100+ Golf Terms That Every Golfer Should Know
Golf Terms List
As if it’s not hard enough just to improve your golf game, it can feel like you need to learn a new language to communicate on the golf course.
While we can’t help you drop ten strokes off your game by reading one article, we can help you sound like you know what you’re talking about when conversing with your golf buddies.
Below you’ll find 100+ golf terms commonly used on courses and in clubhouses around the world.
We've broken this golf terms list into the following categories:
- Golf Course Terms
- Golf Scoring Terms
- Golf Format Terms
- Recreational Golf Terms
- Golf Shot Terms
- Types of Golf Lies
- Golf Equipment Terms
- Terms for Parts of a Golf Club
- Launch Monitor Terms
- Other Golf Terms
Golf Course Terms
To start, we'll cover the golf terms you need to know to describe areas of a golf course, specific holes, or the course as a whole.
Hole – “Hole” can both describe the physical hole on the green that you have to hit the ball into or the (usually 18) individual sections of the golf course.
The latter meaning includes everything from the tee box to the green (and the physical hole in the green).
Examples of both uses:
- “I chipped the ball into the hole.”
- “I got a birdie on the 18th hole.”
Tee Box/Tees/Teeing Ground – The “Tee Box,” “Teeing Ground,” or “Tees” is the area of a golf hole where players begin the hole. This area is the only area that you can use a golf tee to “tee up” the golf ball.
- Red tees are most commonly used as “ladies’ tees” and are closest to the hole.
- White tees are intended to be used by average golfers, particularly those with more modest driving abilities.
- In this 3-color system, blue tees are the furthest tees from the hole. They’re generally meant to be used by experienced golfers and long hitters.
Today, it’s common to see other tee colors used in addition to red, white, and blue:
- Black tees are usually further from the hole than even blue tees. While some courses will regularly make black tees available, they’re most often used for competitive play or special events.
- Gold tees are a frequently used color, but they can indicate two very different uses depending on the course. Some courses use gold for their senior tees, while other courses use them for competitive play and special events. If placed closer than other tees, they’re intended for seniors, while if they’re the furthest from the hole, they’re meant for championship play.
While the above colors are the most used tee colors, some courses use their own unique colors.
Fairway – The “Fairway” is the portion(s) of a golf hole where the grass is cut the shortest between the tee box and the green.
On golf holes where you can’t reach the green in one stroke (most par-4s and all par-5s), your goal should be to keep your ball on the fairway before getting to the green. It’s essential to try to keep drives and subsequent shots on the fairway because the short grass makes it easier to hit your ball accurately to a repeatable and predictable distance.
First Cut – The “First Cut” of rough is a short strip of grass between the fairway and rough on most golf courses. The first cut has taller grass than the fairway, but it’s not nearly as tall and thick as the rough beyond it.
Hitting out of the first cut is usually no problem compared to fairways, though it makes shots a bit less predictable.
Bunkers (Sand Traps) – “Bunkers” or “Sand Traps” are sunken pits filled with sand that often have raised lips. For most players, especially novice players, bunkers are the most challenging area of a golf hole to hit from.
If a bunker is located near the green, it may be referred to as a “Greenside Bunker.” If a bunker is located along the fairway, away from the green, it may be called a “Fairway Bunker.”
When in a greenside bunker or whenever your ball is embedded in the sand, you’ll usually need to hit an inch or two behind the ball (striking the sand). These shots can be hard to predict, and you can easily hit shorter or further than your target. For new golfers, in particular, it’s not uncommon to see them struggle to get out of a bunker in just one shot. Occasionally, even professional golfers will mess up their bunker shots to this degree.
One final thing to note about bunkers is that you’re not allowed to touch the sand with a club while making a practice swing, during your backswing, or at any time directly in front or behind the ball according to USGA rules.
Green – The “Green” is the location of the flagstick and cup (hole). Once you’re on the green, use your putter to attempt to roll the ball in the cup.
Fringe – The “Fringe” is an area surrounding the green where the grass is slightly higher than the putting green. You can think of it similarly to the “first cut” surrounding a fairway. “Fringe” and “first cut” can be used to describe either the area surrounding the green or fairway, but “fringe” is most commonly used for the area around a green and “first cut” is usually used to describe the area surrounding a fairway.
From the fringe, you can either choose to putt or use a wedge/iron to chip.
Cup – The “Cup” or “Hole” is the physical hole of a “golf hole (the term also used to describe everything from the tee box to the cup)” located on the green. You complete a golf hole by getting the golf ball into the cup.
Flag/Pin/Flagstick – A “Pin” or “Flagstick” is placed inside the cup so the cup's location can be seen from further away. Once on the green, you can choose between leaving the pin in the hole, removing the pin, or having someone tend to the pin.
Hazard – A “Hazard” is a manmade bunker or body of water, as well as a naturally occurring body of water.
If you hit your ball into a “Water Hazard” marked with yellow stakes, you can:
- If you find your ball, you can choose to hit it with no penalty.
- Add a one-stroke penalty to your score and play another ball from your shot's starting location that went into the water hazard.
- Add a one-stroke penalty to your score and drop a ball behind the straight line of where your ball entered the margin of the hazard and the flagstick.
- If you find your ball, you can choose to hit it with no penalty.
- Add a one-stroke penalty to your score and play another ball from the starting location of your shot that went into the water hazard.
- Add a one-stroke penalty to your score and drop a ball within two club-lengths of where your ball last crossed into the hazard, no closer to the hole.
- Add a one-stroke penalty to your score and drop a ball within two club-lengths on the opposite side of the hazard where your ball last crossed into the hazard, no closer to the hole.
Out of Bounds – “Out of Bounds” is the area of a golf course that the course staff or tournament committee has ruled play is not allowed.
In casual play, many golfers will just drop a ball where they think their ball went out of bounds and add a penalty stroke to their score. However, if you’re playing by the official rules, you’ll need to add a penalty stroke to your score and play another ball from the starting location of the shot that went out of bounds.
Drop Zone- A “Drop Zone” or "Drop Area" is a special area on a golf hole that a committee may allow or require golfers to drop a ball in if they cannot play their current ball due to an unplayable ball or various other reasons.
Course Rating – “Course Rating” represents an estimate of the average strokes a scratch golfer is expected to make in the best 50% of rounds they have for a given course. Therefore, a golf course with a higher course rating should be more difficult than a course with a lower rating.
Slope Rating – Whereas Course Rating indicates to scratch golfers how challenging a golf course is, “Slope Rating” is intended to show how difficult a course will be for bogey golfers. Slope rating uses a range of 55 to 155 with higher numbers indicating a course is more difficult. Unlike course rating, Slope Rating does NOT indicate how many strokes a golfer is expected to score.
Dogleg – A “Dogleg” is a hole with a sharp bend to either the left or right. It’s called this because it looks like the hind leg of a dog.
Break – “Break” is the amount a ball moves or is expected to move either from left to right or right to left when putting on a green.
Grain – In golf, “Grain” refers to which way grass on the green is growing horizontally. Typically, the grain will be different in different areas of the same green.
The grain you're putting through can cause the ball to break. Putting against the grain makes your ball travel slower than when putting with the grain.
Typically, dark portions of the green mean you are against the grain, while lighter/shinier green means you are putting with the grain.
Playing from the Tips – “Playing from the Tips” means playing from the furthest set of tees on a golf course or the maximum course distance.
Short-Sided – “Short-Sided” in golf is when a golfer is hitting the ball from a position where they have less green to work with relative to the hole. For example, a golfer’s ball could be in a bunker next to the green with the hole located close to that edge of the green.
Pitch Mark – A “Pitch Mark” is an indentation in the ground caused by a golf ball. A pitch mark is more likely to be made by high shots or when the ball's speed is fast.
You should always repair pitch marks on the green with a pitch mark repair tool, tee, or another pointed object.
Like fixing pitch marks, it's good golf etiquette to replace your divot or fill it with the sand/mix provided by the course.
Cart Path Only – “Cart Path Only” refers to times when a golf course limits driving of motorized golf carts to only the cart paths to prevent damaging the course. While some courses regularly enact this rule, it’s most often put into effect following heavy rain. Driving a golf cart during wet conditions is likely to cause ruts or other damage to fairways and even rough.
Links – “Links” are a type of golf course usually located in coastal areas where the soil tends to be sandy. Links golf courses generally have few water hazards and few trees.
The first golf courses in Scotland were links courses, making this the oldest style of golf course.
Many golfers use the term “Links” more generically to refer to any golf course.
Golf Scoring Terms
Here are the basic golf scoring terms used to describe your golf score on an individual hole, your score for the round, or your scores relative to other golfers.
Stroke – A “Stroke” in golf is any forward club swing/putt where a golfer is trying to hit the ball. Yes, that means whiffs should technically be counted as a stroke and would be counted in competitive play.
Par – “Par” is the number of strokes an expert golfer is expected to make in their round or on an individual golf hole.
All pars allow for 2 putts. On a par-4 hole, an expert golfer should reach the green in 2 strokes then have 2 putts for a total of 4 strokes.
The current yardage guidelines from the USGA for men are:
- Par-3 – Up to 250 yards
- Par-4 – 251 to 470 yards
- Par-5 – 401 to 690 yards
For women, the USGA’s yardage guidelines are:
- Par-3 – Up to 210 yards
- Par-4 – 211 to 400 yards
- Par-5 – 401 to 575 yards
The above yardage guidelines are supposed to represent a hole’s “effective playing length,” taking into account factors like if the hole is downhill or uphill. Therefore, downhill holes will tend to be longer than uphill holes.
Par is also used as a reference point for how many strokes an expert golfer is expected to make for the entire golf course. For example, a player who is “5 over par” has made 5 strokes more than an expert should take to that point of the course.
Under Par – If a golfer has completed one par-3 and two par-4 holes (11 for those three holes) with a score of 10, that golfer is one “Under Par” denoted as "-1."
Over Par – If a golfer finished a par-72 course with a score of 85, that golfer is 13 “Over Par” denoted as "+13".
In the results shown in the image below from The Norther Trust in 2020, Dustin Johnson finished his 4th round 8 stokes under par (-8), putting him at 30 under par (-30) for the entire tournament (his combined score relative to par after all 4 rounds). In the same tournament, Patrick Rodgers shot 6 over par (+6) in his final round, finishing 7 over par (+7) for the entire tournament.
Bogey – A “Bogey” is when a golfer takes 1 stroke over par for a particular hole. For example, 4 strokes on a par-3 hole.
Double Bogey – A “Double Bogey” is when a golfer takes 2 strokes over par for a particular hole. For example, 7 strokes on a par-5 hole.
Triple Bogey – A “Triple Bogey” is when a golfer takes 3 strokes over par for a particular hole. For example, 7 strokes on a par-4 hole.
Quadruple Bogey – A “Quadruple Bogey” is when a golfer takes 4 strokes over par for a particular hole. For example, 8 strokes on a par-4 hole.
Birdie – A “Birdie” is when a golfer takes 1 shot under par for a particular hole. For example, 3 strokes on a par-4.
Eagle – An “Eagle” is when a golfer takes 2 shots under par for a particular hole. For example, 3 strokes on a par-5. While a “hole in one” is an example of an eagle, it’s more commonly referred to as a “hole in one” or Ace.
Ace (Hole in One) – “Ace” is another term for a hole in one, where a golfer hits it into the hole from their tee shot.
Albatross (Double Eagle) – An “Albatross” or “Double Eagle” is when a golfer scores 3 shots under par for a particular hole. This exceedingly rare accomplishment is most often achieved when a golfer takes 2 strokes to complete a par-5, but an albatross can also be made by scoring a hole in one on a par-4.
Penalty Stroke – One or more “Penalty Strokes” are added for infractions such as hitting your ball into a hazard, touching your club to the ground in a hazard, having more than 14 clubs in your bag, or breaking many of golf’s other rules. While these rules should are enforced in competitive play, it’s up to you to decide how to penalize yourself when playing a casual round of golf.
Provisional Ball – If you think your ball may be lost, but not out of bounds/in a water hazard, you can play a “Provisional Ball” that can be used if you can’t find your first shot.
For example, if you think that you won’t find your tee shot (but it’s not out of bounds or in a hazard), you can hit a “provisional ball.” If you find your first shot, you can play that ball without any penalty. However, if your first ball is indeed lost, you can play the provisional ball and add a one-stroke penalty to your score.
A provisional ball is meant to keep up the pace of play by preventing golfers from having to walk back to the point of their last shot when a ball is lost.
One important thing to note is that you must announce that you are taking a provisional in competitive play by using the word “provisional.”
Handicap – The “Handicap System” is a way for golfers of varying skill levels to compete against each other. Unofficial handicaps can be calculated using a variety of golf scoring apps. You can get an official USGA handicap by turning in your scores at golf courses authorized by the USGA.
The handicap system can get a bit complicated, but here are some examples to give you the general idea:
- If you’re a 20-handicap golfer competing in a stroke-play golf tournament that factors in handicaps, you can subtract 20 strokes from your score.
- Golfer A has a handicap of 20 and Golfer B has a handicap of 10. These two golfers compete in stroke play with Golfer A hitting 90 strokes and Golfer B hitting 82 strokes. While Golfer B took 8 fewer strokes, they actually lost to Golfer A when factoring in the two golfers’ handicaps because Golfer A gets a 10 stroke advantage over Golfer B.
The maximum handicap is 54.0 for all golfers.
Better than scratch golfers (golfers with a handicap better than 0) are referred to as "Plus Golfers". Plus golfer's handicaps have a positive number, for example +2.
Golf Format Terms
While stroke play is the most common way to play golf, there are many formats that you can use to compete with other golfers. We’ve broken down the golf terms for the most popular formats below:
Stroke Play – “Stroke Play” is most likely the format you’re most familiar with, as it’s the format used in most professional and recreational golf. In stroke play, a player or team of golfers compete against each other for the lowest score in one round or multiple rounds of play.
Match Play – In “Match Play,” players compete against one another to make the best score on individual holes in head-to-head competition. The player who wins the most individual holes wins the match.
Skins – “Skins” is a format similar to match play, where players win a “skin” for winning individual holes. However, some skins games also offer skins for achievements like landing a tee shot on the green (A “Greenie”) or other feats. If a hole is tied in skins, that skin usually carries over to the next hole.
The player with the most skins at the end of the round wins.
Scramble – In a “Scramble” format, teams of 2-4 golfers tee off and choose the best shot from their group. From this chosen shot, all team members will then hit their next shots within one club-length of the selected shot. On each subsequent shot, players continue picking the best ball from where they will all play.
Texas Scramble – A “Texas Scramble” works the same way as a scramble but has additional rules for the tee shots your team can use. Often, a team is required to use at least 4 drives from each team member over the course of the round. Some “Texas Scramble” tournaments don’t allow you to play the same team members tee shot on two consecutive holes.
Shamble – In a “Shamble,” a team of golfers selects the best tee shot to play from like in a scramble. Unlike in a scramble, however, after playing from the best tee shot, team members continue playing their own ball for the remainder of the hole.
Typically, scoring in a shamble uses a team’s lowest score for each hole or their lowest 2-3 scores.
Best Ball – “Best Ball” or “Better Ball” is a team tournament format where each team member plays their ball from the tee until they get it into the cup. The team will then use the lowest number of strokes any member of their team made for their score on that hole.
Stableford – “Stableford” is a golf points system that can be used for competition between individual players or teams. The individual or group with the highest score wins.
The Stableford scoring system gives points for the following accomplishments on each hole:
- 0 Points – Double Bogey (Two strokes over par)
- 1 Point – Bogey (One stroke over par)
- 2 Points – Par
- 3 Points – Birdie (One stroke under par)
- 4 Points – Eagle (Two strokes under par)
- 5 Points – Albatross/Double Eagle (Three strokes under par)
- 6 Points – Four strokes under par
While these point values are the standard of the Stableford point system, tournament organizers may choose to change the number of points awarded for each achievement.
Alternate Shot – In an “Alternate Shot” format, teams of 2 golfers alternate between every shot. Regardless of who completed the previous hole, players alternate who starts each hole with a tee shot.
Golf Terms Used in Recreational Play
Mulligan – A “Mulligan” in golf means a do-over shot or a second chance shot with no penalty. It’s common for groups of recreational golfers to give themselves a certain number of mulligans for the round or a mulligan for their tee shot on the first hole.
While mulligans are common in recreational golf, there are no mulligans if playing by official golf rules.
Breakfast Ball – “Breakfast Ball” is another term for a mulligan that’s most commonly used in the United States. The term “breakfast ball” is most frequently used for the first tee shot of the round instead of mulligans in other situations.
Gimmie – A “Gimmie” is when the other golfers in your group let you pick up a would-be putt rather than requiring you to putt the ball because it’s within a distance that they expect you to make it. It’s a friendly way for golfers to speed up the round and let the would-be putter avoid a potential missed easy putt.
Golf Shot Terms
The golf terms below can be used to describe the shape of a golf shot, different types of golf shots, or how you hit the ball.
Golf Shot Shape Terms
Straight – A “Straight” golf shot is one that travels in a straight line with no left-to-right or right-to-left movement once it begins its flight.
Draw – A golf shot with “Draw” has a slight right-to-left ball flight for a right-handed golfer. The ball flight can start slightly to the right before coming back left or just go from the center to slightly left.
A good time for a draw shot is when hitting an approach shot onto a green with a pin location to the left. If your ball doesn’t draw as intended, you will end up safely in the middle of the green, while a successful draw will be attacking the pin.
Draw shots can also be useful on tee shots on holes with a dogleg left fairway.
Some players naturally have a drawing shot shape. They'll want to keep this in mind when aiming for their shots. Many high-skill golfers have the ability to shape shots, including draws, when they determine the optimal shot shape for a given situation.
Fade – A “Fade” golf shot is the inverse of a draw (see above). The ball flight moves slightly to the right (or left-to-right).
Fade shots are useful for attacking pin locations on the right of the green or hitting tee shots onto dogleg right fairways.
Push – A “Push” shot begins its ball flight traveling right of the target and continues on a straight line for a miss to the right. Unlike other undesirable missed right shots, a shot that’s pushed does not curve to the right due to ball spin.
Pull – A “Pull” shot in golf is the opposite of a push shot. A pulled shot starts left of the target and continues in a straight line, resulting in a miss to the left.
Slice – A “Slice” in golf is an undesirable shot that curves sharply to the right due to too much sidespin and backspin. A slice usually results in missing your target far to the right, often leaving you in the rough, in a hazard, or out of bounds.
A sliced shot can often look like an okay shot initially before you realize it’s curving sharply to the right.
Hook – A “Hook” in golf is an undesirable golf shot that curves sharply to the left because it has too much sidespin and backspin. It’s the inverse of a slice.
Like a slice, a hooked shot may initially appear to be a straight shot, but it will eventually curve significantly.
Push Slice – A “Push Slice” is a combination of a pushed and sliced golf shot. The balls flight begins traveling to the right of your target, but also has sidespin that causes it to curve even more to the right than if it had traveled in a straight line.
Push slices and pull hooks are the most extreme misses. At most golf courses, these shots will have your ball finishing out of bounds.
Pull Hook – A “Pull Hook” is a bad golf shot where the ball starts to the left and also curves sharply to the left due to sidespin.
Types of Golf Shots
Pitch – A “Pitch Shot,” typically played with a high lofted club, is a golf shot intended to go a relatively short distance with a ball flight that travels steeply upwards and then steeply back downwards.
Unlike a chip shot (see below), a pitch shot is meant to travel most of its distance in the air. Compared to a chip shot, the high spin of a pitch shot should lead to a limited roll once it hits the ground.
Pitch shots are partial wedge shot, usually hit within 50 yards of the hole.
Chip – A “Chip Shot” in golf is a short shot played close to the green that’s intended to start rolling on the ground quickly. Unlike a pitch shot or other golf shots, chip shots are meant to travel mostly rolling on the ground rather than by flying in the air.
If you’re in the rough close to the green, you can use a chip shot to get past the rough then roll the ball towards the hole.
You can hit a chip shot with wedges, irons, and even long irons.
Flop – A “Flop Shot” or “Lob Shot” is a shot intended to travel very high and descend steeply and stop quickly once it lands on the green. To hit a flop shot, both your stance and the clubface will need to be a lot more open than usual.
Flop shots are most often used for getting over obstacles (like bunkers) when a golfer is short-sided (the pin is on the near side of the green, close to the edge of the green).
Compared to other shots used around the green, like pitches and chips, flop shots are far more challenging to pull off. You’ll need to swing hard to get the ball high enough up in the air, but a miss-hit of the ball can result in you hitting it way further and flatter than intended.
Whenever possible, it’s safer to opt for a pitch shot or chip, rather than a flop shot.
Splash – A “Splash Shot” is the preferred method for getting out of greenside sand bunkers and onto the green. Rather than hitting the ball first, the intention is to hit the sand just behind the ball with an open clubface to get the ball up and out of the bunker.
Putt – A “Putt” is a shot on the green using the putter where you intend to roll the ball on the ground in or near the hole. Putting should only be done on or around the green.
Lag Putt – A “Lag Putt” is a long putt where a golfer is merely trying to get the ball close to the hole rather than make it in the hole.
Other Golf Shot Terms
Shank – A “Shank” in golf is when a golfer hits the ball with the golf club's hosel, rather than the clubface. The ball's trajectory often mimics a slice, but it’s important to distinguish these two poor golf shots. A true slice occurs when a golfer puts too much sidespin and backspin on the ball while hitting it with the clubface.
Fat - A “Fat Shot” or a “Chunk” in golf occurs when a golfer hits the ground behind the golf ball before making contact with the ball. This will usually cause a divot in the ground behind where the ball lied when hitting off the grass.
Fat shots will result in the ball traveling shorter than desired and potentially off-target.
Thin – A “Thin Shot” in golf occurs when a golfer hits the ball with the clubface too high on the ball near its midpoint. This results in a low flying shot that can go shorter than, longer than or offline of your target.
Flyer – A “Flyer” is when the ball travels further than expected out of rough because the grass between your club and the ball decreases the amount of backspin the club puts on the ball.
Golf Terms – Types of Golf Lies
Use these golf terms to describe how your ball is sitting on the ground.
Good – A “Good Lie” in golf is when the ball is on a surface that allows you to make clean contact or relatively clean contact with the clubface.
The best examples of good lies are balls on a well-maintained fairway.
Buried – A “Buried Lie” is when a ball sits deep in the rough. Buried lies can result in poor contact because you have to swing the clubface through grass before striking the ball.
Flyer – Golf balls partially buried in rough can result in “Flyer Shots.” Flyer shots occur when the ball travels further than expected because the grass between the clubface and the rough decreases the backspin the clubface would otherwise put on the ball. Thus, a ball partially buried in the rough may be referred to as “Flyer Lie.”
Fluffy – A “Fluffy Lie” is when a golf ball sits high or almost on top of the rough. These lies are usually considered to be relatively good lies as they allow for clean contact.
Be careful not to hit low on the ball or under the ball when you have a fluffy lie, as the ball is essentially teed up.
Plugged – A “Plugged Lie” in golf is when a portion of the ball sits below the ground. This most often occurs when high shots fall at a steep angle into soft ground.
Embedded Ball – In 2019, the USGA changed the rules regarding “Embedded Balls.” You can find the full details of the rule change here, but it allows you to drop a ball within one club-length (no closer to the hole) when you have a bad plugged lie anywhere except in sand bunkers. However, course or tournament committees can enact a Local Rule restricting this relief in areas where the grass is cut to fairway height or less.
Fried Egg – A “Fired Egg” lie is a plugged lie in a bunker's sand that resembles a fried egg. This type of lie usually occurs when the ball stops immediately in the sand rather than bouncing or rolling. Unlike embedded balls in other areas of the course, there’s no relief for a plugged bunker lie.
Tight – A “Tight Lie” is when the golf ball sits on very short grass or hard ground. These lies are considered to be relatively good but can present issues if you don’t make clean contact or if the club bounces off the ground. With a tight lie, be extra careful to strike the ball first, rather than the ground.
Uphill – An “Uphill Lie” is when a golfer’s front foot is higher than his back foot. The slope of an uphill lie can result in a golfer increasing the loft of the clubface, thus your ball might fall short of your target from an uphill lie.
Downhill – A “Downhill Lie” is when a golfer’s front foot is lower than his back foot. Many golfers find these shots difficult because it’s difficult to shift weight to the back foot.
Downhill lies also result in the clubface being delofted, making the ball hard to get up in the air. This can mean lower trajectories and hitting the ball further than your target.
Ball Below Feet – A shot from a lie where the ball is below your feet often results in a fade shot.
Ball Above Feet – A shot from a lie where the ball is above your feet often results in a draw shot.
Unplayable Lie – An “Unplayable Lie” occurs when you deem your ball can’t be played from the position it rests.
You can declare an unplayable lie at any time and play from the spot of your previous stroke, drop a ball “back-of-the line,” or drop a ball within two club-lengths no closer to the hole. If choosing any of these options, you’ll have to take one penalty stroke unless there are certain specific circumstances such as the unplayable lie being caused by a burrow made by an animal.
Preferred Lies – “Preferred Lies” or “Winter Rules” is a Local Rule that can be adopted when a large portion of the course is in non-standard or poor conditions. The idea is that a course is in such bad shape, allowing preferred lies is the only way to allow for “fair play.”
If preferred lies are in effect, you can mark your ball, clean it, then place the ball no closer to the hole within the length designated by the course or committee.
Golf Equipment Terms
The golf terms below are the names of golf clubs and other equipment commonly used by golfers on the golf or range.
Golf Ball - "Golf Balls" are the object hit with clubs. A hole is complete when the ball makes it into the physical hole on the green.
Golf's governing bodies, including the USGA, place restrictions on the weight and size of a ball. Golf balls can't weigh in excess of 1.62 ounces and must have a diameter of at least 1.68 inches.
There is no restriction on the number of dimples a golf ball can have, though modern golf balls typically have between 300-400 dimples. The dimples and the golf ball itself must be symmetrical.
Woods – “Woods” are a type of golf club with larger and rounder clubheads compared to irons. They also typically have longer shafts than irons.
Woods have lower loft than most irons. You should be able to hit shots with woods further than irons.
Driver – A “Driver” is a type of wood with the largest clubhead, longest shaft, and the least loft of any club (aside from putters). These characteristics make drivers the club you should be able to hit furthest.
Drivers are generally only used for tee shots, rarely being hit off the ground.
Fairway Wood – Unlike a driver, a “Fairway Wood” (like a 3 wood or 5 wood) can easily be both hit off a tee or off the ground. They have smaller clubheads than drivers and higher lofts, allowing you to get the ball up in the air even from the ground.
Irons – Whereas drivers have large round clubheads, “Irons” are a lot thinner and flatter. Irons can be used both off the tee when you don’t need the distance of a wood (most commonly on par-3s) or off the ground before reaching the green.
The higher numbered the iron is, the more loft the club has and the shorter it will go. For example, a 9 iron is more lofted than an 8 iron. Therefore, a 9 iron shot shouldn’t travel as far as an 8 iron shot.
While exceptional players can competently hit irons as low as a 1 iron, most casual players will find that they struggle to hit anything lower than a 5 iron. For this reason, many beginner clubs won’t have irons below a 5, 6, or 7 iron. If you’re buying a set of beginner clubs, you might find that it includes some additional hybrid clubs or woods to replace the irons it lacks.
Wedges – “Wedges” are types of iron with the most loft of all golf club. They’re most often used for full swing approach shots from shorter distances, getting out of bunkers or bad lies, and for partial swing shots closer to the green (chips, pitch shots, flop shots, etc.).
Wedges that are a part of a set will often be labeled with letters such as “P” for "pitching wedge", "A" for "Approach Wedge", or “S” for "sand wedge." When purchasing individual wedges, they’re most commonly labeled with a number indicating theirdegree of loft.
Check out our Golf Clubs Loft guide, to learn more about the loft of each club.
Hybrid – As the name suggests, a “Hybrid” club is a mix between a wood and an iron. The shape of the clubhead resembles a small wood, but hybrids share lofts more similar to irons.
While players of all skill levels frequently use hybrids, they’re especially useful for newer players or players who struggle with distance or getting the ball up in the air with lower lofted irons.
Putter – “Putters” are used for putting (rolling shots) on the green or putting just off the green in the fringe.
Tees – Golf “Tees” are stands that elevate the golf ball off the ground. They can only be used for shots from the tee box.
Golf Glove - Most golfers wear a "golf glove" on their front or "weak" hand. For right-handed golfers, this means wearing a glove on their left hand.
Gloves are typically taken off when putting or for short touchy shots around the green.
Though it's rare, some golfers like to wear gloves on both hands. In cold or rainy weather, it's more common to wear gloves on both hands.
GPS – “GPS” (Global Positioning System) devices are often used by golfers to preview holes and find distances between two points on the golf course. While many golfers use apps on their phones for a GPS, many find that standalone golf GPS devices are more accurate.
Rangefinder – A “Rangefinder” is a device that uses a laser to find the distance to a particular point on the hole. They’re often more accurate and take less time to use than GPS devices.
Launch Monitor – A “Launch Monitor” can measure ball and club data that can be used to analyze your swing. Many launch monitors can also be used simulate ball flight and even for playing complete rounds virtually.
Terms for the Parts of a Golf Club
These golf terms describe the individual portions of a golf club.
Shaft – A golf club’s “Shaft” is the tube connected to the clubhead at one end, with a grip on the other end.
Golf club shafts come in various material, weight, and flex options to fit every golfer's unique needs.
Related: Graphite vs Steel Shafts
Grip – A golf club’s “Grip” is placed over the end of the shaft where the player holds the club. Grips are made of rubber or other similar synthetic materials.
Many golfers don’t put too much thought into their grips, but the grips on your clubs can play a significant impact on your swing mechanics and comfort.
Clubhead – The “Clubhead,” "Club Head," or simply “Head” of a golf club is the part of the golf club that makes contact with the ball.
Hosel – The “Hosel” is the portion of a clubhead that the shaft fits into. This connection between the clubhead and shaft is secured with epoxy.
Heel – The “Heel” on a golf club is the area of the clubface from the sweet spot to the hosel. Shots with the heel frequently result in errant shots and almost always result in less distance.
Toe – The “Toe” on a golf club is the area of the clubface from the sweet spot to the end of the clubface (the end opposite of the hosel). Shots with the toe frequently result in errant shots and almost always result in less distance.
Sole – The “Sole” of a golf club is the bottom portion of the clubhead that rests on the ground when addressing your golf ball.
Grooves – “Grooves” are the horizontal indentations on the face of the head. Grooves promote spin and help limit the interference of water and debris between the clubface and the ball.
Be sure to keep your clubface clean because dirty grooves can significantly affect the flight and spin of hit balls.
Sweet Spot – The “Sweet Spot” on the clubface is the portion of the face you want to make contact with the ball for an optimal shot. The sweet spot is generally in the center (both vertically and horizontally) of a wood’s face. For irons, the sweet spot is usually in the center, slightly below center, or slightly towards the heel on the clubface.
Golf Launch Monitor Terms and Numbers
Swing and ball flight data provided by launch monitors (Trackman, GCQuad, Mevo, etc.) have revolutionized the way golfers improve their abilities, but what do all these launch monitor terms mean?
The golf terms below explain the data measured by many golf launch monitors, though not all launch monitors will take all of these measurements.
Clubhead Speed – “Club Speed” or “Clubhead Speed” is the clubhead's velocity at impact of the ball. It’s most commonly measured using miles per hour (mph).
Ball Speed – “Ball Speed” is the velocity of the golf ball measured right after impact. It’s usually measured in miles per hour (mph).
Smash Factor – “Smash Factor” is ball speed divided by clubhead speed. It’s used to determine how efficiently energy is transferred from the club to the ball.
Roll Distance – “Roll Distance” is how far the ball rolls or bounces after hitting the ground for the first time.
Total Distance – “Total Distance” is how far the ball travels, including both the carry and roll distances.
Flight Time – “Flight Time” is how long the ball flies in the air.
Launch Angle – “Launch Angle” is the vertical angle of the ball’s ascent right after impact. Launch angle, ball speed, and ball spin are the factors that determine carry distance and total distance.
Launch angle is highly correlated with dynamic loft and, therefore, club loft. Being the highest lofted club, a lob wedge is the club designed to hit the ball with the highest launch angle.
Spin Rate / Total Spin – “Spin Rate” or “Total Spin” is a measure of the revolutions per minute (rpm) of the golf ball.
Azimuth (Horizontal Angle) – “Azimuth” is the initial horizontal angle of the ball relative to the target (measures if a shot is pulled or pushed). The GCQuad launch monitor tracks this metric.
Spin-Tilt Axis – “Spin-Tilt Axis” is a measure of the ball’s rotation that creates curvature and lift.
Impact Point – “Impact Point” is where the clubface makes contact with the ball.
Angle of Attack / Attack Angle – “Angle of Attack” or “Attack Angle” is the ascending or descending angle of the clubhead at impact with the ball, measured in degrees. In general, shots hit off the ground should have a descending (negative) angle, while drives should have an ascending (positive) angle.
Club Path – “Club Path” is the path of the clubhead measured in a horizontal plane (left or right) at impact. In-to-out club paths will result in a draw, and out-to-in club paths will cause a fade.
Face Angle – “Face Angle” is a measurement of the clubhead’s direction at impact, either open or closed. This determines the direction where the ball's path will start.
Delivered Lie Angle – “Delivered Lie Angle” measures the clubhead's angle relative to the ground.
Dynamic Loft / Impact Loft – “Dynamic Loft” or “Impact Loft” is the effective loft of the clubface at impact.
Other Golf Terms
While these “other golf terms” might not fit into any of the categories above, they’re still commonly used and important to know!
Caddie - A "Caddie" carries a golfer's clubs and keeps them clean. Using their course knowledge, they'll also advice players on shots and help read putts.
A PGA Tour golfer's caddie has more responsibilities, but with these responsibilities comes a nice pay check and a portion of their golfer's winnings.
Fore – Golfers yell “Fore!” when they’ve hit a wandering shot that could potentially hit another person on the course. While there is debate over how this term originated, it’s been widely used for over a hundred years. Everyone else on the golf course should know that it means to duck or get behind cover.
Shotgun Start – A “Shotgun Start” occurs when multiple groups of golfers start their rounds on different holes simultaneously. Shotguns starts allow golf events to take less time because all players are starting and finishing their rounds at the same time.
In the past, it was common to shoot a shotgun in the air, so all groups across the course could hear that it was time to start. Today, it's more likely that a siren is used or that the 'go signal' is sent over a two-way radio.
Order of Play – “Order of Play” determines which golfer should hit their shot next. The player furthest away from the hole is supposed to go first, though they can ask another player to go first if they’re not ready.
In casual golf, “Ready Play” is often preferred to maintain pace.
Ready Play – “Ready Play” allows whichever golfer is ready first to hit their shot first, even if another player is technically supposed to go according to Order of Play rules. Communicate with the golfers in your group to see if they’re fine abiding by ready play to get your round finished faster and avoid holding up groups behind you.
Yips – “The Yips” in golf is when a golfer jerks a putt, usually due to nervousness.
Lip Out – A ball “Lips Out” when it hits the edge of the hole and circles around it without dropping in.
Up and Down – An “Up and Down” is when a player misses the green, then takes one shot to get on the green and needs just one putt to complete the hole.