixture of skill and luck. If you can get the ball to as close to the tee as possible on your first shot consistently, you have better odds of making an ace.
However, most golfers don’t try to get an ace: it just happens by chance.
Unfortunately, we are at the end of our list of good terms, so we’ll move on to the scoring situations that will damage your overall score.
The first on our list is the bogey.
A bogey occurs when the player completes the hole using one more stroke than par. A bogey will raise your score by 1; an undesirable outcome.
Though bogeys are far from good, there are worse scores out there, and an amateur golfer might be okay with a bogey here and there, though not too often, of course!
As you’d expect, a double bogey is a negative score just like its relative, the bogey.
And, as the name suggests, a double bogey occurs when a golfer takes 2 strokes more than par to complete a hole.
This score adds 2 points on to the golfer’s score and is very damaging to their overall result.
Pro golfers avoid double bogeys at all costs, and although they are rare, they are more common than their more positive cousin; the double eagle.
If a golfer takes 3 shots over par to complete a hole, they’ll be awarded a triple bogey.
A triple bogey is extremely rare and increases a golfer’s score by 3 strokes.
Triple bogeys are extremely detrimental to your score and could very well put you out of contention for a whole round if you don’t make up the ground quickly.
If you’re still having trouble understanding some of the golf-related scoring terms and you think that you would benefit from learning with the aid of a visual tool, watch this tutorial video on golf scoring terms. It will explain some of the terms that we have listed and give you a clearer idea of the scenarios that we have explored.
As well as some pretty meaningful scoring terms, there are many less serious golfing terms that it would be useful for you to know; particularly if you are an aspiring golfer and want to ‘fit in’ at the club. You can use some of these funny golf terms to describe unique situations, poor performance, or just throw them into your chat on the course to create a jovial atmosphere.
If you’re new to golf, you might have heard some of these phrases before, but not fully understood what they meant. Don’t fret—we’ll walk you through the most common funny golf terms out there.
If someone uses this term in your direction, you probably need to up your putting game! This refers to a common situation that golfers face during putting where they go back and forth past the hole.
This often occurs when golfers cannot make their putts and keep over-hitting their shot, which causes them to “army golf” back and forth from each side of the hole.
Every golfer hopes that their ball isn’t scared of the dark! If it were, it would certainly not want to go in the hole.
This term is used to describe a ball that just won’t drop into the hole! Needless to say, in golf, it’s better to conquer your fear of the dark!
If you have a particular talent for hitting trees, chances are you’ve heard this term once or twice. A barkie is the term used to describe a hole during which you hit a tree and can still manage to salvage the hole for par.
This term is actually a little bit of a compliment since it is tough to recover to make par after hitting a tree in most cases. If you’ve just golfed a barkie, you could have done worse!
Alright, now you’re just showing off. It’s called a backhander when you casually tap in your ball using the wrong side of your putter on an easy putt.
Be careful though: anything can happen in golf…
This is a term that is usually heard in the morning hours of a golf outing. That’s because it really only applies to the first hole.
A breakfast ball is an unofficial rule that gives you a free hit on your first tee. Not every golfer uses this little trick, but if you find yourself hearing it, just know that it can be a good thing!
If you manage to hit your ball into some dense foliage, you are in the cabbage. It’s best to avoid the cabbage, but if you aren’t able to, there’s a chance that you won’t ever see that ball again.
Fun as this one sounds, it’s anything but fun for a golfer trying to keep a low score. A coast-to-coast flight refers to a ball that is hit from one bunker to another bunker on the opposite side of the putting green.
Since putting is so key to golf, this is a bad situation that will usually result in a bogey or even a double bogey.
If you hear this term, you may want to put in some more work on your swing. A chili-dip is a fun term for those who put a large divot in the ground with their chip swing.
This term is usually used in a lighthearted way, so don’t take it too personally if your golf partners call you out on your chili-dip!
A chicken stick is a club in your bag that you have chosen for a specific shot because it is the safe choice. More commonly, this term is used to describe a decision that you didn’t take any risks in deciding.
A chippie shot is one that is taken from around the green. Nothing too complicated here, but if you are directed to take your ‘chippie,’ step up!
If you are new to golf, you might have heard this jokingly directed your way a lot. If you haven’t perfected your swing just yet, there’s a good chance that you’re taking some chunks out of the ground on your swings.
This is perfectly normal, but just be prepared for your playing partners to tease you about the big old “chunks” you’re taking out of the course!
Everyone wants their ball in the cup on the first try! ‘Cup’ is a simple slang word for the hole on the course.
It’s 4.5 inches in diameter, 4 inches deep, and seemingly impossible to find at times.
If you can’t help but get out on the course as early as possible when the sun rises, you might be playfully named dawn patrol. It’s an endearing term, but get some sleep!
These handy abbreviations each stand for something different but mean pretty much the same thing. DNF is used universally in sports and means “Did Not Finish.”
This term describes your progress (or lack thereof) if you did not successfully complete a hole.
DFL is an acronym for “Dead F***ing Last,” which means you finished but clearly didn’t do very well.
Be sure to tease your friends whenever they finish DFL!
On the less formal side of things, we have dammit. Dammit isn’t exactly exclusive to golf, but you will hear it recited very often as golfers struggle to make par and avoid those bogeys!
Dammit is the curse of choice out on the golf course and you should be prepared to hear it—and say it—quite often!
Though it might not always seem so fun for those who have putting woes, the putting green is commonly known as the dance floor. The reason for this is that the putting green is where a lot of the action happens.
You definitely want your golf ball dancing with the tee as you approach the hole! The closer your ball is to the tee, the better the music sounds, so aim small!
A double cross is a slightly more complicated term. This actually refers to the direction that your ball goes after you make contact with your club.
A fairly common situation for beginners, in particular, is when you are trying to curve the ball one way, and it ends up going the complete opposite way. If double crosses happen to you frequently, you may want to consider working on your spin!
If you’re unable to correct your spin problems, you might be hitting duck hooks frequently. A duck hook is a ball that you have hooked exceptionally badly.
It often comes at the detriment of your score and makes it difficult to recover and make par on the hole. You might hear your friends making duck sounds if you hook a ball this badly.
An apt name for the motion which resembles a toilet flushing, this term refers to a ball traveling all the way around the circumference of the hole before finally dropping in.
Many of us will have experienced this extreme tension and the many prayers from hopeful golfers that it elicits.
Having some trouble out there and need a competitive edge? You might resort to trying the foot wedge.
The foot wedge is the highly illegal action of kicking your ball into a better place for you to competitively continue the hole. You won’t find this happening on the PGA tour, but it wouldn’t be surprising at all to see it in a friendly weekend game at the club.
We’ve all experienced a fried egg at some point in our illustrious (or not) golfing careers. A fried egg is a golf ball that has become buried in the sand bunker.
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but avoid this kind of fried egg at all costs!
If you have caused a divot in the course from a swing gone haywire, no worries. You can just do some gardening to patch it right up!
Put the dirt back where it belongs, pat it down with your foot and you’re good to go!
This one refers to those who make fixes to the course following a particularly inaccurate swing.
This one isn’t a technical term, but it’s still useful regardless of its humor. The grain refers to the way that the grass is growing on the greens.
Similar to the way that wood can be described, the grain of the grass matters when talking about resistance and the path to the hole.
Use this one in jest, or as an excuse, but realize that it does actually refer to an important factor.
A hosel rocket is a lot of fun for onlookers, but not so much for the golfer. This refers to the situation in which a ball is severely shanked.
This occurs when the golfer strikes the ball not with the head of the club, but rather with the shaft before the head. You have to have a pretty strange swing to accomplish this, but it can certainly be done.
Watch your head if you encounter one of these! It’s impossible to predict where they might go.
Sometimes, a putt is so close to being in the hole that your playing partners won’t make you take the shot, and it will be assumed that you’d have made it. This is a common courtesy amongst friends but is never used in a professional setting.
If you are determined to be ‘inside the leather,’ you can pick up your ball and start thinking about the next hole.
This refers to a putt that has a very difficult line to the hole. A ‘James Joyce’ is most often the result of unpredictable terrain and many slopes standing in your path to the hole.
If you are playing in the wind, you might hear this term; given to a shot that is designed to stay out of the wind. It is shot intentionally low to plow through minor winds and avoid stronger winds that reside the higher you go in the air.
Knockdown might be an informal term, but it’s an authentic strategy used on the course.
Hearing this term just once will make you want to wash off your golf ball or retrieve a new one. A mud ball is a difficult situation in which your ball becomes covered in mud.
This makes it hard to hit accurately, as you never know which way it might go when it leaves your club.
This type of play is named after the platypus, which is a fairly uncommon species. This term is appropriate when a golfer is still able to make par after hitting the ball out of bounds.
Since it is rare to see this happen on the course, they gave it a rare name.
This ball is so far to the right that it resembles Rush Limbaugh! This is just a fun way to describe the extreme direction that your ball went in.
This is not an endearing term, as it’s actually a name used to describe someone who has skewed the game in their favor. You might be called a Sandbagger if your playing partners determine that you are a much better player than what you led everyone to believe.
Another name for this would be a “hustler.” It describes someone who is almost certainly better than what their handicap suggests.
This cute term is used to describe a hole during which you hit your ball in the water but still recover to make par. It’s rare to see, but if you are lucky enough to overcome this predicament, you may hear your friends yelling ‘Sharkie!’.
Like the Rush Limbaugh, this term is used to describe a ball that is hit extremely in one direction. In this case, the ball is hit sharply to the left.
This is something you might hear the other members of your party say after you strike a tee shot exceptionally well. They’re letting you know that the ball was hit well and accurately, and it was a job well done by you.
The three jack is not something you want to experience. It means that you took 3 putts to sink your ball and it probably put you over par.
It’s unfortunate, but you can always go out on the next hole and make it up with a birdie if you keep your cool!
You might hear this if you hit a terrible shot that warrants a USGA. This stands for “ugly shot, go again” in golf circles, and it’s best to avoid situations in which this term is needed. It’s all in good fun, but not so great for your score.
This quirky term is used to describe a ball that keeps rolling and rolling and rolling…and rolling.
It’s named in honor of all the worms that it likely “burns” on its way to, or past the tee.
Wormburners aren’t inherently bad, but they can be frustrating when they roll on past the tee and seem to last for an eternity.
Yips are what you might get when you are about to hit a chip shot or take an important putt.
It prevents you from striking the ball well and could be compared to the jitters (nerves).
It’s hard to maintain your composure, and a bout of the yips might earn you some heckling from your friends.
So there we have it.
As you’ll now be aware, there is an abundance of unique golf terms out there, but we’ve in no way covered them all. If you feel we’ve missed any, drop your favorites into the comments!
Golfing is an incredibly charming and historical sport and this is reflected in the vast array of terminology and slang used within the game.
After familiarizing yourself with the golf terms above, you should be in a strong position to effectively integrate with the other members at your club and enjoy yourself out on the course.
Hopefully, you find yourself using all the good terms, and fewer bad ones.
Either way, have fun out there and get ready to throw your new terms into conversation whilst you chat around the holes!