Golf Terms

45 Unique Golf Terms

The golf lexicon is a confusing one, especially for non- and beginner golfers. How golfers talk to each other often sounds like a foreign language. Are you lost in translation? Here’s a roundup of some of the most unique golf terms and phrases said on the course as defined by

Afraid of the Dark
What a putt is when it won’t go in the hole.

Arnie’s Army
Name given to the legions of loyal fans who flocked to tournaments to follow Arnold Palmer, golf’s “king.” Arnie has always been a fan favorite, and dozens of times, his fans kicked, blocked, or threw a wayward Palmer shot back onto the fairway or green to help their hero.

Banana Ball
An especially curvaceous slice. A ball that starts to the right and continues to curve right until it nearly lands behind the golfer who hit it. This shot is one reason why the word “fore” is heard on the golf course nearly as often as more notorious four-letter words.

Breakfast Ball
Another way of saying mulligan. Derived from the fact that many players eat breakfast just before teeing off and may require two tries to hit a good tee shot on the first hole.

Calamity Jane
Legendary golfer Bobby Jones’ nickname for his “straight shooting” putter. Few contemporary golfers give their putters nicknames, but those who do usually choose more appropriate sobriquets like “Runaround Sue” and “Unsinkable Molly Brown.”

Chili Dip
An improperly executed chip shot in which the club hits the ground before hitting the ball, usually resulting in a shot that rolls just a few inches. This is one shot you have in common with Jack Nicklaus because everyone who has ever played golf has done it. You’ve just done it a little more frequently than Jack.

Dew Sweepers
Golfers who habitually play first in the morning, also known as the dawn patrol.

Dog Track
Derogatory term for a golf course that is not well maintained.

The ball, but only within the context of putting. You can putt, broom, or roll the egg, but you don’t want to chip, pitch, or hit it.

Elephant Burial Ground
Collective term for the huge mounds found on the greens of certain golf courses, where good scores often go to die.

First-Tee Syndrome
The fear of hitting the first tee shot of the day, a devastating malady known to overcome many amateur golfers. Also known as first-tee jitters.

Flat Bellies
The younger, thinner golfers on the PGA Tour. Coined by golfing legend Lee Trevino.

Greenie & Sandy
Two popular side bets in which the players in a foursome agree to ante up a small amount of money to be awarded to the first player on the green on each hole (“greenie”) and to any of their number who get out of a sand trap and into the hole in two strokes (“sandy”). Other common golfing wagers include paying a set sum of money to the player who uttered the fewest four-letter words during the round (“cleanie”) and the player who threw the smallest number of clubs (“Gandhi”).

Grow Teeth
1. A golfer’s plea for the ball to stop quickly. 2. Something Tiger Woods did after he broke fifty for nine holes.

Ham and Egg It
When partners in a competition take turns winning holes for their side. As with a brother-in-law act, two stiffs take turns getting lucky—at their opposition’s expense.

Horses for Courses
Players (horses) who play certain courses well because those courses fit their style of play. Ben Hogan played Riviera Country Club very well, so the course became known as Hogan’s Alley. Mark O’Meara played Pebble Beach very well, having won there on four occasions. Whether you’re a thoroughbred or a nag, you probably play some courses better than others.

Impossible Lie
A ball that is in a position that is both completely obstructed by an immovable object and continuously observed by an incorruptible player.

In My Pocket
What a golfer tells the other members of their group when they’ve picked up their ball and conceded a hole, “I’m in my pocket.” As a result, the other players are likely to be in their pocket, too—to take their cash.

Jack and Jill Event
A tournament played by one-man-one-woman teams.

Jelly Legs
A disability that afflicts nervous golfers. Also referred to as happy feet.

A putt in the three-to-four-foot range that causes emotional and physical problems for the golfer. The term comes from the nervous trembling that accompanies these short putts. Every golfer experiences a knee-knocker at one point or another.

A shot without spin that has an erratic flight. Some baseball pitchers find success with a knuckleball; golfers never do.

Lay the Sod Over It
Another term for hitting the ground behind the ball first. Theoretically, if you hit the ground firmly and far enough behind the ball, you may produce a divot that covers the undisturbed ball.

Leaf Rule
Rule used in certain parts of America during autumn allowing a golfer to play another ball without penalty when their previous shot is lost and assumed covered by leaves. The leaf rule can cause a lot of arguments. You can protect against opponents invoking this rule by carrying a book of matches and gasoline in your golf bag.

Meat-and-Potatoes Par Four
A long, straightforward par four devoid of water, bunkers, and other hazards that might make the hole more difficult.

Monday’s Children
Marginal pros who competed on Monday mornings in an attempt to earn entry into that week’s tournament in the dark days before the “all-exempt” PGA Tour.

When you are verbally teasing and taunting your opponents, you are needling them or sticking in the needle. A good needler can really get under the skin of their competition.

Never Up, Never In
Admonition used after a putt is left short. In other words, another way to state the obvious.

Oscar Brown
Nickname used by some of the funnier golfers for out of bounds, but only when their opponent hits it OB. As in “Sorry, pal, that’s Oscar Brown.” Time to reload.

Overcook It
To hit a shot too hard. Also, when you intentionally draw, fade, slice, or hook a shot and you get too much curvature, you’ve overcooked it.

Term that refers to greens that are flat and sit up significantly higher than the level of the fairway.

Play ’em Down
To play the ball as it lies. The only way to fly.

Quail High
A mishit shot flying very low to the ground.

A shot that is hit very high, so called because it travels close to the clouds.

Roller Coaster
An up-and-down round.

Ssssssh! This is a very bad word in golf. A shank is a shot that flies ninety degrees to the right after the ball has been struck with the club’s hosel. So devastating is this affliction that if you get the shanks, the best thing to do is leave the course immediately and seek professional help—from your bartender.

Swing Doctor
A teaching professional. Consult with caution; often the cure is worse than the disease.

Texas Wedge
When you use your putter from off the green, that club becomes a Texas wedge, so named because the shot became popular in Texas, where hard, dry conditions make it less risky to putt from off the green.

That Dog Will Hunt
Expression golfers use after they’ve hit a good shot. It is derived from hunting, where certain dogs are better hunters than others. So it is with golf shots.

Up and Down
Holing out from off the green in two strokes: an approach shot and a single putt. It is more common for players to go “up, across, beyond, next to, around and down” or “up, way over, under, into, through, along, onto, beside and down.”

A shot hit with a higher-than-anticipated trajectory to a point short of the target. Also called ballooning.

Watery Grave
Where your disobedient balls go every time you try to carry a water hazard.

An errant shot into the woods that bounces off a few trees and makes a noise similar to the bird of the same name.

A nervous disorder that afflicts golfers on the green. An inability to take the putter back, coupled with twitchy hands, and the complete absence of nerve constitutes a case of the yips. No golfer has ever permanently conquered this condition.

Zip Code
The roughly rectangular area surrounding the tee within which golfers should try to confine the flight of the ball.

Have a favorite phrase that didn’t make this list? Tell us about it in the comments below.

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