Explanation of Popular Golf Terms

Explanation of Popular Golf Terms

There are numerous terms that are used in golf that will be unfamiliar to someone who is new to golf. Some of the most popular terms are explained below to ensure that you know exactly what is being said while you are out on the course. Obviously, this list is not exhaustive, but this list will help you get started.

Here is a short explanation of popular golf terms.

Back Nine

This is the last set of 9 holes that make up the golf course. This is determined by the order that the course is played in. For example, if you start playing on hole 1, the back nine would refer to holes 10-18. However if you started playing on the 10th hole it would actually refer to holes 1-9.

Most golf courses are 18 holes but you will also find quite a few nine-hole courses. Most people would play the holes twice in order to make up an 18 hole round.

Paige explains some golf terms


This is when a score for a particular hole comes in one stroke below par for that hole. This means if the hole being played is a par -3 then the score must be a 2, if the hole is a par -5 it must be a score of 4.


This is a score that comes in a single stroke over the par. For example, if you are playing a par -3 hole then a score of 4 would be a bogey. A score of five would be a bogey on a par-4 and par -5 would need a score of 6 to be a bogey.


This is a depression in the ground that is generally filled in with sand, which provides a greenside hazard that needs to be avoided. While the bunkers are often greenside, it is possible for them to to be situated alongside the fairways.


A dogleg hole is merely one that curves one way or another. It usually means the player needs to shape the ball to put themselves in the best position.


A score of two under par on a hole is known as an eagle. So if you get a hole-in-one on a par-3, hole your second shot on a par-4 or your third shot on a par-5 You would have scored an eagle.


This is what you shout if you think your ball is heading towards another player on the course. For everyone’s safety you shouldn’t play unless you think it is safe to do so. However if you don’t strike the ball correctly then you may risk hitting someone. If you do then shout FORE loudly.

If you hear someone else shout fore then it’s usually advisable to cover your head as this is the most dangerous place to get hit by a ball.

Front Nine

The first nine holes on the course are considered the front nine.


A gimme is a putt that you concede to an opponent in matchplay. Usually you only do this when the putt is a very simple one that you think is unlikely to be missed. Sometimes gimmicks can be more strategic if you are playing pairs matchplay.


This is the end of a golf hole where the flagstick is located. This is where you will use your putter to get the ball into the hole. The shape of greens can vary, however many are either oblong or oval in shape.


This is an indication of the overall playing ability that a player has. It is generally compiled based upon the last several scores that have been played as well as the course rating and the slope ratings that are assigned to the courses that were played. The lower your handicap the better you are expected to play.

Exceptional players have what is known as a plus handicap. This means their handicap is added to the score rather than deducted.


This describes a golf that curves excessively from right to left for a right-handed player. It usually leads to the player being in a difficult position for their next shot. For a left-handed player a hook would move from left to right.


A form of golf where two players (or teams of two) play against one another on a hole by hole basis. Each side can win, lose or draw each hole. The winner of the match is the side with the most holes won.


A Mulligan is a do over. If you’re just playing in a friendly game then you might decide that every player can have one Mulligan per round. If they hit an especially bad shot they can play it again as if it never happened.

Out of Bounds

Usually marked by white stakes. Anything outside the perimeter of the course Is deemed out of bounds. If you hit your ball beyond the out of bounds marker then you have to play again under penalty.

Over Par

This is the term used to describe any score that comes over the par for the course or the individual hole. An example would be a score that was 5 on a hole that was a par -4. This would result in the player being over par. However, while this can refer to just a specific hole it can also refer to the entire course as well. 

For example, if someone said they shot 10 over par that would mean a score of 82 on a course with our 72.


This is considered the expected number of strokes required to complete the hole. The par for a hole is primarily based on its length. Holes less than 250 yards are generally par-3s. Holes from 250 to 500 yards are usually par-4s and anything over 500 yards is a par-5. There are some exceptionally long holes at a few courses which are par-6s and there are even a few par-7s and par-8s!

The total par for the course is just the sum of all the individual holes. For example a typical par 72 golf course might have for par threes, 10 par-4s and 4 par-5s.


A slice Is the opposite to a hook so moves from left to right in the air for a right-hander.

Explanation of Popular Golf Terms: Conclusion

That’s just a tiny selection of golfing terms that you might come across. if you’re playing golf and someone uses a term you’re not familiar with the best thing to do is ask. The overwhelming majority of golfers will be happy to explain it to you.

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