39 Golfing Terms That Will Take Your Understanding Of The Game To The Next Level
Golf is a game that’s easy to get frustrated with, and it may make you question your resolve at times. However, one perfect drive after a few bad ones makes up for any distress golf caused you. It’s not just you; every golfer goes through this process. Ask any professional golfer of a golfer with an excellent handicap how many great shots they’ve hit. They’ll tell you every shot could be better.
That’s our pep talk on why you should persevere and avoid letting golf get to you. That said, whether you’re an excellent golfer and a novice looking for improvement, golf comes with its own language. You may hear terms on the course or in the pro shop that leave you wondering what they’re talking about. You may avoid asking them so that you don’t look like a novice. We all do it in golf and everyday life.
We’re going to help you improve your golf vocabulary and get to know some of the golfing terms every golfer needs to know. We created a golf glossary with some bonus material for you. The compendium covers golfing terms you need to know on the course or in a tournament. These are also golfing terms your coach or local golf pro may use when they’re trying to help you with your game.
We also included some common slang terms and a few others that just make golf interesting. For most of you, the first section of terms may be the most important ones. You’ll need to know these terms to talk to other golfers and to fully understand what your coach is asking you to do or explaining. Each one defines something important to most golfers.
We made a few assumptions, and we need for you to make some as well while you read this article. The directions and any other descriptions of how a ball may fly assume the golfer is right-handed. If you play left-handed, just reverse the left or right designation we put in the descriptions. Honestly, it’s just easier to describe every term and direction for a single type of golfer, the right-hander.
Golfing Terms Your Golf Pro May Use
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You can find the full list of golfing terms according to the PGA here. Honestly, over half the terms in their dictionary are mostly common-sense things that you probably already understand. I few like aiming, for instance, may be different or slightly different from what you imagine them to mean. We’ll help you figure them out and get back to golfing.
Yips may be one of the most misunderstood golfing terms out there. Having the yips means you lose control of your hands or possibly the golf club and either drop the club and don’t complete the stroke. It’s often seen in high-stress situations like a game-changing putt. Most experts agree it’s a psychological issue. However, some studies suggest it may be a muscle or nerve issue as well.
Whiff, whiffing it, and airballs are three terms that describe one of the more embarrassing moments in a golfer’s life; missing the ball. Dozens of factors may contribute to a whiff like nervousness, noise, and improper setup before taking your swing. Most players experience this problem just because they don’t keep their head down and their eyes on the ball through their swing.
Waggle describes motions or rituals you perform before you take your stroke. Finding the right waggle to help you relax and get your body aligned may help with both airballs and the yips. The goal is to find a way to relax and perform a smooth stroke with proper rotation and follow through by waggling about or wiggling around before your shot. It does help your game to find your pre-shot ritual.
The term hook means your golf ball curves after you hit it. For right-handed golfers, this means your ball curves to the left. It may fly straight for 100 yards then start curving, but it’s still a hook. Sometimes you want to play a hook to get around some golf course features. If you have a hook, learn how to correct it and how to use it to improve your game.
The term duck hook is another way to describe a hook. However, a duck hook is just a lousy shot since it’s nearly impossible to control it. The ball leaves the tee and hooks sharply which usually end up with the ball out of bounds or lost in the woods. See our section on fixing your golf game below for some helpful tools to stop this from happening to you.
A slice is the same thing as a hook, almost. When you slice, as a right-handed golfer, your ball curves away from you to the right. Like a hook, a slice can help or curse your game. If you can control your slice, it will improve your game on some holes. If you can’t control your slice, it will probably drive you insane and result in a thrown club or two.
The term weak grip is one you may hear if your golf pro is trying to help you correct your slice. For right-handed golfers, a weak grip simply means you turn your hands slightly to the left while gripping the club. Some golfers use a weak grip to help them fix their slice, but there are better ways to cure your slicing woes. However, a quick fix may be to weaken your grip and give it a try.
Shaping your shot is a term used to describe adding some fade, hook, or slide to your shot to get around fairway obstacles like bunkers or trees. Players that can shape their shots well may include some of the best in the world. Hitting the ball safely to avoid a bunker is playing it safe, not shaping your shot. If you’re new to golf, focus on your stance and swing and worry about shaping later.
The golf term fade means your ball flies a little left to right while it travels. It’s a slight, gentle curve which can help your game at times. Players that don’t suffer from a slice or a hook can experiment with a weak grip to learn how to fade their shot. It’s not always a straight shot from the tee to the green, so learning how to get the ball to curve slightly or a lot might help your golf game.
The terms draw or drawing the ball is merely the opposite of fading the ball. Your setup and approach may be different along with your grip, but the shot is merely a mirror version of fade. Fades and draws are valuable techniques every golfer should master. You may need to seek the help of a golf pro or some online videos if you want to learn these techniques quickly. You may still need to practice a lot.
You may hear other golfers or your golf pro use the terms angle or attack or angle of approach. What they’re talking about is the angle of the club head when it strikes the ball. This angle determines how the ball will react after it gets hit. Some angles produce high flying balls to get over traps while others keep the ball low to get it under tree limbs. You’ll have to experiment to learn more about this term.
Your approach is the shot you make with hopes of hitting or getting close to the green. An approach that comes up short simply means the drive didn’t go as far as the golfer hoped. Some golfers are excellent approach golfers while others may be better at putting or getting out of tight spots due to a poor approach. The trick to golf is to play the game around your weaknesses like poor approaches.
Backspin is a term used to describe how the ball reacts in the air and when it lands. Backspin is precisely what you think; the ball spins backward. However, the amount of backspin determines some features of the ball’s flight and may make it fly higher. Upon landing, backspin may cause the ball to stop almost instantly or possibly roll backward.
A bladed shot is something every golfer has accomplished if they hit enough balls. This happens when you hit the top half of your ball with the bottom half of your clubface. The result is a bladed shot that sends the ball skipping across the ground with no lift. This particular problem is often followed by similar mistakes because it tends to affect the golfer psychologically.
Like a bladed shot, a topped shot happens when you hit the top of the ball with the bottom of your club face. The difference is that you only hit the top of the ball with the bottom of the club and the ball tends to shoot straight up and hopped down the fairway. A topped shot rarely travels as far as a bladed shot even though the two may be very similar mistakes.
Bobbing is a term used to describe a player that has trouble keeping the club head on the same plane or rotation throughout the swing. It could get caused by a weak stance or a bad backswing. In short, the club head may raise or lower while you swing causing you to hit the ball in odd ways or places. Practice with someone watching you to help identify why you’re bobbing if you want to fix it.
Swaying is another way some players may excuse poor shots. Swaying is a term used to describe a lateral movement of the body at any point in your swing that changes your rotation or causes your clubface to move up, down, or side to side. Talk to your golf pro if you never hit the same shot twice and let them help you find the root of the problem.
Reading the green is probably a term you’ve heard quite often. However, it’s much more than simply guessing which way the ball might roll after you putt. The three terms following this one probably have more to do with putting than anything else you may learn. Unless you manage to put the ball within inches of the hole on every drive, you must learn to read the green.
When you putt, especially on long putts, the term break describes how much the ball will roll left or right of the direction you originally putted the ball. In some cases, the ball may turn right then left only to go right again. It’s your job to read the green and determine how much break you need to allow for when you putt.
The borrow is possibly one of the hardest terms to understand on the golf course. It’s a way to describe how much a ball may break when you putt it. If you borrow correctly, your golf ball will roll across and over the green to the hole. Borrow too much or not enough, and you’ll miss the putt. It’s an art that takes a lot of practice to master.
A rap putt is a short stroke with firm contact. It’s hard to master but may improve your putting. That said, it may hurt your game as well. Each type of golf swing or shot has a purpose and a time. A rap putt may cause your read on the green to prove false by propelling the ball along a path through power. Your borrow may be wrong, and the ball might not end up in or near the hole.
Carry is a term used to describe how far a golf ball might fly. You may hear it used to explain whether or not a player can “carry” a bunker which means they may be wondering if they hit the ball well enough to get it past a sand trap or any other hazards on the course. If you carry a bunker, it merely means you hit the ball beyond it, and your ball is safe from that bunker.
Casting is a problem many novice and professional golfers must battle at some point, or at multiple points in their golfing careers. Casting happens when your wrists lose their alignment during your downswing which causes you to lose some power and probably hit the ball poorly. Your golf pro may tell you that your hitting at the ball instead of driving through the shot.
The term chicken wing refers to a swing problem some golfers face. If your lead elbow points away from your body at an odd angle during your swing, you have a chicken wing problem. This could be the reason you often push or block your shot. However, it’s possible to use a chicken wing on purpose if you need to block or push your shot.
Chip and run is a term used to describe a low chip shot with little or no backspin. Your ball is chipped toward the green and spends more time rolling than flying. There are multiple reasons to use a chip and run shot from high winds to getting out of a bad spot from a short carry. It’s worth adding this shot to your practice drills.
To choke down means that you grip your golf club’s shaft a little further down the shaft than usual. Some golfers claim this gives them more control on short shots. However, the evidence is spotty at best, and it’s unlikely choking down will provide you with more control. If your too far from the hole to putt and you’re afraid or carrying the ball too far if you chip it, choking down on a chip shot may shorten it.
The terms chunk or chunking the shot refer to hitting the ground behind your ball. The result is usually a large chunk of turf flying through the air instead of your ball. The causes behind a chunk shot include several things, but the most common reasons are playing the ball too far forward or failing to keep your eye on the ball throughout your swing. However, don’t rule out poorly fitted clubs that are too long.
Your golf pro may refer to a swing and grip error called a closed clubface if you consistently miss your target to the left, if you play right-handed. The problem, in this case, is your clubface is angled and doesn’t meet the ball flat and centered. The toe of the clubface gets to the ball first, and the result is a fade-like shot that misses the target to the left.
The target line is the imaginary line you draw through the ball to your target. This is a critical golfing term and often overlooked by novice and veteran golfers. The term may change, but you need to draw the imaginary line. It helps you align your attack on the ball and makes sure you are aiming at the target. Guessing or just swinging away without a plan is an excellent way to ruin your game. Draw the line.
A Texas Wedge is not a golf club. It’s a term used to describe putting from outside the green. If you lack confidence in your chip shop or the wind is blowing a bit hard, a Texas Wedge is an excellent alternative. However, putting from 20 yards away is a bad idea. So, work on your chip shot and practice some confidence building drills.
Scoring clubs is a term used to describe the three most commonly used clubs; the driver, sand wedge, and the putter. You may use these clubs more often than any other club assuming your game is advanced enough that you don’t need to make me fairway drives due to poor carry. You usually drive the ball, chip it to the green, then putting it in the hole.
Short irons describe the clubs you use to get your ball on the green if you failed to carry the fairway or the fairway is long like a par five. The eight and nine irons along with the pitching wedge may be considered the short irons. These clubs help you reach the green when other clubs may carry the ball too far. Some players mix their club brands to suit their needs by ordering single clubs instead of sets.
There are two terms that golfers use to describe the way some players hit the ball. A swinger is someone that uses timing and rhythm when they hit the ball. A hitter is someone that usually hit the ball and uses pure power to get the job done. It often takes power along with rhythm and timing to make you a low handicap golfer. You can’t rely on one style to always get the job done.
A few terms that may be less common on your course include:
- Victory lap: this is when the golf ball rolls around the cup’s top edge before going in the hole
- Sunday ball: this is the same thing as a mulligan which means you get to try again
- Snakie: this is a term for three-putting on the green
- Four-jack: this is the term used to describe four-putting on the green
- Pole dancer: you may hear this term when a golfer hits flagstick with their approach shot
- Lumberjack: this endearing term is applied to golfers that hit the ball in the woods a lot
Fixing Some Common Golfing Mistakes
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Every golfer that’s serious about golf probably has a garage or room at home filled with golfing tools and other apparatus designed to help their game. Sadly, most gimmicks just don’t work, and you end up wasting your time and money. The best way to fix problems with your stance or swing is to seek the services of your local golf pro.
A few golf pros, ask them first, might let you bring in a video to analyze. They’ll watch you swing, putt, and play overall golf then give you a verdict on what you’re doing wrong. They may help you correct your problems as well, but most golf pros will insist you come in for lessons. Get a friend to video you swinging and putting from every safe angle possible. Reviewing the videos yourself may help as well.
The cheapest route to a better golf game is making new friends. It may seem shady at first but making friends at the course you play on most often is an excellent way to get or solicit free advice. Golfers are usually the type of people that will play a round with you so that they can help you spot or fix problems in your stance or swing. Get to know the people at your local course.
Avoid the gimmicks you see on TV and opt for proven training tools like the ones we listed below. Most golf training aids are simple, so you don’t need to buy expensive tools or special golf clubs. You need advice, a golf pro, and a lot of practice. One of the best ways to improve your golf game is by hitting golf balls. The driving range is like a golf academy.
- Eliminate Hooks and Slices - Practice your swing to avoid hitting the four red angled foam sticks. An even swing path...
- Hit for More Distance - A true even path swing will result in hitting the golf ball further
- Score Better - After practicing with the Swing Trainer you'll square up your club with the golf ball more consistently...
This device is available on Amazon for $49.97. If your golf pro or golfing buddies claim your grip is not the cause of your hook or slice, this device may help you fix your shot. It gives you a physical line to replace your imaginary line with and forces you swing on the correct path. It’s budget-friendly too, so it’s worth trying it if you regularly hook or slice by accident.
- MULTIPLE PRACTICE OPTIONS: Improve alignment, swing path, ball placement, and more
- LOW PROFILE: Sticks fit right into your bag and don't extend above your driver
- ESSENTIAL TOOL: For those looking to improve their game, alignment sticks are a must
You can get this tool on Amazon for $14.99. It’s cheap and may help you correct problems with your stance and alignment. You can use a couple of golf clubs to create this tool on the course, but they don’t come with instructions. If you believe your stance is an issue, get this inexpensive tool and try it out. You may be surprised how much it helps your game.
- OPEN SIZE: 10'(W)x6.5'(H)x6'(D)
- STABILITY MATERIAL: Oxford, 50%PE+50%Nylon Net, 11mm Fiberglass.The weight of the fiberglass support rod is one third...
- APPLICATION: Use this essential piece of training equipment to practise for golf and all other ball sports in a safe...
You can get this golf training tool on Amazon for $79.99. This is an all-around tool for golfers. If you can’t get to the golf course very often, get one of these for your back yard. It’s easy to set up and use plus it comes with instructions on performing several drills that may improve your game. You can combine it with other tools to help measure your success.
Some Final Notes
Most of the golf terms on our list are common and used by golfers of all skill levels. Many got included in the PGA’s official glossary of golfing terms. Understanding the golfing terms your friends and trainers are throwing at you is all part of learning and improving your golf game. However, it’s up to you to master the game in the end, but the terminology is an excellent place to start your golfing journey.
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