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Golf Lingo Every Beginner Needs to Know 

Golfers who have been in the game a long time essentially have their own language.

They talk about skulls, aces, and slices and expect everyone to know what they mean. In addition to learning about rules, clubs, and swing mechanics, beginner golfers also need to learn golf lingo.

Here are 15 terms that can help you get started in that journey. You’ll quickly learn that sometimes golf is all about looking and sounding like you know what you are doing! 

Birdie

Making a birdie means you score one shot lower than the par for that hole. For instance, on a par 4, your score would be a 3. Birdies are great, and professionals and amateurs try to collect as many as possible in a round. 

In addition, you should know that an eagle is scoring two shots lower than the intended par. An example would be a 3 on a par 5. 

Bogey

A bogey can be looked at as almost the opposite of a birdie. Instead of scoring one stroke under par, you score one stroke over par. This would be like making a 5 on a par 4. As a beginner, you’ll learn that a bogey is a very popular score, and for a while, you’ll consider it a good one. 

Par

Two things beginners should know about par are par for the course and par for the hole. Most 18-hole golf courses have a par of around 72, which is the standard number of strokes that an expert golfer is expected to take. 

In addition, each hole has a par, like a par 3, par 4, par 5. 

Chunk

If you hit behind the golf ball, the golf club travels into the dirt, and the ball ends up just going a few feet; you hit a chunk shot. In golf, the divot we take or that “chunk of grass” comes after the golf ball, not before it. 

Ace

A hole-in-one is the same as an ace. If you hit the ball directly into the hole in one stroke, you should absolutely know what it’s called! 

Fade 

A fade shot is one that goes straight and then takes a turn to the right. This is for a right-handed golfer. Fade shots are the opposite for the left-handed golfer. They start straight and then make a slight turn to the left. 

Remember that with a fade, the turn is small; many golfers hit it intentionally. It’s different from a slice, which is a big turn to the right. 

Draw 

The draw shot goes straight and then turns to the left (for the right-handed player). It is typically considered a positive because it’s a strong hit, and you can train it to turn directly towards the hole. 

The better you get at golf, the more you will try to hit these types of draw and fade shots on demand. 

Shank

The shank is one of the worst shots in golf. It’s a mishit where the ball strikes the club’s hosel and takes a severe turn to the right. This is different from a slice because the ball comes off the hosel, not the center of the face. 

Bunker

A bunker is a sand filled pit that is a hazard you want to avoid on the golf course. You may also hear these referred to as sand traps. You’ll need a different technique and the right club in play to get out of a bunker. 

Rough

The thicker grass that borders the fairway is the rough. Hitting out of the rough may not seem like a big deal, but you’ll quickly learn it makes it harder to shoot low scores. The rough is meant to be penalizing. 

Mulligan

Every beginner should know that a mulligan does not exist under the rules of golf. A mulligan is a term for a do-over shot, but it’s not in the rules of the game. Many golfers do this on the first tee. If they hit a bad one, they switch things up and take another shot. 

You can do this in a fun round, but it’s not good to do otherwise. 

Handicap

Your handicap is a numerical measure of your golfing ability. Beginner golfers tend to have high handicaps, and great players tend to have zero or scratch handicaps. Professionals would have a positive handicap if they did use handicaps, but they do not. 

Slice

A shot that curves dramatically from left to right (for the right-handed player) is a slice. Most beginners have to deal with these slices for a while because of incorrect clubface alignment and swing path issues. 

Skull

A skull is another poor shot where the club strikes the ball too high up. To hit a great shot, you stroke the bottom quarter of the ball, causing it to fly high and even spin. With the skull shot, the ball flies low and has little to no backspin. 

Divot

A divot is a piece of grass removed when you strike the golf ball. Most golf courses have procedures in place to ensure that the divot you take is either replaced or filled with sand to help promote new grass growth. 

Final Thoughts

These 15 terms will get you well on your way to understanding what golfers are saying when they talk to each other. Don’t worry. There are dozens of other terms, and as you continue to play, you will find how they incorporate themselves into the game.