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What are Some Common Golf Terms?

By Phil Shepley
Updated May 23, 2024
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Like most sports, a wide range of unique terminology is used when playing the game of golf. A beginning golfer may have a difficult time understanding the differences between a birdie and an eagle, but confusion about these and many other golf terms will lessen as experience with golfing grows. Many golf terms have to do with rules of the game, others are related to the equipment that is utilized, and even more have to do with the golf course and the conditions surrounding the player.

The basic rules of the sport of golf involve attempting to hit a golf ball into a hole in as few strokes as possible. A golf course typically consists of 18 holes, but there are some that have more or less, usually in multiples of 9 holes. The term stroke refers to any time that a ball is advanced when it has been hit with a golf club, which is the golfer’s primary piece of equipment. Some circumstances require that a golfer be charged with a stroke even if he or she has not swung his or her club, and this is referred to as a penalty stroke.

Each hole is allotted a number of strokes that the golfer is expected to take to get the ball into the hole. This number is referred to as par, and a hole can be either par 3, 4 or 5, depending on the distance to the hole. If the golfer finishes a hole by hitting a ball one less than the par, it is referred to as a birdie, and two under par is called an eagle. If on a par 5, for example, the golfer takes four strokes to finish the hole, he has officially gotten a birdie on that hole. If he or she takes the amount of strokes designated on a hole, then he or she is said to have “made par.” A rare occurrence in golf is the hole-in-one, usually achieved on par 3 holes, where it only takes one stroke to get the ball in the hole.

One over par is called a bogie, two is called a double bogie, and three a triple bogie. After that, a player is said to have made however many strokes over par that it took them to get to the hole, for instance a score of ten on a par 3 hole is referred to as “seven over par.” Since not all players are good enough for the Professional Golf Association (PGA) or the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA), one of the golf terms, a handicap, is assigned to different golf courses based on their difficulty. A handicap is used to balance inequity between players of different skill levels that are playing against one another by allotting them “free” strokes if they lack the skill of the other players.

One of the golf terms that refers to a part of the hole is the tee box, where the initial golf shot is hit. Another is the fairway, which is the stretch of land between the tee box and the hole. The difficult of the hole can be increased by making the fairway turn to the left or right on the way to the hole, and these fairways are referred to as dogleg lefts and dogleg rights, respectively. The hole itself is located on a green, which usually has shorter grass than the rest of the hole, as well as a flagstick, complete with flag, that is placed in the hole so that golfers can see it from a distance. Places to avoid on the course are the rough, which is any area that is not the fairway or green, and traps, which can be made of water or sand.

There are also many golf terms that refer to golf equipment. A tee is a small spike that the golf ball rests on before the golfer hits his or her first stroke, and it is not required for a golfer to use a tee. On longer holes, this first stroke is usually taken with a wood or driver, which is a golf club that has a large head that can be made of one of many types of lightweight materials, and is designed to hit the golf ball long distances. Once the player is on the fairway, an iron usually becomes the club of choice. An iron is a club with thinner metal head that is angled to give the ball a trajectory that makes it travel a specific distance. Finally, once on the green, the club of choice becomes the putter, a club designed to hit the ball and make it roll on the ground, hopefully for the golfer's final shot into the hole.

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Discussion Comments

By anon100740 — On Jul 31, 2010

Thumbs up for the easy to understand description.

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