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Golf decoded: A glossary of all the most commonly used golf terms

May 27, 2023

Most often than not, those taking to golf are drawn by the novelty of playing in serene settings and vast expanses of green. The initiation often starts with a chance meal or coffee at the clubhouse on the invitation of a golfer friend. What is supposed to be a one-off visit can trigger a quest for more, culminating in a name getting added to the golf community and being introduced to the game's long list of intriguing terms.

However, as it is often said about the sport, "Golf can best be defined as an endless series of tragedies obscured by the occasional miracle," don't expect to become a zero handicapper the first time you pick up a club.

As seasoned players would share, hours of practice and frayed nerves sandwiched by the odd moment of joy are what go into making a golfer of some standing. The intention isn't to scare those reading this piece while trying to make up their mind on taking the plunge, but to prepare them for what lies ahead.

As the saying goes, "Forewarned is forearmed", it is better to prepare before having the first swipe at the pimpled ball. Of course, going in with the right mindset is imperative, but familiarity with the golf terms — they can be mind-boggling for the uninitiated, goes a long way in making the start simpler.

So, stop, pause and spend some time going through the golf terms that are used by casual and hardened pros alike before heading out to the driving range. Who knows, a quiet acknowledgement of the terminology as your coach touches upon them might just give you a headway over your peers.

To ensure you are fully prepared the next time you step onto the tee box, we have put together an A-Z list of common golf terms for beginner and intermediate golfers. So, here is wishing all of you happy golfing.

Ace: Also referred to as a hole-in-one, an ace is one of the scores in golf that is achieved with just one stroke.

Address: Positioning the club head behind the ball and taking a stance to strike a shot.

Aim: The direction in which you are attempting to strike the ball.

Albatross: Three strokes under par on a single golf hole are referred to as an albatross. It is a remarkable accomplishment in golf. Also called a double eagle, an example of an albatross would be 2 strokes on a par 5.

Alignment: Relationship between the target and the feet, shoulders, and club face.

Approach: A full-swing golf stroke used by golfers with the goal of putting the ball on the green is known as an approach shot.

All square: If a golf match is tied, it is considered all square, or simply square.

Apron: The area of grass that separates the putting green from any hazard, such as rough terrain, bunkers, or water.

Away: The golfer whose ball is the furthest away from the hole. The golfer who is away should always play first.

Back Nine: Also referred to as heading in, the final nine holes of an 18-hole golf course.

Backswing: One of the crucial elements of the golf swing, the backswing begins when you first start to wind up and take your golf club away from the target. The range of your backswing will determine how much force you can produce during your swing.

Birdie: Finishing the hole with one stroke under-par, e.g., 2 strokes on par 3 or 4 strokes on a par 5.

Bogey: A hole score that is one-over par, e.g., 4 strokes on a par 3 or 6 on a par 5.

Bunker: Also known as sand traps, bunkers are artificial hazards that can be located anywhere from around the green to before a tee box on golf courses. They are typically built with sand at their base and are strategically placed so that golfers will miss them if they hit their ball poorly.

Buggy: A motorised vehicle created to transport golfers and their clubs around a golf course.

Double bogey: A hole scored two strokes over-par is a double bogey, e.g., 5 on a par 3 or 7 on a par 5.

Driving range: A place where golfers can buy a basket of balls and practice swinging the club. Driving ranges are often sizeable areas with targets and yardage markers to practice on.

Duff: An awful shot. This is a shot where the clubface and golf ball often make very little or no contact. Also referred to as dub, flub, or shank.

Eagle: An eagle indicates a score of two strokes under-par for a hole, e.g., 3 strokes on a par 5.

Fringe: Refers to the area surrounding the green where the grass is mowed shorter than the surrounding rough but a bit higher than the green surface. Fringe is also referred to as collar or apron.

Fairway: The unobstructed stretch between the tee box and putting green where the grass is closely mown. The fairway is also called the short stuff.

Green: Also known as the putting green, this is the area of the course that is specifically designed with finely trimmed grass and where golfers aim.

Links: Golf courses that were developed near the sea and on sand dunes. Occasionally used to refer any golf course.

Par: A golf term that relates to how many strokes it should take a scratch golfer to complete a single hole or a round of golf.

Rough: The rough is a portion of the golf course (outside the fairway) that has been left untended and is typically comprised of tall and thick grass.

Semi-rough: The area located between the rough and fairway. It is still shorter than the rough area.

Tee Box: The area that denotes the start of each golf hole. This is also referred to as the tee ground, tee-off area, or simply tee at times. Tee shots are shots hit from the tee box.

Takeaway: The first moment when you move the club away from the ball as you begin your swing is referred to as the takeaway and is the beginning of the backswing.

Triple Bogey: A score of three strokes over-par for a hole, e.g., 6 on a par 3 or 8 on a par 5.

19th Hole: A slang term for the bar at a golf course where patrons gather for drinks following a round of 18 holes.

Ball-marker: A little coin or token that is used to locate the ball's position on the putting green before lifting it.

Casual Water: Water on the golf course accumulated after heavy rains is not a penalty area. Ball movement by the player is permitted without consequence.

Caddie: Someone who is hired to carry a player's bag during the round and also provides guidance on matters like club selection, distances, breaks on the greens, and so on.

Fat Shot: If the club makes contact with the ground before making contact with the golf ball, then it is hitting the ball fat. You lose distance as a result of a fat shot. Chunk shot is another name for the fat shot.

Mulligan: A shot that is taken from the same place as the previous shot to redo the previous shot without incurring a penalty.

Out of Bounds: The area around the course's edge where a player is not permitted to play their ball is known as out of bounds. Usually, it is the edge of the course, but occasionally, out of bounds can exist inside the course, such as in places where the golf course has decided it is unsafe for players to play from, like greenkeeper huts.

Penalty Areas: A golf course's challenging obstacles are those that are intended to affect a player's score. These are the areas where the ball is often lost or unable to be played, such as a lake, ditch, pond, surface drainage system, or any body of water on the golf course.

Thin Shot: When you hit it thin, the golf club makes contact with the ball before or above where it should. The ball goes further than you intended when you hit the ball thin. The saying "thin to win" is popular among golfers to indicate that a thin shot is preferable to a fat or chunk shot.

(Main image: Nathan Nedley/ Pexels; Featured image: Nadim Shaikh/ Pexels)

Answer: - Afraid of the Dark: A putted ball that simply won't go in the hole (like a short putt that is missed).- Banana Ball: It is a shot where the ball travels in a curved path, either left or right.- Dawn Patrol: Players who practice at dawn.- Fried Egg/Plugged: When the ball is buried in a sand trap and only the top half of the ball is visible.- Rainmaker: An extremely high trajectory golf stroke.

Answer: An ace, aka a hole-in-one.

Robin Bose has covered multi-discipline sport for prominent publications in India like The Statesman and Outlook before being bitten by the golf bug in 2008. He specialised in the sport and covered it across the world for Hindustan Times over 13 years. After moving on, he divides time between setting up his venture, TheGolfingHub, and watching his teenage son chase his dream in golf.

Golf Decoded: A Glossary of the Sport's Most Common Terms Ace: Address: Aim: Albatross: Alignment: Approach: All square: Apron: Away: Back Nine: Backswing: Birdie: Bogey: Bunker: Buggy: Double bogey: Driving range: Duff: Eagle: Fringe: Fairway: Green: Links: Par: Rough: Semi-rough: Tee Box: Takeaway: Triple Bogey: 19th Hole: Ball-marker: Casual Water: Caddie: Fat Shot: Mulligan: Out of Bounds: Penalty Areas: Thin Shot: Question: What are some golf phrases? Answer: Question: What is a good golf shot called? Answer: