Basic Golf Terms – Golf Words to Learn

For someone who doesn’t know golf at all, the language may seem like a nightmare. Golf kind of has its own language that portrays different scenarios, equipment, scoring, and so on. Even the beginners in this space often fail to memorize or understand the meaning of golf words.

That’s why we had to step up. We’ve done our research on the internet to see what information is out there. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find a good list where all necessary items were included. So, we’re here today with the common golf terms and their meaning.

Instead of arranging the terms alphabetically, we’ll do this in sections. Each section will include all the relevant golf terms for that topic. In our opinion, alphabetically arranging terms will not mean much to you even after explanation unless you know where they belong.

Without keeping you in the dark anymore, let’s get started.

Golf Term Meanings by Category

  1. Equipment Terms
  2. Golf Course Terms
  3. Golf Shot Terms
  4. Flight Path & Golf Swing Terms
  5. Scoring Terms
  6. Miscellaneous Golf Words

Category 1: The Equipment

We’ve decided to go with the equipment golf requires before anything else. Because, if you don’t have the equipment or don’t know what they mean, what’s the point of learning other things about golf, right?

Golf Club

So, a golf club. Whether you play or not, you’ve definitely heard this golfing term. We can’t even blame you if you think it’s a club where golfers meet and hang out. It sure sounds like it!

But in reality, a golf club is the stick you hit the ball with. Yes, it’s the long stick with a grip on the top and an elongated area to hit the ball at the bottom. Now, there are different types of golf clubs. If you’re in the vicinity of other golfers, you won’t hear them say ‘club’ after they mention one of the club types. That’s why you need to understand the club types as well.

  • Driver: This golf club is designed to ‘drive’ the ball far away. These clubs can usually cover the longest distance. In most cases, a driver is made of wood. Also, they are ranked according to their loft. 1-wood can shoot the ball farthest while a 3-wood will shoot the ball higher. Interesting fact: they are still called wood due to the old legacy, but they are rarely made out of wood.
  • Fairway Wood: A fairway wood also belongs in the wood category, but they come with a smaller club head and stiffer shaft. It has more loft than a 2-wood driver.
  • Iron: An iron refers to a golf club made from iron. Well, technically, the club head. The shaft of the club can either be iron or graphite. Then, there are long irons and short irons. They are numbered like the wood ones as well. 1-iron, 2-iron, 3-iron are known as long iron because they cover the most distance. 7-iron, 8-iron, and 9-iron are short irons because they have a high loft angle, designed to give the ball more flight than distance.
  • Wedges: Wedges are usually made of iron and designed to cover short distances, usually from the fairway. The shots played with wedges are called wedge shots. There are pitching wedges, gap wedges, lob wedges, and chipping wedges. Also, wedges are often the savior to get your ball out of a bunker or a rough.
  • Putter: These golf clubs are for extreme accuracy. Veteran golfers usually use them on the green to roll the ball into the hole. There are many kinds of putters, cleverly crafted by industry leaders to cater to players.

Club Head

The club head is the entire area attached to the shaft of the club. It can be a traditional-style blade, a mallet club head, or a heel-toe club head.

Traditional blades are the thinnest and most tricky to master. But they offer greater flexibility for professional players. Heel-toe clubs are usually putters that come with perimeter weighting to be more forgiving. Lastly, mallets are usually the largest and cover the most number of shapes.

Club Face

The club face is a part of the club head. It’s the front side of the head that you hit the ball with.

Golf Balls

Probably the most important equipment for the sport. Without the ball, what would you even do with all the clubs!

Golf balls come in various piece offerings.

  • One-Piece Ball: The most basic type of golf ball. And they have become quite rare in recent years. They are very durable but the ‘feel’ is not good at all. They are heavy and are extremely hard to spin. We recommend staying away from these.
  • Two-Piece Ball: Following the hierarchy, we have two-piece balls. These are durable too, but have a soft cover on top to generate a good ‘feel’. These are the most commonly used balls among rookie players and for practice.
  • Three-Piece Ball: This is where things get serious. Three-piece offerings are the perfect blend between feel and distance. Most professional players, even tour pros, prefer three-piece balls over a two-piece.
  • Four-Piece Ball: As weird as it may sound, there are four-piece balls as well. Although many argue that the extra layer over a three-piece ball doesn’t make any difference, the inventors justify that when a swing is fast enough, these balls offer ‘spin separation’.
  • Five-Piece Ball: Way to go with five-piece balls! It’s even more expensive than a four-piece. These are designed for the pinnacle of golfers. However, a two or three-piece is the perfect place to start.

Tees

You’ve seen the thing that golfers put in the ground and put the ball on top of it, right? It’s the tee. These are usually made from plastic or wood. The goal here is to elevate the ball from the ground for more accurate hits. The pointy end makes it easier for tees to go into the ground.

Ball Marker

There are dedicated golf ball markers out there, but a regular sharpie will do just fine. The purpose of a ball marker is to mark the ball for alignment. Also, the marks work as anchor points in case the ball is lifted from the ground.

Category 2: The Course

This is where all the magic happens. The golf courses are some of the most spectacular visuals you’ll see. The long stretch of grass and the neatly maintained trees will surely soothe your soul.

A golf course is divided into various areas. The layouts maybe a little different from course to course, but the fundamental idea is the same.

Boundaries

The lines around the course. Just because it’s a golf course doesn’t mean the entire property is open for playing. The boundaries are set by the golf course committee.

Out of Bounds

Any area that the committee didn’t include in the boundaries is considered out of bounds.

The General Area

The entire golf course is considered a general area when you take out the teeing area, the bunkers, the putting green, and the penalty areas from the equation. The general area is the largest portion of a course and includes all the playing and non-playing areas like the fairways, roughs, trees, casual water, and so on.

Teeing Area

Also known as Starting the Hole, this is the place where players start each of their holes. Golfers often refer to it as the tee box, tee, teeing ground, and so on. This is where you put the tee and start your journey toward the hole.

Bunkers

Bunkers are part of the hazards group. The purpose of hazard areas is to impose a challenge on the players. The primary challenge is to avoid them. And when the primary objective is failed, getting the ball out of the area becomes the secondary objective.

Bunkers are filled with sand or similar material where it’s necessary to give the ball enough flight to escape. These are usually man-made.

Water Hazards

Water hazards are natural and they complement the bunkers. Lakes and rivers are outstanding examples of water hazards in a golf course.

Casual Water

These areas are not recognized hazards by the course. When water accumulates due to rain or snowfall temporarily, it’s called a casual water. The best thing about this area is that you can move the ball without a penalty!

Fairway

The long stretch of grass surrounds all the other areas. The grass here is nicely maintained and is identical across the course.

Rough

Roughs are found just outside the fairways. These are long and thick grass allowed to grow naturally. You face a penalty if your ball ends up in the rough and you have to move it by hand.

Putting Green

This is the most maintained area of a golf course. The smooth patch of grass surrounding the flag and the hole is considered the putting green.

No Play Zone

You cannot play from a no play zone. Three conditions indicate when you will need to take a relief.

  1. When your ball ends up in the no play zone
  2. When you have to stand in the no play zone to take a swing
  3. When your swing may hit something on the way up or down

If you go ahead and take the swing anyways, you get any of the two penalties. You either get a loss of hole for the match or add two penalty strokes on your overall score.

Category 3: Shots

Just like the other areas, there are common golf terms for shots as well. Let’s find out what all of them mean.

Drive

You may have already guessed it. Yes, you drive with a driver! Drives are usually taken from the teeing ground. But rules dictate that you can take a driver from the fairway as well. Your goal with a drive is to send the ball as far as you can to the right director. Any shot over 200 yards is considered a drive.

Approach

When you intend to send the ball into the green with your drive but fail, an approach shot is required. The intention of an approach must be to send the ball to the green. Selecting the right golf iron is crucial in this case.

Punch

The act of keeping the ball lower to the ground is achieved through the punch. The idea here is to minimize the flight height to avoid low-hanging hazards or to stop the ball from curving due to strong winds.

Putt

The last few shots of the match. Putting shots are intended to drop the ball into the hole. These short distance shots require mastery over the putting wedges and a clear understanding of factors like slope and power.

Chip

A chip shot is very much like a putt, but shorter. Chip shots cover barely any distance. The idea is the avoid a hazard or paving way for a lay-up shot.

Lay Up Shot

The ultimate goal of lay-up shots is to set the ball in a position that makes your upcoming shot easier.

Flop

Unlike punch shots, the objective of flop shots is to give the ball flight. When you need the ball to go as high as possible without covering much distance, a flop shot is a way to go.

Fat

Relax. No one is body shaming anyone. A fat shot is when the club hits the ground way before the ball! See, didn’t we tell you golf terms are confusing. Anyways! You may think this is a bad shot. But in most cases, a fat shot is deliberate and necessary to get the ball out of the rough.

Top

When the club face hits the ball above its center of gravity, a topspin is generated that doesn’t let the ball roll very far.

Category 4: Flight Path

The meaning of golf words is often confusing even to the very best. And the terms associated with flight paths are a prime example.

Draw/Hook

For right-handed players, when they shape the flight path from right to left or from outside to inside, it’s known as a draw or a hook. The opposite goes for left-handed players. And the extreme form of this shot is known as Duck Hooking, which is not a good thing.

Fade/Slice

Fade is the opposite of a draw. When a right-handed player shapes the ball from left to right, it’s called a fade or a slice.

Shank

All the mishits are considered as shaking the ball in common golf terms. Shanking is a serious error that must be corrected before it goes too far. Basically, when a player completely misses the club face and hits the ball with either the heel or the toe, it’s a shank. And the ball goes who knows where!

Category 5: Scoring

Just like the rest of the sport, even the basic golf terms regarding the scoring system are also quite complicate. Let’s see what different terms mean during the score-keeping of the match.

Par

Probably the most commonly used term for golf scoring. A par score is given to the golfer when he/she completes the hole within the number of strokes. The reference scores are listed on the course scoreboard.

If it’s harder for you to grab, think of a 3-par hole. It means you must complete your hole with 3 shots. If you go over 3 shots, you don’t get a par. 3-par holes are generally short courses, up to 250 yards.

Similarly, a 4-par hole goes up to 470 yards and a 5-par hole goes up to 690 yards! 6-par holes also exist but they’re very rare to come by.

Double Eagle

Starting with one of the hardest possibilities. A Double Eagle means the player has completed the hole staying 3 shots below the par. It’s also known as an Albatross. They are hard because if you play at a 3-par hole, you’ll have to complete the hole in just one shot. Insane, right?

Eagle

Using the same formula as a Double Eagle, we can get an Eagle. Instead of 3 strokes under par, you stay 2 strokes under par.

Birdie

More attainable than the previous two. A Birdie is when you complete the hole staying 1 stroke under the par.

Bogey

When you go over the par by one stroke, your score is considered a Bogey. Similarly, you can double Bogey or Tripple Bogey, and even quadruple Bogey for 2, 3, and 4 strokes over par!

Hole in One

The ultimate miracle of a score. A hole in one is when the ball takes off from the tee and lands directly into the hole. It can most commonly happen in 3-par holes. But it doesn’t matter how it happens, it’s an outstanding accomplishment for any golfer.

Handicap

Handicap in Golf is a numbering system to put golfers in different brackets. It’s calculated based on your abilities and competitiveness.

High/Low Handicapper

A high handicapper is a player who has over 19 on the handicap scale. Players below 19 are considered low handicappers. Low handicappers usually the best players in golf.

Category 6: Miscellaneous

You’ve almost become a pro in understanding the golf vocabulary list. Now, it’s time for some of them that we couldn’t fit in any categories. Let’s begin.

Relief

Taking a relief in golf means moving away from the point in no play zone to avoid penalty. The distance is one club length. So, it will vary depending on what club you are holding in that abnormal condition.

Range/Driving Range

The practice facility for golfers. It may or may not be a part of any recognized golf course.

Backswing/Downswing

The act of swinging your club back and forth.

Loft

The angle between the club face and the ground below. The higher the angle, the more flight your hit will get and the less distance it will cover. The opposite is true for low loft angles.