Golf can be confusing to the beginner if you aren’t familiar with the basic terms used by experienced players. In addition to the technical terms, you’ll want to learn the slang used by frequent golfers, which have become almost as much a part of the game as the official terms. Understanding basic golf terms will help prevent you from sounding like a rookie, even if you end up looking like one.
You will start playing each hole from the tee box. This is the area from which you must hit the ball for a legal start. There are usually two objects that serve as markers on the tee box, which you must stand behind to hit your shot. Most courses have more than one tee box per hole to let players of different skill levels enjoy the game. These tee boxes usually include pro, men’s and women’s tees.
If you hit a ball too near the group ahead of you, or your ball errantly sails into a group on either side of you, you should yell, “Fore!,” to warn them that a ball is coming near. This gives them a chance to duck, cover their heads or stop their swings.
A shot that travels to the left of a right-handed golfer is called a hook, draw or pull, depending on how far left and how much the ball curves.
Depending on how far right your ball travels, you have hit a slice, fade or push. The slice is the most common and is the ball that has a very pronounced curve to the right for right-handed players.
Decades ago, players used clubs with wooden heads to hit the ball far. Today, clubs used to hit tee shots and long second or third shots are still called woods, even though they are made with space-age materials such as carbon and titanium. These clubs have large heads, unlike irons, which feature thinner blades. The most common woods are the driver, 3-wood and 5-wood, with 7-woods popular among senior and women players.
Club with smaller heads used to approach a green from longer distances are called irons. They have a smaller, thinner head than woods. Not all non-woods are irons. Clubs used around the green are referred to as wedges and putters.
A long shot off the tee box is called a drive because these shots are often hit with a driver, or 1-wood. Any shot played off a tee under the ball and not played with a driver is called a tee shot. As you are getting closer to the green, your shots are known as approach shots. A short shot onto the green is known as a pitch. If you are hitting a very short ball from just off the green, the shot is known as a chip. When you are on the green using a putter to roll the ball toward the hole, you are hitting a putt.
If you make a score that is expected of a good golfer, you have made par. On your scorecard, you will see the par number for each hole. If you make it into the hole using one less stroke than par, you have made a birdie. If it takes you one shot more than par, you have made a bogey. Two shots over par is a double bogey, while two shots under par is an eagle.
When a course is busy and people want to avoid everyone getting backed up, players may not require their friends to hit the last shot into the hole if the ball is very close to the hall. These are called, “gimmes,” and your partners will tell you, “That’s a gimme.” A rule of thumb for gimmes is that if your ball is a distance to the hole that is shorter than the length of the grip on your club, you don’t have to hit the final putt. This is also known as being, “inside the leather,” since grips used to be made of leather.