Golf Terms and Definitions

Golf is a very complicated sport with its own set of terms used within the community. This jargon can be difficult for beginners and those who are not initiated into the ways of the sport. These terms are discussed below. This glossary will help you understand more of the words spoken during games as you progress further into being a golf player.

A

Address

The opening position before the shot.

Alignment

Alignment is how the player positions himself or herself relative to the ball before launch.

Approach
An attempt to shoot the ball towards the green, or the hole.
Apron

The grass surrounding a green area on the course.

Axis

The line in which the body is rooted even as it turns around for the swing.

B

Backswing
The initial part of the attack wherein the player pulls the club back and up before swinging it back down to hit and shoot the ball.
Backspin
The ball’s rotation immediately upon impact with the club. The amount of backspin the impact produces greatly affects flight altitude and its movement on the ground upon landing.
Balance
Balance is how the player distributes body weight from the starting position until the swing is completed.
Balata
The previous material of choice for golf ball covers. Its use is rare nowadays, although it was popular among players for its softer feel.
Bandit
A player who performs beyond the limits of their handicap.
Baseball Grip

This is a type of grip which uses all ten of the player’s fingers.

Birdie
This score is given if a player achieves a shot on a hole that is under par.
Bladed Shot

A bladed shot occurs when the player hits the bottom side of an iron club on the upper half of the ball. This is typically used for achieving a low-altitude shot.

Block:
A shot in which the player prevents the forearms from rotating upon hitting the ball. Players employ this technique if they want the ball to land to the right side of the target.
Bogey

Bogeys refer to a shot that hits hole one under par.

Bomb and Gouge
A technique that involves shooting the ball as far as the player dares, and then “gouging” the ball out to get into position for a score.
Borrow

The distance sideways from the hole that you are trying to aim for. This is a technique to adjust to sloping terrains, like greens.

Bowed Wrist
A wrist position in which the top wrist bends inward while the club is at the apex of the backswing, and just before it curves back down.
Bump and Run
A technique where a player uses the slope to get the ball closer to the hole. The player shoots the ball into a slope to slow it down upon landing so it moves back to the hole.
Bunker
A hazard area. Bunkers are usually filled with sand.

C

Carry
Carry refers to the distance the ball flies after a shot.
Carryover
This term refers to the moving of the bet to the next hole when players hold a tie in one hole.
Casual Water
Casual water is an area of water that appears during the game but is not part of the course. It could be a puddle of water left behind by previous rains but still has effects on the game.
Center of Gravity
An area in the human body where the weight and mass attain equilibrium. It is usually in the waist or pelvic area.
Centrifugal Force
The force that pulls a moving object away from the center and completes a curve. In golf, this is the force that pulls the arms and club downward until impact and follow through.
Center of Rotation
The part of the body around which it rotates from address and throughout the swing.
Chip and Run
A shot in which the ball flies only a short distance and rolls on the ground the rest of the time.
Choke
A player’s poor performance that is mainly caused by pre-game anxiety and nervousness.
Chunk
A chunk happens when a player’s club hits the turf just before hitting the ball.
Closed Grip
The player grips the club handle by turning the hands away from the ball.
Closed Stance
A stance where the player plants his or her rear foot behind the body instead of having the two legs straddle the ball on address.
Coefficient of Restitution
COR measures the retention of energy from the backswing to the impact between the club and the ball. COR contributes directly to ball speeds and performance.
Coil
Coil refers to the body movement that the player starts a backswing with.
Connection
Connection refers to a very fluid swing that demonstrates the ideal coordination of all the involved body parts.
Croquet Style
A putting style that has the player standing beside the ball with his or her body oriented towards the hole.
Cuppy Lie
Cuppy lie means that the ball has landed on a slight depression or a cup-shaped shallow hole. Also known as a cupped lie, it requires a different approach from the player to dig out the ball.
Cut Shots
Cut shots are launches done with a slight opening of the clubface and a slightly outward backswing. The player then brings down the club inward towards the ball.

D

Dead Hands
A shot with a shorter trajectory than the norm. The term “dead hands” refers to the passive state of the hands before impact.
Decelerate
This technique involves slowing down the club just before impact.
Divot
Divot refers to a hole left on the ground from previous swings. This is caused by the club going further downward after impact before following through.
Double Bogey
A variant of the Bogey scoring, this refers to a hole that required two shots above par.
Double Eagle
The score a player receives when it took three shots under par to hit the hole.
Dormie
This term refers to a player who has gained a significant lead that his competitors would find hard to surmount. It was removed from the Rules of Golf in 2019.
Downswing
The downward movement from the backswing to the follow-through.
Draw
The draw is a shot that sends the ball on a curving path from the player’s right to the left. If the player is left-handed, the ball curves from left to right.
Driving Range
This term refers to the section of a golf course that’s used for practice.
Dynamic Balance
The mechanic of smoothly transferring weight without losing balance to keep the swing stable until launch.

E

Eagle
The score that is given to a hole that required two shots under par.
Early Hit
A hit that involves releasing cocked wrists early on the downswing. The swing loses power at impact in this kind of hit.
Elevated Green
A green area in the course that’s sited on a slight rise.
Etiquette
A set of behaviors that the players are expected to adhere to during the game and when visiting the golf club. Violations of etiquette could result in loss of membership and expulsion.
Explosion
A shot that extracts the ball after being buried in sand, or in a bunker.
Extension
Extension refers to how wide the entire swing is, from backswing until follow-through.

F

Fairway
The spots around tee boxes and greens that have well-trimmed grass.
Fairway Bunker
Bunkers that are intentionally placed next to a fairway. They raise the difficulty of the course.
Fanning
The act of opening the clubface wide during the backswing.
Fat Shot
A shot that misses the target. It is a result of the clubhead striking the turf before hitting the ball.
Feel
The sensation that golfers feel in their hands immediately after impact between club and ball.
Flat Swing
A swing with more horizontal movement than vertical. Usually results in hooks.
Flier
A shot launched from wet or rough conditions. This type of shot usually results in reduced backspin and shortened flight.
Flip Shot
A shot that uses more wrist power than arm strength, resulting in the ball flying high but covering only a short distance.
Floater
A shot that’s launched from deep grass. The grass provides a heavy cushion that dampens the ball’s backspin and flight.
Flop Shot
A flip shot, but launched with less speed and a longer swing.
Flush
Flush means a shot with an excellent feel. This is usually considered as the perfect shot and the result of the impact between the sweet spot of the club and the ball.
Fluffy Lie
A situation in which the ball fell and rested around long grass.
Follow-through
The later part of the swing that launches the ball after impact.
Footwork
The movement of the waist and legs throughout the swing.
Forgiveness
The ability of clubs brought by certain design elements to improve the accuracy and distance of poor or bad shots.
Forward Swing
The downward motion from the backswing that brings the club into impact with the bell. Also called the downswing.
Fourball
A variant of the foursome that is described below. In this gameplay, all four players have their own balls.
Foursome
A type of gameplay that pits two teams of two members each. Each team uses only one ball for both members, who each play in turn.
Fried Egg
A lie in which the egg has landed and got buried beneath the sand in bunkers.
Full Swing
The most common swing that’s used in golf.

G

Golf Range
Golf ranges allow people to play short games or to practice their full swings.
Golf Range
Golf ranges allow people to play short games or to practice their full swings.
Grand Slam
This refers to either the Career or the Modern Grand Slam. A player achieves the Modern Grand Slam by winning in each of the four Major Championships within a single calendar year. On the other hand, a player can achieve a Career Grand Slam by winning in each of the four Major Championships within their entire career.
Greenkeeper
This term previously described the course superintendent. It is now rarely used.
Greenside Bunker
Bunkers placed next to a green.
Green
An area in the course where the grass is shortest. This is where players have to shoot the ball into the hole.
Green Fee
The monetary fee for using a golf course.
Green Jacket
The grand prize of the US Masters Golf tournament. It is meant to be passed on from champion to champion every year.
Ground (Grounding the Club)
The act of touching the ground with your club before you play your shot.
Grass Bunker
An area with a deep depression in which grass has grown. It is not considered a hazard.
Ground Under Repair (GUR)
A section of the course that is not available for use. It could mean that the course committee is working to repair the area, or it is no longer safe for playing.
Gross Score
Your actual score without your handicap being deducted from the figure.

H

Hack
A poor shot that involves a wild swing instead of a controlled one.
Half Shot
The half shot uses a shorter full swing and a lower speed.
Hang time
The length of time that the ball flies from launch until it hits the ground.
Handicap
A handicap is a number that indicates the player’s proficiency in golf. Theoretically, the lower the number, the more skilled the player is supposed to be. It also affects player scores because they have to deduct their handicaps from their total score.
Hanging Lie
This is a ball that is under the golfer’s feet when he or she prepares for the shot. This happens if the ball landed on a slope or a bunker.
Hardpan
A lie with hard geographical features and is devoid of any grass.
Hazard
Artificial and natural landscape features in a golf course that affect the difficulty of a game. These include bunkers and water hazards.
Heavy
It means hitting the ground with the club before the ball.
Hitter

It means hitting the ground with the club before the ball.

Hole High
A play in which the player sends the ball the right distance towards the hole, but not from the right direction.
Hole in One
A hole-in-one means that the player has sent the ball to the hole with only one stroke.
Hole Out
Holing out means repeatedly putting the ball until it scores.
Holed

Holing out means repeatedly putting the ball until it scores.

Hook
A shot in golf that drastically spins around to the other side of the player. Its sharp change in trajectory forms the shape of a hook.
Hybrid
A term used to describe versatile clubs that can be used in roughs, fairways, and tees.

I

Impact
The point of contact between the ball and the club. Impact also launches the ball and starts the hanging time.
Inside to Inside
A swing path that starts on the inside from the backswing and continues traveling to the inside after impact and upswing.
Inside to Outside
A swing path that starts on the inside from the backswing but moves outside the target line on the upswing.
Intended Line of Flight
The trajectory that the player planned for the ball once it has launched. It can also be called an aim line.

K

Kick Point
A section of the golf shaft which has the most flex or bend during movement. The location of the kick point affects the launch angle.
Kill the Ball
To use excessive force or speed during the swing.
Knock Down Shot
A golf shot that launches the ball into a low trajectory. It is also known as a punch shot.

L

Lag
This is a shot that is intentionally aimed to land the ball away from the hole.
Lake balls
Balls that have fallen into water hazards, roughs, and areas outside of the playing area. They are mostly x-out balls used for practice.
Lateral Shift
A body movement that shifts the weight from the outside to the target side of the swing by rotation of the hips.
Launch Angle
The angle, relative to the ground, at which the ball flies after launch.
Lay Up
The angle, relative to the ground, at which the ball flies after launch.
Lie
The spot in which the ball has halted at the end of its trajectory.
Line
The ball’s path from the start of the game to the hole.
Line Up
To set up your shot based on the slope or break of the green.
Lip
The edge around a hole.
Lip Out
A phenomenon in which the ball skirts at the edges of the hole but rolls away from it instead of entering.
Lob
Lobbing means launching the ball at a high angle.
Loop
A swing in which the forward swing and the backswing follow different planes.

M

Mechanics
The factors that affect the putt or the swing.
Mega Flop Shot
A variant of the flop shot that sends the ball at the highest it could go over a short distance.
Mis-Club
The act of picking the wrong club for the intended shot.
Misread
To misjudge the conditions in front of the ball before attempting the play.
Missing the Cut
A competition elimination technique. The player who did not meet the requisite scores for the next round is said to have “missed the cut.”
Moment of Inertia
A measure of how much resistance a clubhead has against twisting. A golf club with a high MOI is preferred and is considered very forgiving.
Mulligan
A Mulligan is a second attempt at sending the ball into the hole from the same position as the first try without incurring a penalty. The Rules of Golf disallows Mulligans except in casual games.

N

Nassau
A game in which the player who plays the best front nine holes and back nine holes wins.
Net Score
The player’s final scores after their handicap ratings are subtracted from their gross score.

O

Off-green putt
A putt that is initiated from outside the green.
Offset
The distance between the leading edges of the neck and clubface.
One-piece takeaway
A movement in which the player maintains the triangle made by the clubhead and their shoulders until the backswing widens. This takeaway generates a lot of power for the forward swing.
Open Stance

A movement in which the player maintains the triangle made by the clubhead and their shoulders until the backswing widens. This takeaway generates a lot of power for the forward swing.

Outside-to-In
A swing path that starts with the clubhead pointing outside the target, and ends with the clubhead on the inside of the path.
Out of Bounds
Places that are not part of the official game zone.
Overclub
Picking the wrong club for the approach to the green.

P

Pace
Pace could refer either to the velocity of the swing, or the speed of the green.
Par
Par refers to the number of strokes that players are expected to make to send the ball to a hole.
Path

The pattern of the club’s movement during the swing. It’s either inside-to-inside, outside-to-inside, or inside-to-outside.

Pendulum Stroke
A swing in which the club head’s line of motion remains constant.
Pitch-and-run
A shot where the players play the ball around the green. The ball spends only a short time airborne and mostly runs on the green as close as it can to the hole.
Pitch Mark
A pitch mark is a depression or disturbance in the turf from previous ball impacts. Players usually fix their own pitch marks, but some marks are sometimes left unattended.
Plumb-bob
A method of planning a putt using the shaft of the putter.
Plugged Lie

A method of planning a putt using the shaft of the putter.

Press
To apply more force to swinging the club than usual, or to generally play harder. It also refers to an extra wager on a player that’s lagging behind in scores.
Pre-shot routine
A routine that players follow at address before starting the backswing.
Pronation
The rotation of one or both hands towards the axis, or the body’s center, while the player stands with the palms facing forward.
Provisional Ball
Similar to the Mulligan, a provisional ball is a tee on the same spot after the player thinks he may have lost the ball or he didn’t know where it landed.

Q

Quitting on the ball
This means slowing down the stroke on the upswing after impact.

R

Radius
The length of space during the swing between the hands and the shoulder near the target.
Reading the Green
This means analyzing the green and figuring out how to launch or putt the ball to go where you want it to go.
Recover
To make a good shot even from a lie that’s difficult to dig the ball from.
Release
A swinging technique in which the player hits the ball with the clubhead on the downswing. Perfecting this technique results in shots with tremendous energy.
Reverse Weight Shift
This is when the player transfers weight to the front leg instead of the rear leg when starting the backswing.
Round Robin
A system of two-on-two match play that involves players switching teams after every six holes.
Rhythm
Rhythm is how the many different parts of the body involved in the swing coordinate to pull off the stroke.

S

Scramble
A player is said to have scrambled if they have caught up their game despite being at a severe disadvantage.
Separation
A state in which the club or the player’s body is moving slower than the other during the swing.
Setup
The entire process from address, pre-shot routines, the swinging of the club, the launching of the ball, and the follow-through.
Shank
To hit the ball with the neck of the club.
Shape
The ability to fade or draw the shot to get around an obstacle.
Short Game
Shots that are launched from areas on and around the green.
Sky
To hit the underside of the ball with the clubhead.
Slice
A shot in which the ball curves drastically from one direction to another. The curve is steeper than on a fade.
Sole
The moment that the club’s sole grounds at address. This results in a penalty.
Splash Shot
A good shot launched from a bunker.
Spot Putting
The act of aiming the putt using features in the geography like an old pitch mark, or a dried blade of grass.
Stance
How the feet are positioned at address. The correct stance can help in achieving the perfect launch.
Steer
To try and steer the ball towards the intended line during the upswing. This doesn’t work as intended, however, and the ball loses power during launch.
Stroke Play
Gameplay in which players are judged according to the number of strokes they played to complete eighteen holes.
Supination
An involuntary action in which the hands rotate to make the thumbs point outward.
Swaying
To make unnecessary lateral movements at any point during the swing.
Sweet Spot
The part of the club’s face that does not rotate or twist upon impact with the ball.
Swing Arc
The club head’s trajectory during the swing.
Swinger
A player who uses timing and rhythm rather than sheer force to launch the ball.

T

Takeaway
The initial movement of the arms, hands, and body that starts the backswing.
Tee Box
The beginning point of the ball’s path in the course. This is where the first launch of the ball takes place.
Tempo
The velocity of the swing itself, and not just the clubhead.
Texas Wedge
A shot that is launched using a putter from outside the green.
Three-Quarter Shot
A shot that uses reduced backswing and slower arm speed.
Tiger Line
This means shooting the ball straight towards the green. This technique is named after Tiger Woods.
Toed Shot
To hit the ball with the toe of the club instead of the head.
Topped Shot
A shot that has a low trajectory and the tendency to bounce off upon landing. This happens when the bottom of the club strikes the ball’s upper half. This is also known as a thin shot.
Trajectory

The flight of the ball after impact. It has two features –height and angle.

Transition
This means changing directions at any point during the swing, i.e. from the outside to the inside.

U

Under Club
This means picking the wrong club for the planned shot. Instead of overshooting the target, the ball instead lands short.
Uncock
To take the wrists out of alignment during the downswing. This results in loss of power and reduced backspin.
Up and Down
To send the ball to the hole in just two strokes on the green.

V

Vector
An object or mass that gains both direction and magnitude. The magnitude is directly responsible for the length of the ball’s trajectory in golf.
Visualization
The technique of creating a mental image of the planned shot before the address.

W

Waggle
To move the club in two directions at address, and just before the arms and shoulders move for the backswing. It is mainly a technique to relax the player and remove excess tension from the limbs.
Weak Grip
A grip is considered weak if the hands are turned in the opposite direction of the player’s dominant hand, i.e. turning to the right for left-handed players.
Whiff
A swing that misses the ball.
Winter Greens

A swing that misses the ball.

X

X-Out Balls
Balls that are rejected by their manufacturers due to minor defects, but still sold at discount prices. Players and golf courses purchase these in bulk as practice rounds.

Y

Yips
An involuntary jerk of the player’s limbs at any point during the swing that can result in poor shots.

Z

Zip
The backspin that is created by the transfer of force from the clubhead to the ball upon impact and through the upswing.
With this glossary at hand, you’ll become more knowledgeable about the many different terms spoken in golf. This added knowledge, in turn, will help you concentrate more on your game and make you a better golfer.