Golf terminology for beginners – learning the lingo

Golf terminology for beginnersI know, I know, this can feel pretty scary. You’ve got your clubs, you’ve got your golf ball, and you’ve had some practice, and now you are on the golf course, meeting fellow golfers, and everyone is speaking a language which could as well be Chinese (or English if you are Chinese!).

The language of golf doesn’t need to be complicated. With a few basic terms, you’ll soon feel more comfortable on golf courses talking the lingo.

So here is your golf terminology for beginners guide. It’s doesn’t cover every term you may come across. That would be a book, not an article. I will write more as you progress. However, this will give you a good start and hopefully save you any embarrassment on your first few trips.

Rather than do it alphabetically, as most golf glossaries, I have divided it into the different areas of the game. If you already feel your future is a glossary nerd, I heartily recommend PGA’s golf glossary.


Scorecard: Record the length, par, and rating of each hole as you play.

Par: The score a good player would expect to make on a hole or round.

Handicap: Number of strokes over par a golfer is expected to score for 18 holes.

Low handicapper: Good player.

High handicapper: Poor player or beginner

Match of cards: Comparing scorecards at the end of the game

Double eagle: Three strokes under par on a hole

Birdie: One stroke under par on a hole.

Bogey: One stroke over par on a hole.

Double bogey: Two strokes over par on a hole.

Eagle: Two strokes under par for a hole.

Triple bogey: Three strokes over par on one hole.

Hole-in-One: Hitting the golf ball in the hole on your first shot

The clubs

Titanium: material used for shafts and clubheads.

Shaft: the ‘stick’ part of the club, joining the grip to the head

Flex: how much the shaft of your golf club bends.

Grip: the bit you hold.

Clubhead: the bit that hits the ball

Woods: clubs for long-distance, which you will use to get the ball down the fairway to the hole. They have a large head and a long shaft. These days they are made of titanium or steel rather than wood.

Irons: used for various shots, they are numbered 1 to 9, with the most used being 3 to 9. They have a flat angled face and various lofts. These days they are made from steel alloys.

Wedge: a subset of irons with more loft. Use a wedge for accuracy rather than when the distance is paramount.

Hybrid: a cross between a wood and an iron, giving both range and accuracy. The head is smaller than the head on a wood.

Putter: a straight-faced club with a loft under 10 degrees. For use on the green.

Chipper: like a putter but with a more loft.

Headcover: protection for the clubhead, usually used on woods.

Loft: angle upward of the clubface.

Tee: wooden peg on which you set the ball for the first shot on a hole. Different colors represent different types of players.

The shots and skills

Line: the path of a shot towards the hole.

Backspin: when the ball hits the green and spins back towards the player.

Carry: the distance between a ball’s takeoff and landing.

Chip: short, low shot.

Drive: shot from teeing ground other than par-3 holes.

Slice: sharply curving shot.

Lob: short, high shot.

Sweet spot: the point the ball should make contact with the clubface.

Release: when your wrists unlock on the downswing.

Swing plane: the angle of the club around the body as you swing.

Downswing: the point of the swing where the clubhead is moving down to the ball.

Kickpoint: the point on the shaft of the club with the most twist as you swing.

Stance: how you stand before you swing.

Open stance: left foot further from the ball.

Closed stance: right foot further from the ball.

Follow-through: the final part of the swing, after you have struck the ball.

Pivot: how your body turns as you swing.

Plane: the swing’s arc.

The golf course

Tee box: where you put your tee and make your shot.

Apron: The area of grass surrounding the green. This grass is longer than that on the green and shorter than that on the fairway.

Fairway: the finely mown grass from the tee to the green.

Green: the very short grass surrounding the hole.

Greenside: close to the green.

Cup: the golf hole you are aiming for, 4.25 inches wide.

Home green: the green on the 18th hole.

Rough: the long grass around the fairway and the green.

Hazards: areas with unique features and different rules of play.

Sand Trap:  Slang for a bunker.

Driving range: a place where you can hit practice balls.

Links: golf course by the sea.

Executive golf course: a place with a lower par than the average 18-hole course.


Tee it up: to start play.

Front nine: the first half of a round of golf.

Back nine: the second half of a round of golf.

Mark: Show the ball’s position by putting a small object, usually a coin, on the green.

Provisional ball: if you lose your first ball, the second ball you play.

Golf terminology for beginners summary

There are many more basic golf terms that you will pick up as you get more familiar with the game. I hope I have given you a good start by giving you the most common golf terms every new golfer needs and that you are now more likely to join in the golf chat around you. Let us know how you get on and any terms you would like us to explain.

Happy Golfing!