Bandwagoning The Basics: Terminology

It’s amazing how quickly you pick up on something when you’re exposed to it constantly. If you want to learn a language, people tell you to move to that country- you’ll have no choice but to figure it out. And hope to God you don’t end up in a life-threatening situation before you learn the words for “help” and “ambulance.”

Turns out, golf is no different. If it comprises 98% of your Facebook feed, if it’s the only thing ever on TV, if it’s the main subject of your bathroom reading material…you pick up on it.

In theory, not in execution, obviously. Ben Hogan can talk to me about curing my slice all day, but I need to work on it in real life for results. However, the terminology and idiosyncrasies of the game become second nature.

For my fellow bandwagoners who don’t have the time (or have better options for bathroom reading), let me lay some of the terminology out for you.

Ace: Generally a hole-in-one on a par three, but you’ll occasionally hear people misuse it for a hole-in-one on a par four.

Albatross: This is ACTUALLY a hole-in-one on a par four. More specifically, an albatross is three under par on any hole (a two on a par five, etc.). You’ll hear the term “double-eagle” as well.

Birdie: One-under-par on any hole.

Bogey: One-over-par on any hole. You’ll also hear double-bogey and triple-bogey (but obviously you don’t WANT to hear either of those)

Break: When putting, the break is the amount the ball turns/curves on its way to the cup.

Bunker: Bunkers are bad news, man. These are the sand-filled hazards that line fairways and greens.

Divot: Usually the result of an iron shot, a divot is the hole in the turf left over from the club scraping under the ball. You use a divot tool to replace the lifted turf.

Draw: When talking about a right-handed golfer, a draw is a shot that curves slightly to the left.

Drop: You take a drop when your ball is unplayable (in a water hazard, out of bounds, etc.). You literally drop the ball back into play.

Duff: Not to be confused with “Dufner-ing,” this refers to missing the ball entirely when swinging. Duffing, whiffing…we’ve all done it.

Eagle: Shooting two-under-par on an individual hole.

Fade: A controlled shot curving slightly to the right (for right-handed players).

Fairway: The entire in-bounds area that stretches from the tee to the green.

Fore: A warning that’s yelled when an errant ball is headed towards people. It’s the golf version of “Heads up!”

Front/back nine: The front nine consists of holes 1-9; back nine is holes 10-18.

Green: The closely-mowed area around the hole (also known as the putting surface).

Handicap: For amateur golfers, this levels the playing field. It’s the number of strokes you’re “given” based on the ten best scores of your last 20 rounds. For example, if Golfer A has a handicap of 15 and shoots a 95 while Golfer B, with a handicap of 4, shoots a 78, their handicaps would then make their net scores 80 and 74, respectively. You can calculate your handicap here.

*Note: Pros aren’t bound by the handicap system. In fact, if you were playing Tiger in a scratch game, he’d actually have to give shots BACK to the course (meaning his handicap is effectively negative).

Hazard: Usually sand or water, these are obstacles for golfers to avoid.

Lay up: A shot meant to deliberately fall short of the green to stay out of trouble.

Lie: The position of the ball (“play it as it lies”) after a shot, as well as the condition of the ground upon which the ball is resting. A bad lie can mean a tough angle, etc.

Mulligan: A second attempt at a shot that went wrong. Technically illegal, and totally necessary for amateurs.

Pin: The flagstick in the hole.

There are many more terms to pick up on, but these will get you through a conversation with that coworker who WON’T STOP TALKING about his great round last weekend.


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