Golf Terminology for Beginners
New to golf? Use this helpful reference of golf terminology for beginners to learn the basics and speak like the pros in no time.
There are thousands of phrases and terms that the pros use, but we're not concerned with memorizing every tiny detail. Instead, we’ll share the fundamental golf terms you need to know for playing a round of golf, keeping score, and navigating the course.
Let's start with the basic golf terminology for beginners and go from there.
The basics are the most entry-level golf terms that you should have a firm grasp of before learning anything else. Start here and work your way through the list for more advanced concepts.
Golf is the game itself! Invented by the Scots (although recently discovered artifacts have sparked debate about the actual inventors), the game takes place on a golf course, with the goal being to hit the ball with a club into a series of holes.
Round of Golf
A “round of golf” describes one rotation of the entire course. Most professional tournaments are four rounds.
A golf club is the equipment used to strike the golf ball and hit it into the hole. In the most basic terms, it’s a long stick with a rounded club head.
Golf clubs come in several styles with varying purposes, including a driver, hybrids, putter, wedges, irons, and fairway woods.
The golf ball is the object that golfers hit into the hole. A golf ball is small, hard, and white with a slightly geometric pattern on the surface.
The hole is the cup, or goal, into which you need to hit the ball. On all golf courses, holes have par ratings, which we will discuss later.
The golf course is where the game takes place. Golf courses are outdoors and feature 9 or 18 holes, with grass and sand distinguishing each section.
Congrats! Now you know the essential golf terms, let's move onto the course itself.
The fairway is the large section of manicured grass stretching between the tee box and the green.
The rough is the area off of the fairway. As the term suggests, it is “rough” in the sense that the grass is longer and unkempt.
The green is the area around the hole. It consists of short-cut, tightly manicured grass or astroturf. Golfers putt on the green.
A bunker is also known as a beach or a sand trap. A bunker describes the areas of the course filled with sand.
The pin helps the golfers identify the hole. It's usually a flag on a small stick just next to the hole on the green.
The fringe is an area surrounding the green. It is shorter than the rough but longer than the green in terms of the grass length.
The tee box is where the golfer stands to hit the golf ball at the start of each new hole.
Hazard areas may include marked areas of fescue, natural vegetation, ponds, or streams. Hazards are penalty areas.
Divots are indents or marks on golf courses caused by golfers. A golf club striking the ground or a ball landing hard can create a divot.
Out of Bounds
If a golf ball lands in an area outside the designated course area, it is out of bounds.
Kinds of Holes
Golf courses have three main types of holes, each marked with a par. A par indicates the difficulty level and distance (measured in yards) in golf terms. The term “par” entered into official golf terminology in 1911 when the USGA defined it as the number of strokes an expert golfer would make for a given hole.
A par 3 means it should take about three shots to get the golf ball in the hole. A par 3 is the shortest distance, usually up to 250 yards, and involves the least number of strokes you'll find on golf courses.
A par 4 means a player should get the ball in the hole in four strokes. It falls right in the middle as far as distance goes, with a par 4 having an average range of 251-470 yards.
A par 5 takes five strokes to get the ball in the hole on the golf course. It is the longest distance of the three par options at 471 yards or more.
Now we're getting into the fun stuff: playing a round of golf on the course. Let's dive into the most critical golf terms you should know about the game itself.
Twosome (Threesome or Foursome)
When you're playing golf, you're likely to play in a specific group number. You can golf with anywhere between one and four golfers per group, with a typical set-up involving two, three, or four golfers.
If there are two golfers in each group, it's a twosome. If there are three golfers per group, it's a threesome. If there are four golfers per group, then it's a foursome. You get the idea.
Tee time is the exact time scheduled for your group of golfers to begin playing on the first hole. Usually, golfers will arrive earlier than tee time to get their clubs ready for the first tee-off.
A handicap might not be what you think it means. In golf, a handicap lets golfers of any skill level participate on a more even playing field. It is the average of previous scores that indicates how many strokes you typically are above par. The most accurate way to keep an official USGA handicap is with the GHIN app.
A drive is a type of shot. It describes the first shot taken from the tee box for each hole on the golf course.
Pitch and Chip Shots
Pitch and chip shots are types of strokes also known as “the short game." These shots usually happen under 100 yards from the green. Between the two of them, a pitch will be a longer shot than the chip shot.
Fairway shots are usually the second and third strokes a golfer makes from their spot on the fairway.
A putt is not a shot. Instead, it means tapping the ball into the hole from the green with the putter.
“Fore” is a warning that a golfer will call out when they have made a bad shot. Essentially, it warns other golfers that there may be a hazard nearby so they can duck or move out of the way.
It might be embarrassing to call out your mistake like this. However, the golf community widely accepts this practice as a courtesy to prevent other golfers from getting struck by a flying ball.
A hook stroke describes when the golf ball goes from right to left (if you're right-handed; it’s the opposite for left-handed players). It's a common stroke for beginners to make and usually not that well received. A draw is a milder version of this stroke.
A slice is the opposite of a hook. It describes when the ball goes from right to left (if you're right-handed; opposite for left-handed players). A cut is a less severe version of the slice shot.
A mulligan is essentially a re-do shot if an accident happens. For example, hitting out of bounds might lead to a mulligan. If you hook so badly it's on another hole or shoots right into the sand of the bunker, you might be able to use a mulligan. It is a “free” shot, but whether or not you can get one will depend on the other golfers. It is not permissible in professional competitions.
Now that you know how to work the course, it's time to learn all about golf scores with golf terms like a bogey, so you can keep up with the golf speak as you make your way through the round.
If you hear the term “even,” it means that your score used the exact correct number of strokes to complete a hole. You're neither up strokes nor downstrokes.
A birdie score means you have completed the hole using one fewer stroke than the par.
An eagle score means you have completed the hole using two fewer strokes than par.
A double eagle score means you completed the hole using at least three fewer strokes than the par.
Hole in One
A “hole in one” is when the player manages to hit a ball into the cup, starting at the tee with one swing.
A bogey score means it took one swing above par to complete the hole.
A double bogey means you took two shots above par to get the ball into the hole.
A snowman means you've reached a score of eight on one hole.
Albatross is another term used to describe a Double Eagle.
Listen – we know there's more golf terminology out there than the human brain could comprehend in a short amount of time. So don't worry about learning all of it; just focus on learning the basic golf terms that you need to know to keep up during your next round.
You'll impress your fellow golfers when you can speak the lingo, referring to things like bunker and putter, but even more so when your score is better than theirs!