Basic Golf Terms

If you want to play or watch golf and don’t want to be confused when golf lingo is thrown around, it’s best to learn some basic golf terms. They’re not hard to grasp and are easier to master the more you play or watch.

  1. Tee box. The start of each hole where you take your first swing. Also called the Teeing Area or Teeing Ground.
  2. Tee. A very basic golf term, it is the pin on top of which you place your ball to tee off.
  3. Tee off. The act of swinging from inside the tee box.
  4. Front nine/back nine. The first or last nine holes of a golf course.
  5. Fairway. One of the most basic golf terms, it is the stretch of land between the tee box and the putting green.
  6. Putting green. The land around each hole distinguished from the fairway by the low-cut grass.
  7. Cup. The plastic inside each hole that supports the flag and traps the ball once it has rolled inside.
  8. Pin. Also known as a flag, it sits inside each cup. Typically a player or caddy will hold the pin and remove it when the golfer in play has putted on the green.
  9. Putting. The act of hitting the ball toward the hole when on the green.
  10. Putter. The golf club you use when putting. It tends to be the shortest club and has the smallest head. Putters are generally only used for putting on the green.
  11. Woods. Wooden-headed or hybrid wood-metal clubs used for long distances. The number of wood that you use (one, three, or five) depends on the distance you want to hit the ball.
  12. Irons. Metal-headed clubs used for a variety of shots. Irons typically come into play once the ball is on the fairway. Irons range from one to nine, depending on how high into the air you want the ball to travel.
  13. Wedges. A wedge is designed to arc the ball high into the air rather than long distances. Because of this, wedges are often used in hazards or near the green as it allows the golfer to pop the ball up onto the fairway or green without overshooting it.
  14. Stroke. An important basic golf term, a stroke is contact or attempt at contact with the ball. For example, if five strokes are used to hit the ball into the hole, then five strokes are recorded on your scorecard. If you attempt to hit the ball and miss, otherwise known as an air shot or whiff, it counts as a stroke.
  15. Hole in one. Hitting the ball into the hole from the tee box with one stroke. Also called an “ace”.
  16. Par. The most basic golf term, par is the number of strokes ranging from three to six assigned to a hole. Par is determined by the length of the putting green from the tee box. In scoring, to “make par” means to hit your ball into the hole with the same number of swings as the assigned par number, i.e. four swings on a Par four hole, etc.
  17. Birdie. Hitting the ball into the hole using one less stroke than par. Example: Three strokes to hit the ball into the hole on a Par four.
  18. Eagle. Hitting the ball into the hole using two less strokes than par, i.e. three strokes on a Par five.
  19. Bogey. Hitting the ball into the hole using one more stroke than par. Example: Six strokes on a Par five.
  20. Double Bogey. Hitting the ball into the hole using two more strokes than par. Example: Seven strokes on a Par five.
  21. Hazard. An area of sand or water along the fairway or around the green. Because the sand and water traps the ball, the degree of difficulty when hitting out of a hazard is significantly higher than on the fairway or green.
  22. Rough. Grass on either side of the fairway that is not part of a hazard.

These basic golf terms will help you navigate the golf course with ease and can help you understand what you need for a better score. They will also help you more thoroughly enjoy watching a game of professional golf. 


US Golf Association

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