The Golf Lingo and Slang Glossary: What Those Words Mean

Golf is a fun sport, hands down. However, like learning a foreign language in a strange country, the lingo can be difficult to learn in the beginning. In fact, it can feel downright aliens.

After all, what do the bogey man and all those birdies have to do with golf anyway? You'll find out soon enough.

Are you ready? Let's go!

The 19th Hole

Huh? Bet you probably thought golf only had 18 holes right? Well, you're not wrong technically, but the 19th hole refers to the spot after the 18th hole, usually the clubhouse, or even the bar. Work hard, play hard right?

19th hole


To aerate refers to the process of the groundstaff making a series of small holes in the dirt of the golf course, to allow water and fertilizer to penetrate into the soil.

This is a good sign, as the practice keeps the turf in good playing shape.


If you've ever hit the ball so hard it seems to fly off into the sky, you've airmailed it. While this might be impressive to your friends, it's actually not great for the game as you've most likely lost the ball. Forget about even landing around the green, you're lucky if you can find it in the parking lot.


An albatross is an extremely rare score on a hole, and it occurs when you score three under par on a single hole. For example, if you hit a hole in one on a par four, that's an albatross. It's sometimes also known as a double eagle. Congrats!

albatross golf


When putting, some golfers like to rest the end of the putter shaft against their stomach or chest (anchoring it) to help keep their stroke steady. However, this practice is now against the rules of golf.


The approach is the area that can be found in front of the green, and it's where you'll be hitting your approach shot. This area is sometimes also referred to as the throat.

Bad Lie

A bad lie refers to the position when your ball lands in a spot where it will be difficult to hit it, such as in a divot mark or next to some tall grass. It happens to the best of us, but try not to let it get you down.

Back 9

The 18 holes in golf refer to a front 9, and a back 9 (the last 9 holes, from holes 10-18)

Ball Marker

A ball marker is a small, often flat object that is used to mark the spot of your ball on the green so that it doesn't get moved when another golfer's ball rolls nearby. Or, if your ball is actively in the way of another player's attempt to putt, you will set a marker and move your ball.

Sometimes, golfers will also use a tee to mark their ball's spot.

Banana Ball

This phrase doesn't actually refer to the ball itself being yellow or squishy, but rather the trajectory the ball takes following a bad slice hit resembling the curved shape of a banana.

If you are a right-hander, this means the ball flying way off to the right although you were aiming straight ahead, and is the result of side spin generated when the ball was hit.


Surf's up dude! Well...not surf, but the beach does refer to the sand trap on golf courses, aptly named because of the presence of sand.

sand on golf course


A birdie is a good accomplishment while playing golf, and it happens when you score one under par on a hole. For example, if you hit a hole in two on a par three, that's a birdie.

birdie score


When the ball hits the ground and then rolls a short distance, it's said to have bitten. This usually happens when the grass is wet and long.

Or, hitting a shot that pitches high and plops to the ground without much run is considered a shot that has bite.


Hitting the ball fat (or thin) can result in a blade, which is where the club hits only the top half of the ball. The trajectory will be low and mostly straight, with little to no spin. This is not the ideal way to hit the ball, but it happens to everyone from time to time.


The polar opposite of a birdie is a bogey, and it's what you score when you finish a hole one over par. For example, if you hit a hole in four on a par three, that's a bogey. Most amateur golfers play at around this or double bogey score, which isn't all that good when you think of it.


The bunker is another name for the sand trap, and it can be found all over the golf course just waiting to ruin your day.

golf sand trap sand bunker 


Most people (even non-golfers) know what a caddie (caddy) is; it's the person who helps you carry your clubs and gives you advice during your round of golf.

A forecaddie also exists, whose job is to not carry clubs but help golfers by finding their balls and raking bunkers. This is common on busy days or at private clubs.

golf caddie

Casual Water

This phrase refers to any temporary puddles of water on the golf course that have been caused by rainfall or irrigation. These areas are usually easy to spot, as they will be darker in color than the rest of the turf. If your ball lies in casual water, you are allowed to take a free drop without penalty.

Chip Shot

A chip shot is a short, low-flying shot that is usually played when you are close to the green but still needs to get over a small obstacle like a bunker or water hazard. These shots usually get you close to the hole and in putting range.

Choke Down

This phrase is used when you want to hit the ball lower than normal, and it's done by moving your grip down the shaft of the club. Doing this gives you more control over the shot, but less power.

You may also need to choke down if the clubs are just too long for you.


You will probably never experience this in your lifetime. This is the rarest of the rare golf scores; it's when you hit a hole in one on a par five. Only 4 times in history has this ever been recorded.


A divot is a small chunk of turf that is displaced when the club hits the ground. It's important to replace your divot (and other people's too) so that the golf course can heal properly.



A dogleg is a hole that bends in either direction and usually pretty sharply. The most common type of dogleg is a dogleg left, where the fairway bends to the left around some sort of obstacle. These holes can be pretty tricky, especially if you are trying to hit it straight over the top.

Dog Track

A dog track is a golf course that is in bad shape; it's usually pretty run down with patchy fairways and greens. These courses are normally pretty cheap to play, but you get what you pay for.

Double Bogey

As we mentioned before, a bogey is one over par on a hole. A double bogey is two over par, and it's not a score that you want to see very often.


An eagle is when you score two under par on a hole. This doesn't happen too often, but it's a great feeling when it does.


The fairway is the area of the golf course between the tee box and green that is well-manicured and usually pretty easy to hit your ball from. It's the ideal place to hit when you are teeing off.

golf fairway


A flub is terminology for any bad shot really, although it more commonly means a shot when you made a divot before contact with the ball, leading to a really poor shot.


The classic incarnation of everything golf, not many outside the sport actually know what it means. Simply put, it acts as a warning call when a ball is headed in the direction of someone that could potentially cause an injury.

hit by golf ball fore

"Fore!" should be shouted as loud as possible whenever there is a risk of hitting someone, even if it's just a minor one.


A Gilligan is an agreed-upon rule that allows opponents the right to ask to replay a shot, especially an exceptional shot that is deemed a fluke. A Gilligan is the opposite of another casual-play rule called the Mulligan.


A gimme is a putt that is so close to the hole that everyone agrees that you don't need to putt it out. This is usually done as a courtesy to speed up play in a match or casual games, but not stroke play.

golf gimme


The green is the area around the hole that is specifically mowed and cared for so that it's easy to putt on. It's usually pretty flat and smooth, unlike the rest of the golf course.

Halfway House

The name for this one is hilarious. Visiting the halfway house today? In golf, this is simply a place to get food and drinks, normally located at the halfway point of the course. It's a great place to take a break and refuel with a delicious Whole In One Bar before heading out for the back nine.


We covered handicaps in our previous blog post, but for a quick refresher,a handicap is a number that is assigned to each golfer based on their skill level. This number is used to adjust scores in order to make it fairer when players of different skill levels are playing against each other.

Hole In One

Almost everyone knows what this is; it's when you hit the ball in the hole in one shot on a par three. It's considered a pretty big deal and most people will never experience this in their lifetime.

hole in one


Many courses are called golf links, but new players might not appreciate the meaning. Links refer to the type of terrain that the course is built on, which is normally seaside dunes. These are considered some of the best types of courses to play on but are notorious for the wind.

Lip Out

Talk about frustrating! A lip out is when your ball hits the edge of the hole and pops out, instead of falling in. This can be a real bummer, especially if you were so close to sinking a long putt.


The rough of a course is the area that is not well-manicured and is usually pretty difficult to hit your ball out of. It's longer, thick grass that can make it hard to find your ball, let alone hit a good shot from.

golf course rough


A snowman is what you get when you score an 8 on a hole; two shots over par. It gets its name from the fact that it looks like a little snowman when you write it down on your scorecard.

golf snowman


Yes, we know this sounds absolutely scandalous. But there also exist twosomes and foursomes. The number just refers to the number of people (golfers) playing together in a group (*wink* if you say so).


A swing and a miss! A whiff is when you take a swing at the ball and completely miss it. This can happen if you get too nervous or try to swing too hard. Still counts as a stroke, unfortunately.

golf whiff


The yips is a phenomenon that plagues mostly putters but can affect any golfer at any time. It's an involuntary twitch or movement that causes you to miss your shot. The yips is mental more than anything and can be very difficult to overcome.

In Summary

There are many, many more phrases that makeup golf lingo; but many are self-explanatory and have been skipped to keep this list concise.

Armed with your newfound knowledge, it's time to Book a Tee Time and hit the links! And if you're ever feeling lost on the course, just ask your playing partner what they mean by "gimmie" or "birdie." They'll be more than happy to help you out. Happy golfing!