Golf 101: Terms of the Game

Here are some of the most common expressions you’ll hear on a golf course. These terms cover many aspects that you’ll need to know about the game.
Tee Time: You must call in advance of the day you wish to play and book a “tee time.” Ask for the pro shop, tell them how many players you have coming, what day and time you’d like to play. He or she will tell you if what you are looking for is available, and if not, what is the closest time open. This is your opportunity to inquire about green fees, ask directions, inquire about practice facilities, dining facilities, and the like.

Starter: A golf course generally has a person known as a “starter.” You will show him or her the receipt you were given in the pro shop when you paid, and the starter will let you know when you can expect to tee off, if there have been any delays, what the course policies are and so forth. This is your chance to ask all the questions you have about that course, how it plays, etc.

Traveling with Golf Clubs Golf 101: Terms of the Game

Golf 101: Terms of the Game


Tee: This is the small wooden or plastic peg on which you place the ball when you hit it to start each hole. Hence the name “tee box.”

Par: Each hole is assigned a “par,” the number of strokes it “should” take to get the ball in the hole. Par information is found on the scorecard. A typical golf course is a par-72, meaning that a ‘scratch’ golfer should shoot even par-or 72-on that course. Par is assigned to a hole based on yardage. Set by the United States Golf Association (USGA), the system works like this: par-3 holes-up to 250 yards (men, 210 yards (women); par-4 holes-251-470 yards (men), 211-400 yards (women); par-5 holes-471-690 yards (men), 401-590 yards (women).

Par 5: On a par-5 hole you have five shots or chances to get the ball in the hole. These are typically the longest holes on the course.

Par 4: On a par-4 hole you have 4 chances to get the ball in the hole.

Par 3: These are the shortest holes on the golf course and you get three chances to get the ball in the hole.

Ace: A hole-in-one. One of the rarest of scores on the golf course.

Bogey: When you score over par on a hole, you have carded a bogey, double-bogey or worse. On a par 5, for example, if you stroke or hit the ball 4 times and now you are trying to putt it in the hole for a 5 and you miss, that is a “bogey” 6. If you try again and still miss, that is a “double-bogey” 7, and if you miss again that is called a “triple-bogey” 8; if this occurs, pick up your ball and go to the next hole.

Birdie: A birdie is when it takes one stroke less than par to get the ball in the hole. If your third shot on a par 5 lands on the putting surface or green, you putt and the ball goes in, that’s a 4 or birdie.”

Eagle: An eagle is when it takes two strokes less than par to get the ball in the hole. If your second shot lands on the green of a par-five hole and you putt it in for a 3, this is called an “eagle.”

Divot: The pelt of grass you uproot when you hit the ball. You should replace this in its hole after your shot, unless otherwise instructed by the starter.

Putting surface or Green: The area where the hole is located is called a “putting surface” or “green.” This is where you use your putter to get the ball in the hole.

Fairway: The grassed area between the tee box and the green.

Sand Bunker or Sand Trap: In the fairway and around the green you will see several carved sections of land filled with sand. These are called sand bunkers or traps.

OB: Stands for “out of bounds.” Like a basketball or tennis court, the golf course also has out of bounds markers.

1b. Equipment Terms

Club Head: This is the part of the club that makes contact with the ball. When you hear someone say the head is forgiving, this means the head has a large contact point or “sweet spot” (center of the face) which, if you don’t quite hit perfectly, will still allow for a good result. It forgives you for an “off-center” hit.

Loft: Starting with the 3-iron, the angle or loft of the club face increases as you go higher in numbers on your clubs. The 3-iron is lowest, 4-iron a little higher, 5-iron higher and so on until you get to your pitching and sand wedge. This is the angle of the head or face of the club that determines the trajectory of your ball (low or high).

Shaft flex: This is the amount of bending motion or stiffness of the club when you swing it. L= ladies; A= amateur; R= regular; S= stiff; X= extra stiff.

Shaft length: Golf clubs decrease in length from your driver to your pitching wedge. As you get closer to the green or putting surface, it’s not necessary to hit the ball as far as your last hit, so you would use a shorter club such as a 9-iron.

Sand wedge:This is the club you use to get out of the sand bunker.

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