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Golf Terms – Glossary of Popular Golf Phrases and Terms

August 2020

With such a rich and deep history, it’s no wonder that a wealth of golf terms have built up over the years.

So if you’ve been on the course recently and not had a clue what your partner was talking about, take a look at some of the golf terms below to get clued up.

Although a list of golf terms can be almost be inexhaustible, we have attempted to only add the most common and popular golf terms that you are likely to come across on a typical round.

For your convenience they are listed in alphabetical order.

This article is part of our Golf for Beginners guide.

Popular Golf Phrases


The address means the act of standing behind the ball and taking your hitting position with the club head behind the ball. Once this happens, any movement of the ball will count as a shot.

Air shot

An air shot is when a player addresses the ball, takes a full swing, and misses the ball completely. Please note, this is still counted as a stroke. Also known as a “whiff” or “fresh air”.


A term used to describe a hole in which a player gets 3 under par.


A term used to describe a hole in which a player gets 1 under par.


A term used to describe a hole in which a player gets 1 over par.


A golf term describing someone who seemingly plays consistently above their handicap. It is the opposite of sandbagging.

Bump and run

A shot with a low trajectory that is intended to hit the fairway and roll onto the green. Similar to that of a chip shot, but played from a longer distance.

Caddy or Caddie

A person, usually paid, who carries a player’s golf bag and gives advice as to the distance, club needed and lay of the green.


A dogleg is a golf term used to describe a hole in which the fairway is straight for certain length be-fore bending around either to the left or tight.

Double bogey

A term used to describe a hole in which a player gets 2 over par.


A duff shot is a terrible shot. Usually very little contact is made. Sometimes called a shank.


A term used to describe a hole in which a player gets 2 under par.


A term used to describe a hole in which a player scores par.


A fat is a golf term used to describe a players shot when he or she hits the ground/turf a long way before the ball. Often results in a bad shot with loss of distance.


This is a warning shout players give when they hit a ball off course towards other players or spectators.


When a player puts or hits a ball so close to the flag that your opponent believes you cannot miss the put – he or she will give you a gimme. Not allowed in stroke play, but generally used in casual matches.

Green in regulation (GIR)

A player is said to be on the green in regulation if the ball is on the green with two shots left to make par.


A handicap is the golf term assigned to every player based on their golfing level. A golf handicap allows players to play people of varying skill levels and brings a general level of equality to the match. If a players handicap is 12, this means the player generally completes a round of golf 12 over par. See our detailed article on how to calculate a golf handicap.


A hazard is any permanent water feature or bunker. Special golf rules often apply when playing from a hazard.

Hole in one

A very rare phenomenon. A hole in one is when a player tees off and hits the ball into the hole in one stroke..

Inward nine

The inward 9 means the last 9 holes. So called because you are heading ‘into’ the clubhouse.


A lay up is generally a short range shot in which a player ‘lays’ the ball up in a nice position for his or her next shot.


The lie is term used to note how the ball is lying on the ground.


A type of golf course that is usually located on the coast among sand dunes.

Mud ball

A ball that has mud or debris attached to it when can affect the players shot. Although payers can only clean their ball on the green, this rule is often waived on the fairway also.


A mulligan effectively means a replay of the shot without penalty or additional stroke added to your score. Not allowed in tournament play.

Outward nine

The outward 9 holes are the first 9 holes played. So called because you are literally heading ‘out’ from the clubhouse.


This is an area designated on each course as out of bounds. If a player hits a ball into the section then he or she will have a stroke added to their score and have to redo the shot.


A par is the term used when a player gets the standard score for a hole as written on the score-card.


Refers to a ball on the putting green that is positioned along an imaginary horizontal line through the hole and across the width of the putting green.

Play through

A play through is when permission is granted by a slower group of golfers for the faster group of golfers to pass them. This is good golf etiquette.

Plugged lie

This is when the landed ball has plugged into the fairway or rough, ie, gone down so deep that it cannot be hit out.


A term used when a ball has landed on the edge of a lake or water hazard.

Plus handicap

A golf handicap less than zero. A player with a ‘plus’ handicap must add his handicap to his score.

Preferred lies

During adverse weather conditions, a player may lift his or her ball and place it somewhere where the lie is better.

Rub of the Green

A term used when a ball deflects off a third party object, stopping it from going out of bounds.


The run is the distance the ball travels once it lands.


A sandbagger is someone who purposefully inflates their handicap so they can win bets on the course. For example, if someone has a handicap of 10 but they play 2 over par.

Sand save

This is when a player get a par by getting up and down from a green-side bunker.


This is a golf term used when a player does not reach the green in regulation but still achieves a par or better on the hole.

Scratch golfer

A scratch golfer is someone whose handicap equals zero. A player’s whose handicap equals zero.

Short game

The short game is any shots played on or around the green area.

Short side

Meaning when a player misses the green and runs over to the same side in which the hole is cut. This generally makes for a difficult next shot with less space to stop the ball.


A player telling the ball to sit when it lands on the green and not run on.


Meaning when a player strokes the ball with the lower part of the blade head. Often results in a low, fast shot with little spin.


When a player scores 8 on a hole it is referred to as a snowman because the letter resembles a snowman’s body. It can also refer to someone who has carded a score of 80 for a round of 18 holes.


When a players ball is blocking your own ball from the the putting hole.


Generally called a ‘gimme’. When a player gives you the short put without you having to actually tap it in.

Teeing ground

This is the area from which you tee off. There are always different coloured markers, depending on if you are male, female or pro. You must place your tee between those markers, anywhere along the imaginary line.


Similar to a skull. When you hit the ball on the top, meaning the ball skids along the ground.

Tree shot

A shot in which a player has hit tree/branch and the resulting lie leaves the player in a bad situation.

Triple bogey

A term used to describe a hole in which a player gets 3 over par.


When a player gets three consecutive birdies during a round of golf.


If your ball is unplayable, you can state thus and move the ball to the nearest possible marker where it can be played. One stroke is added.

Up and down

A term used when a player is off the free and gets the ball in the hole within two shots. ‘Up’ onto the green and ‘down’ into the hole.


A pre-shot routine by many players when they adjust there stance and body prior to playing the shot.

Winter green

Generally this is an area of the fairway that has been converted into a green during winter to pre-serve the main green. Occasionally courses will have two greens with two types of grass for summer and winter.

About the author 

Paul Bradshaw

Paul hit his first golf shot at the age of 5, and from that point on was immediately hooked. He went on to become one of the leading amateurs in South Africa, securing a full golf scholarship with the University of Arkansas Razorbacks. Turning professional in 2004, Paul played extensively on the Sunshine Tour and co-sanctioned European Tour events. Paul is our lead editor at Golf Assessor.

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