Golf Terms: Gwen's Primer for Parents
We want you, the spectator/parents, to be able to enjoy watching and cheering on your Portager Golf Team this year. Knowledge of the game makes it so much more so! As reporter for the team this year, I realized I needed to learn more about this sport as well. (Can't write about what I don't know!) My blank/confused looks to the Coach when she was talking probably scared her. So, I decided to learn and compile a list of Golf terms we are sure to hear as the season progresses. This list should take the "huh?" look off our faces when they start talking golf talk! This by no means covers all the terms you may come across, but should cover what we may hear when observing our Portagers and other teams throughout the season. Parents, no longer will we embarrass our team members by using the wrong term! Let's learn them and get out there and support our Portager Golf Team!

ACE: A hole-in-one. Aces are most commonly made on par-3s, but sometimes occur on short par-4s being played by long hitters.

ADDRESS: The position a golfer takes as he or she stands over the ball, ready to hit - the stance is taken and the club is grounded. The club must have been grounded for a golfer to be considered at address.

ALL SQUARE: In match play competition, "all square" means the match is tied. If both competitors in match play have won four holes, the match is "all square."

APPROACH: The shot into the green from the fairway. Any ball struck from the fairway to the green is termed an approach shot, unless you are around the greens complex (in which case the shot will most likely be termed a chip shot or pitch shot). On a par-4, the approach shot should be your second shot - your tee shot should be followed by a shot to the green (with two putts expected to produce par).

APRON: The closely mowed area around a putting green, between the putting surface and any rough that might also surround the green. Another term for "fringe." Sometimes called the "collar," but not always accurately. Collar and fringe may be the same thing in many instances, but a collar is not necessarily as closely mowed as an apron. The apron is always mowed closely.

AWAY: When playing in a group of two or more, being the farthest away from the hole. The player whose ball is farthest away - whether in the fairway or on the green - is said to be away. The player who is away plays first.

BACK NINE: In most usages, the final nine holes of an 18-hole golf course. Occasionally, a tournament round of golf might begin on No. 10 rather than No. 1. In those instances, the "back nine" would refer to final nine holes played, regardless of which holes they were.

BAIL OUT: To play your shot to a safe area away from a potential hazard. If there is a water hazard up the fairway to the left, for example, you might "bail out" by playing your shot well to the right to avoid trouble.

BALL IN PLAY: The ball you have in play. A ball is considered in play from the moment you make a stroke at it from the teeing ground until you hole out. The exceptions are when it is lost, out of bounds or lifted, or another ball has been substituted. "Ball in play" is a term used frequently throughout the Rules of Golf, and there are a lot of penalties for doing things you aren't supposed to with a ball in play. So unless you are certain that you are allowed to lift a ball or otherwise influence a ball in play (other that making a stroke), don't mess with it.

BALL MARK: The indentation that a ball makes on a green upon landing. Typically, this occurs on high approach shots struck with mid- to long irons, or on approach shots from a greater distance struck with fairway woods. It can occur with any club however, particularly on soft greens. Ball marks should be repaired using special tools made for that purpose in order for the green to properly heal. It is also customary to repair other ball marks (other than your own) if you notice them on a green.

BIRDIE: A score on an individual hole that is one stroke below par. On a par-4, a score of 3 is a birdie; on a par-5, a score of 4 is a birdie; on a par-3, a score of 2 is a birdie.

BITE: The word 'bite' is most often heard as a command shouted at the ball in flight by a golfer who wants the ball to hit the green and stop. A ball hit with backspin will have "bite." When a ball bites, it hits the green and stops quickly without rolling much at all.

BOGEY: A score of one over par on any individual hole. On a par-3, a score of 4 is a bogey; on a par-4, a score of 5 is a bogey; on a par-5, a score of 6 is a bogey.

BREAK: "Break" can refer to the amount the path of the putted ball curves, or to the amount the green itself curves or slopes.

BUNKER: A "bunker" is a hazard that is a hole or depression that has been filled in with sand. Bunkers vary greatly in size and shape and depth. They are most commonly found serving as greenside hazards, but also often show up in fairways and alongside fairways.

CARRY: 1. As a verb, "carry" means to clear an obstacle on the golf course. 2. As a noun, "carry" refers to the distance your shots travel from the point of contact with the club to the point they hit the ground. All shots have a little roll to them, which along with carry makes up the full distance. Knowing your carry is important in order to decide whether to attempt to clear a water hazard, for example.

CHIP SHOTS: A shot typically played from very close to the green, usually within a few yards of the putting surface, in which the ball is struck using a club (usually 6-iron to PW) played back in the player's stance. Such a combination produces a shot that is in the air very briefly before settling to the putting surface and rolling toward the cup. Chip shots are usually played with a 6-, 7-, 8- or 9-iron or pitching wedge. Chip shots differ from pitch shots in that pitch shots are meant to have a higher trajectory that results in a shot landing closer to the pin and rolling just a bit. Pitch shots are typically played from farther off the green than chip shots.

CHUNK: "Chunk" refers to a golf shot in which the golfer's club strikes the ground before striking the ball, digging into the turf and producing a huge divot. Chunked balls do not travel very far.

CUT SHOT: A "cut shot" is a type of controlled golf shot in which a golfer induces a fade ball flight. For a right-handed golfer, that means the ball moves from left-to-right in flight; for left-handers, the ball moves from right-to-left.Cut shots are played either by opening the club at impact, or by swinging on an outside-to-inside swing path or even both for more severe shots.


DOUBLE BOGEY: A score on an individual hole of two strokes more than par. On a par-3, a score of 5 is a double bogey; on a par-4, a score of 6 is a double bogey; on a par-5, a score of 7 is a double-bogey.

DOUBLE EAGLE: A double eagle is a score of three under par on any individual hole. Double eagles are extremely rare, more rare, in fact, than aces. To record a double eagle, a player would have to ace a par-4 hole or make a 2 on a par-5 hole.

DRAW: A flight path of the ball in which the ball curves gently right-to-left for a right-handed player, or left-to-right for a left-handed player. It is caused when right-to-left (for a right-handed player) spin is imparted on the ball when struck in a certain way. When a player intentionally imparts that spin to the ball, causing it to gently curve to the left, the player is said to be "drawing the ball." An intentional draw will often start out going to the right before curving back to the left. Draw spin on a ball usually adds a few extra yards of roll.

DRIVE: The first shot on a hole hit from the teeing ground. "Drive" usually refers to shots hit with a driver, 3-wood or 1-iron or driving iron

DRIVING RANGE: Typically a driving range will consist of a large, open field with teeing ground at one end. Golfers line up side-by-side pounding golf balls out into the field. The landing area may be, literally, an empty field; or it may include target greens and yardage markers. Most ranges sell buckets of balls of varying sizes and prices. Many driving ranges also have practice putting greens and may have areas for chipping, pitching and bunker practice.

EAGLE: A score of two strokes below par on any individual hole. Eagles are most commonly made on par-5s, where an eagle is a score of 3.

EVEN PAR: A score that matches par for a hole or for a round. If the par on a hole is 4 and you took 4 strokes, you are even for that hole. If par for a round is 72 and you took 72 strokes, you had an even-par round.

FACING: A grassy incline up out of a bunker in the direction of a green, so that it faces a player attempting to play out of the bunker toward or onto the green. The facing of a bunker is often sloped upward, sometimes to intimidating heights but usually just a couple feet, and will feature thicker rough to grab an errant shot.

FAIRWAY: The fairway is the closely mown area that usually runs in between the tee box and green of a golf hole, and is the target for golfers on all holes other than par-3s (where you take aim at the green). Fairway grass is usually cut at a height from 3/8 of an inch to a half-inch.

FLIER: A "flier" is a shot that travels farther than intended, often causing the golfer to overshoot the target by a good amount.

Fliers are most common out of the rough and can be caused when grass is trapped between the ball and the clubface at the moment of impact.

GREEN: where the flagstick and cup are located and where a golfer will "putt out" to end the hole. Greens can vary widely in shape and size, but are most commonly oval or oblong in shape. They can site level with the fairway or be elevated above the fairway. They can be flat, sloped from one side to the other or contoured all around their surface

HALVED: "Halved" is a match play term that means a hole or match was tied. In match play, the goal is to win individual holes, and to win the match by winning the most holes. When a hole is tied - both players in the match score 4s - it said to be "halved," and the players are said to have achieved a "halve". The term "halve" is what's used not half. A match is halved when both players win the same number of holes.

HOOK: A shot in which the ball curves severely from right-to-left when struck by a right hander, or left-to-right when struck by a lefthander. A hook is similar to a draw in that both shots curve in the same direction, but a hook curves much more severely. A hook is a shot that is rarely hit intentionally.

IMMOVABLE OBSTRUCTION: An obstruction that cannot be moved, (this would include, for example, cart paths or maintenance roads).

Taking free relief from an immovable obstruction is permitted if the ball lies in or on the obstruction, or close enough that it interferes with the stance or swing.

IRONS: Irons are the clubs most likely to be used from the fairway, although they are often hit from the tee, too (especially on par-3 holes).

Irons feature thin, grooved faces of varying lofts. The most common array of irons carried in a set of golf clubs is 3-iron through pitching wedge (3-, 4-, 5-, 6-, 7-, 8-, 9-irons and PW). Many golfers add a sand wedge to the assortment. Some also carry a 1-iron or 2-iron and a gap wedge or lob wedge.

MOVABLE OBSTRUCTION: An obstruction is defined a movable if it can be - without unduly delaying play, causing any damage or requiring unreasonable effort - moved. A movable obstruction that affects stance or swing can be removed under the conditions above, and the stroke played. If the ball is in or on a movable obstruction, the ball can lifted, the obstruction moved, and the ball dropped (through the green or in a hazard) at the spot it had been resting. On the green, it can be placed. And of course, "no nearer the hole" applies.

NEAREST POINT OF RELIEF: Players are allowed to drop without penalty within one club length of the "nearest point of relief" when there is interference from an immovable obstruction or abnormal ground condition, or when the player's ball is on the wrong putting green. In these circumstances, the player drops at the nearest point of relief; that is, the closest point at which the interference no longer occurs, and that is no closer to the hole.

OUT OF BOUNDS: Those areas outside the course from which play is not allowed, or any area designated as out of bounds by the committee. The entire ball must be out of bounds to be considered out of bounds.

OVER PAR: Any score, whether on an individual hole or for a completed round, that is above the given par for that hole or round. If a hole is a par-4, "above par" would be any score greater than 4 for that hole.

PAR: A number assigned to an individual hole and to the full collection of holes on a course that represents the expected number of strokes it should take to play each hole. The value assigned to represent par is always comprised of two putts and the number of strokes it should take to reach the green. For example, a par-3 hole is short enough that one shot is expected to put you on the green, with two putts to follow. The length of a par-4 holes is sufficient to require two shots to reach the green; a par-5 is deemed lengthy enough to require most players to need three shots to reach the green.

PITCH: A pitch or "pitch shot" is a shot played with a highly lofted club that is designed to go a short distance with a high trajectory. Pitch shots are usually played into the green, typically from 40-50 yards and closer. Pitch shots stay in the air for most of it's distance and have less roll when they land.

PULL: A shot that flies to the left of the intended target for a right-handed player, or to the right of the intended target for the left-handed player. The opposite of a pull is a push. A pull is distinguished from a hook by the fact that a hook curves to the left (for a righthander), while a pull flies on a straight path to the left.

SHANK: A severe mishit in which the golf ball is struck by the hosel of the club. A shanked ball will only go a very short distance and usually goes to the right severely.

SLICE: The most common mishit among amateurs, in which the ball curves dramatically from left-to-right for a right-handed player, or right-to-left for a left handed player. A slice differs from a fade in the degree to which the ball curves. A fade is often played intentionally. A slice is rarely played on purpose.

SNAP HOOK: A sever hook that starts a hard curve almost as soon as it leaves the club face.

STROKE: Any swing which is completed with the intent to strike the ball, putting it into play. A swing that is completed with the intention of hitting the ball, but in which the ball is not struck, counts as a stroke.

...Gwen Smith


Main Onekama School Page:

August 2004