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The ABCs of Golf Lingo

Updated: Apr 20

No. 17 Green at Picton Golf & Countrty Club

Picton Golf & Country Club, No. 17 Green (photo by author)

If you are going to hit the track and swing the sticks, you better know how to talk a good game.

There are so many slang words used by golfers. Many non-golfers would be totally lost if they heard two golfers talking to each other about their games.

Counting Your Score

Stroke — Every time you hit the ball with any of your golf clubs, it is called a stroke. (You can also be assessed penalty strokes but that’s a lesson for another day)

Par — If you get the ball in the hole in the same number of strokes that is indicated on the scorecard, you parred the hole — Congrats!

Birdie — When you get the ball in the hole using one less stroke than a par on the scorecard, you birdied the hole — Well Done!

Eagle — This is when you put the ball in the hole in two strokes fewer than a par. This is hard to do for any golfer but for high-handicap golfers, eagles are very elusive. Whenever you get one, it is a special day for sure.

Albatross — This is what every golfer dreams about but few ever get one. An albatross is scoring three strokes fewer than a par for the hole. If you take two strokes to put the ball in the hole on a par 5, you score it as an albatross. Keep that Ball! That is a rare lifetime achievement.

Condor — A condor is when you only take one stroke to put the ball in the hole on a par 5. A condor is also a hole-in-one. As of April of 2023, there were only six reports of condors being scored anywhere in the world. Good luck getting one of them in real golf. (I’ve seen one on PlayStation Golf though)

Hole-in-One — This is when you put the ball in the hole using only one stroke. This is a very special occasion for pro and amateur golfers alike. Hole-in-Ones usually happen on par 3 holes.

Bogey — This is when you take one extra stroke above par.

Double Bogey — Ouch! A double bogey is two strokes over par.

Triple Bogey — The dreaded “triple” is three strokes over par. If you are tracking your handicap, chances are you score it as a double bogey, depending on the score index of the hole.

Quadruple Bogey — Pick up your ball and proceed to the next hole. That hole completely crushed you. (Nice double if you are tracking your handicap)

Parts of a Golf Club

Grip — This is the area at the top of the shaft that you use to grip your club. Having good grips is key to making a good swing. Once you start seeing wear on your grips, it is time to replace them.

Shaft — The shaft of the club connects the clubhead to the grip. Shafts can be steel or graphite and have different specifications for stiffness to best suit a golfer’s needs.

Clubhead — The clubhead is the only part of the golf club that should come in contact with the ball. For irons, the blade of the clubhead can be either muscle-back or cavity-back.

Cavity-back clubheads are more forgiving as they have a bigger “sweet spot”.

Hosel — The hosel is the metal socket that connects the clubhead to the shaft. This is the weakest part of a golf club. One reason for this is that moisture can run down the shaft and into the hosel and cause the base of the shaft to corrode and weaken.

Ferrule — This is the small hard plastic decorative collar that hides the connection of the shaft to the hosel.

Names for Other Golf Equipment

Sticks — Some golfers refer to their golf clubs as their sticks.

Rock or Shell — Some golfers refer to their golf balls as their rock or their shell.

Tee — This is the little wooden or plastic peg that you set your ball on when you are hitting from a tee box. Never use a tee when hitting anywhere else on the course.

Russian Tee (Brokenoff) — When my friends and I use a broken tee for an iron shot from the tee blocks, we refer to it as a brokenoff.

Tee Box — This is the designated area on each hole where you hit your first shot for that hole. Each hole has different sets of tee boxes, depending on the golfer’s skill level.

Tee Blocks — On every Tee Box, there are different coloured Tee Blocks for golfers of various skill levels. If you are a high handicapper, do yourself a favour and play from the forward tee blocks. You will have a much more pleasant day and your scorecard will love it. Plus, the golfers playing behind you will be very appreciative that you are using forward tees.

The Tips — If you hear someone say that they played from the tips, they played from the Tee Blocks that make the course the longest. Quite often, the tips are the Black Tee Blocks. This is where the pros hit from.

Provisional Ball — If you are unsure of where your tee shot went, you can ask your playing partners if you can hit a provisional ball. If you know them well, you can always ask them for a do-over, but good luck with that.

Breakfast Ball — Lots of casual players will allow you to hit a second shot from the #1 tee blocks if your first shot did not go well. Who wants to start your round with a terrible tee shot from # 1, right?

Describing the Flight of a Golf Ball

Here is where it can get ugly, but not always. All we can do is keep swinging and hope for the best, right?

Draw — Who doesn’t love a nice easy draw? A draw is when the flight of the ball goes gently from right to left for right-handed golfers and gently from left to right for left-handed golfers.

Hook — This is an over-cooked draw. That gentle draw became a runaway train that took a sharper turn than you planned for. You will probably be hitting your second shot from the rough, or perhaps the next fairway.

Fade — This is the opposite of a draw. For a right-handed hitter, the ball will fade gently from left to right. For left-handed hitters, a fade will fly gently from right to left.

Slice — This is an over-cooked fade that is likely going to end up in the rough on the opposite side of the fairway that you were aiming at, or in the next fairway.

Straight — I almost forgot about hitting it straight. Dead straight, right down the middle of the fairway. Don’t you just love it when that happens?

Elephant’s Ass: High and Stinky — This is when the ball goes very high but not too far down the fairway.

Sky Pilot — This is kind of like an Elephant’s Ass but a Sky Pilot could actually travel the intended distance, only much higher than expected.

Worm-Burner —If you top your ball and send it rocketing down the fairway on the ground, your golf ball can deal a fatal blow to some poor unsuspecting earthworm out for a little fresh air. Hence the term, Worm-Burner.

Russian Chip: (Onandoff) - This is when you attempt to chip onto the green and you hit the ball too hard or blade it and it runs across the green and off again on the other side.

Describing Contact With the Golf Ball at the Time of Swing

Fat — Hitting it “fat” means that your clubhead hit the ground before making contact with the ball. This usually means that you will be short of your desired distance.

Chunked it — Hitting it “chunky” means that you hit it really fat and the clubhead went into the ground well in advance of coming into contact with the ball. The ball probably trickled a few yards forward if lucky.

Thinned it — Hitting it “thin” means that the face of your clubhead came in contact with the ball a little too high and you missed the sweet spot. The ball flight will be quite low and the ball could end up farther down that fairway than you were hoping for.

Topped it — When you say that you “topped it”, it means that you hit it really thin. Kind of like you almost missed it. The ball will not likely leave the ground and will roll down the fairway a much shorter distance than hoped.

Hitting off the Toe — This is when the face of the club comes in contact with the ball off-centre, towards the farthest part of the clubface, the toe. The result will be a loss of distance and accuracy.

Hitting off the Heel — This is when the face of the club comes in contact with the ball off-centre, towards the base of the shaft at the hosel. The result will be a loss of distance and direction.

Hosel Rocket — Heads Up Everyone — This is when you come close to missing the ball completely and just catch a piece of it with the hosel of the golf club. The ball can fly straight right, straight left, or anywhere in between.

Technical Details Regarding the Golf Course

Slope Rating — This is a measurement of how hard the golf course is to play for a bogey golfer relative to the degree of difficulty for a golfer with no handicap. (scratch golfer)

Slope Ratings can vary from 60 to 150, with the average being 113. Just remember, the higher the slope rating, the harder the course will be to play.

Stimp Rating — Using a stimpmeter, this is a measurement of how fast the greens are rolling. For PGA or LPGA players, their greens are fast and will usually have a stimp rating of 11 to 13 feet. For most public courses, the stimp rating will be 10 feet or lower.

I hope that you enjoyed some golf lingo.

Stay Well, Stay Safe, and Have Fun

Tip of the Day: Keep your head down and put a nice smoothy on it.


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