Westcountry Golf

A-Z of Golfing Terms


Ace - Term used for a hole-in-one.

Albatross - A score of three under the par for a hole (known in U.S. as a double-eagle.

Anti-shank - A design of club which attempts to eliminate striking the ball with the hosel.

Approach - A golf shot that is played from the fairway or rough towards the green.


Back nine - Second set of nine golf holes on an eighteen hole golf course.

Baffy - A small headed, steeply lofted wooden club, no longer in use, which was developed from the baffing spoon. The modern equivalent would be the number four wood.

Balata - Used to make the outer cover for top standard golf balls. This compound is either natural or synthetic and its soft, elasticity produces a high spin rate. Tournament players often prefer this type of cover.

Bent grass - An ideal surface for putting greens is produced by this fine-leaved grass but in hot climates it is difficult to maintain.

Birdie - In order to score a Birdie you need one shot under the par for the golf hole.

Bogey - This is a score of one over the par for the golf hole.

Boron - A strong metal powder that is added to the construction of graphite shafts at the hosel end to help provide extra strength.

Borrow - A term used in Britain for the amount of deviation from a straight line a putt will make due to the slope of the green. The American term for this is Break.

Brassie - This club was fitted with a brass sole plate. The term also applied to various lofted wooden clubs in the 1880s and 1890s. The modern equivalent would be the number two wood.

Break - American term for the amount a putt will deviate from a straight line due to the slope of the green. The term in Britain is borrow.

Bulger driver - Designed to reduce the chances of striking the ball on the heel or toe of the club, the bulger had a convex face. Popular in the late nineteenth century, now obsolete.


Carry - The distance between the playing and the landing of the ball. When played over a hazard such as water the term used is to "carry" the hazard.

Chip - A shot that is low running and normally played towards the hole from the edge of the green.

Chipper - A relatively straight faced club that is used for playing the low chip from just off the green.

Claret Jug - Presented to the champion golfer of the Open Championship (one of the four Mens' Majors). This trophy was first presented in 1872. (See Tournaments section in Encyclopedia).

Cleek - Term of Scottish origin to describe an iron club of roughly the equivalent modern 2-iron; although there were variations including short cleeks, driving cleeks and putting cleeks.

Couch-grass - A grass with long, creeping roots that is often regarded as a weed.

Cross bunker - A bunker lying across the line of the fairway.

Curtis Cup - Presented to the winner of the two-yearly match between two teams of women amateur golfers representing the USA and Europe. (See Tournaments section in Encyclopedia)

Cut - A player must score low enough , usually over the first 36 holes of a 72 hole tournament in order to qualify for the final two rounds. To miss the cut is to fail in obtaining this low score.

Cut shot - A shot that spins the ball in a clockwise direction thus resulting in a left to right bending flight.


Dance floor - Putting green.

Divot - When a shot is played the clubhead often removes a piece of turf known as a divot.

Dogleg - A hole changes direction sharply either left or right, normally in the landing area for the tee-shot.

Dormie - A matchplay term used when a player cannot be beaten as the number of leading holes and the number of remaining holes are the same.

Double-eagle - An American term for a score of three under the par for a hole.

Double green - One putting surface that is shared by two holes.

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.

Drive - The first shot hit from the tee-box.

Driver - A long shafted club used for driving the ball a maximum distance from the tee with little loft.

Driving iron -


Eagle - A score of two under the par for a golf hole.


Fade - A type of shot in which the ball tends to curve gently from left to right, for a righthanded player, in flight. For a lefthander, a fade would go right-to-left.

Fairway - This is an area of closely mown turf which stretches between the tee and the green. Bordered by long grass known as semi-rough or uncut grass known as rough.

Feathery - An early golf ball made by filling a leather pouch with boiled feathers. It was highly susceptible to damage and began to go out of use in the mid-1880's after the introduction of the cheaper guttie ball.

Fescue - A species of grass commonly found on putting greens especially on British seaside links courses. It is a fine leafed, deep rooting grass that is tolerant to drought conditions thus providing an ideal putting surface.

Flag-stick - A stick with a flag to mark the location of the hole on the greens. Also called "Pin"

Flat swing - Often regarded as a fault it is a backswing where the club is more horizontal than vertical.

Fourball - A match played by four players divided into teams of two - each player playing his own ball.

Foursome - A match played by four players divided into two teams - one ball per team is used, the shots are alternated between the teams. Each tee shot is also alternated between the players of the teams.

Free drop - Ball dropped without penalty away from an immovable obstruction, or in other circumstances in accordance with the Rules of Golf.

Front nine - These are the first nine holes of an eighteen hole golf course.


Gene Sarazen Cup - Presented to the winner of the WGC Championship (sponsored by American Express).

Graphite - A Carbon-based substance that is bounded in layers to produce an exceptionally strong but light material. It is used today in the manufacture of clubheads.

Great Triumvirate - A collective title given to three outstanding British professional golf players before the First World War. They where James Braid, Harry Vardon and J.H. Taylor.

Green - An area of closely mown, specially prepared grass that contains the golf hole. Separated from the fairway by a fringe of grass that is longer than the grass on the green but shorter than the grass on the fairway.

Green Jacket - Presented to the winner of The Masters (one of the four Mens' Majors), a tradition that dates back to 1949. This tournament is played annually at Augusta National.

Guttie - Ball introduced in 1848, made of gutta percha, a rubber like substance obtained from the latex of a species of Malaysian tree


Handicap - A system that theoretically enables players of all abilities to play on equal terms with each other. The handicap of a player is usually based on the average scores of a player set on a standard for a course.

Harry Vardon Trophy - Awared to the European PGA Tour's leading money winner, who heads the Order of Merit at the end of each season.

Haskell ball - Name of the first rubber-core ball, which was invented in 1898 by Coburn Haskell.

Hole - A term for the region between the tee and the green which is the specific target for the golf ball.

Hole-in-one - A shot from the tee that finishes in the hole.

Hook - A stroke that is caused by the application of counterclockwise spin and which bends the golf ball sharply to the left.

Hosel - On an iron golf club the head and the shaft are connected by a socket known as an hosel.


Interlocking Grip - The golf club handle is gripped with the little finger of the right hand intertwined with the forefinger of the left hand. This grip is popular with players that have small hands or short fingers as it helps to maintain a firm grip.


Jack Nicklaus Award - Awarded to the US PGA Tour Player of the Year - decided by a ballot of the US PGA Tour players.

Jigger - A moderately lofted, shallow-faced, short-shafted iron club, no longer in use, that was used especially for approaching.
It was a club used for chip shots, not dissimilar to the modern day

John Jacobs Trophy - Awarded annually to the winner of the European Seniors Order of Merit.


Kweek grass - Fine species of grass indigenous to South Africa, less than ideal on golf courses as it is extremely difficult to play on.


Lie - Situation in which a ball finishes after completion of a stroke. The lie can vary from good to bad, depending on how far the ball has settled down in the grass or, in the case of a bunker, in the sand.

Links - Usually low lying ground , containing sand dunes and stretching beside the sea and on which golf is played.

Lip-out - A ball that hits the edge of the hole but that does not fall into the hole.

Loft - This is the angle of slope on the face of a golf club away from the vertical. As the number of the iron increases so to does the loft thus giving a higher flight trajectory and longer distance.

Lofter - Early club with a loft equivalent to a modern five or 6 iron and used to strike the ball on a high trajectory. Also called a lofting iron, it superseded the wooden baffy for approach shots to the green.

Long iron - Club with minimum degree of loft designed to perform long and accurate shots from the fairway.

LPGA - Short for Ladies' Professional Golf Association.


Mark McCormack Trophy - Presented to the winner of the World Match Play Championship, played annually at the Wentworth Club, England.

Mashie iron - An iron club no longer in use, somewhat less lofted than a mashie, that was used for driving and for full shots through the green. The alternative name for the number four iron.

Mashie niblick - An iron club, no longer in use, having a loft between those of a mashie and a niblick, used for pitching. The modern day equivalent would be the number six or number seven iron

Mid iron - An iron club no longer is use, somewhat more lofted than a driving iron. The alternative name would be the number two iron.

Mid mashie - The alternative name would be the number three iron.

Matchplay - A competition where the winner of the game is determined by the number of holes that are won or lost.

Medium Iron - Used on the approach shots to the green it is a modern iron club that combines a medium length of flight with considerable accuracy.

Mixed foursome - Two teams of two, each including one male and one female player, playing against each other.


Niblick - A short headed steeply lofted wooden club, no longer in use, used for playing out of ruts and tight lies. The alternative name for the number nine iron.


Off the pace - An American expression to indicate the position of a player behind the leader of a tournament by giving the number of stokes that player is behind the leader - e.g. "three strokes off the pace".

Overclubbing - The selection of a club that sends the ball farther than the intended distance. This error is known as overclubbing.


Par - This is the estimated standard score for a hole. Based on the length of the hole and the number of strokes needed by a first class player, in normal conditions, to complete the hole.

PGA - Short for Professional Golfers' Association.

Pitch - A lofted shot to a green that produces little run at the end of its flight.

Playclub - Old term for driving club common up to the latter part of the nineteenth century, roughly equivalent to driver or 2-wood.

Pot bunker - Commonly found on traditional British links courses they are small, round,deep bunkers.

Presidents Cup - Presented to the winner of the two-yearly match between two teams of mens professionals representing the USA and the Internationals. The Internationals comprise the best non-US and non-European professionals. Each team comprises 12 players

Pro-Am - This is when a professional and an amateur player form a team to play golf together.


R & A - The Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews.

Rookie - A newcomer to the professional golf Tour.

Rough - An area that runs alongside the fairway. It is an unmown stretch of grass that punishes an off-line shot.

Rubber-core ball - The golf ball that revolutionised the game at the turn of the twentieth century. Also known as the Haskell ball.

Ryder Cup - Presented to the winner of the two-yearly match between two teams of mens professionals representing the USA and Europe. Each team comprises 12 players.


Sand wedge - Also known as a sand iron it is designed for playing from bunkers. It is an extremely lofted club with a wide flange that bounces the clubhead through the sand.

Shank - A mishit in which the golf ball is struck by the hosel of the club.

Short game - This is the term given when play is within 100yards of the green. It includes chipping , bunker shots and putting.

Short iron - This is a lofted iron club that is used for short approaches to the green or for lofting over hazards and obstacles.

Shot-gun start - A way to start a tournament in which all groups of players tee off simultaneously from different holes.

Sir Henry Cotton Award - Awarded to the European PGA Tour Rookie of the Year.

Skin - Skins are what the skins game is played for. A skins game pits players in a type of match play in which each hole has a set value (usually in money or points). The player who wins the hole is said to win the "skin," and whatever that skin is worth.

Slice - A shot with a considerable clockwise spin that curves violently to the right.

Solheim Cup - Presented to the winner of the two-yearly match between two teams of womens professional golfers representing the USA and Europe. Each team comprises 12 players.

Spade mashie - A deep-faced iron club, no longer in use, some what more lofted than a mashie. The modern equivalent would be the number six iron.

Spoon - The traditional name for a lofted fairway wood the equivalent of the modern 3-wood.

Strokeplay - This is when the outcome of a game is decided on by the number of strokes a player takes to complete a round of golf against his competitors. The player with the least number of strokes being the winner.

Stymie - Situation in which one players' ball blocked another player's ball route to the hole. The stymied player was required to play over the top of the offending ball. The stymie was outlawed in 1951 by the USGA and the R & A..

Sweet spot - A precise spot on the face of a golf club that will deliver the maximum mass behind the ball. It is normally in the centre of the golf club face and if struck by this point of the golf club a ball will normally travel farther than with any other part of the club.


Tee - A term used to refer to the tee peg and to the closely mown area from which the first stroke on a hole is played.

Tee-box - Where every hole starts, from which you hit your drive or tee shot.

Thinned (shot) - A shot in which the clubhead strikes the ball too high and results in a low, often slicing shot.


UBS Cup - Presented to the winner of the annual match between two teams of mens professionals representing the USA and the Rest of the World (the teams must each include six players aged 40 - 49 and six players aged over 50).

USGA - Short for United States Golf Association.

US LPGA - United States Ladies Professional Golfers' Association.

USPGA - Short for United States Professional Golfers' Association.


Vardon Grip - Popularized by but not invented by Harry Vardon it is a method of gripping the handle of the club. The little finger of the right hand overlaps the forefinger of the left.


Walker Cup - Presented to the winner of the two-yearly match between two teams of mens amateur golfers representing the USA and Europe

Wanamaker Trophy - Presented to the champion golfer of the USPGA Championship (one of the four mens' Majors).

West Coast Swing - The start of the US PGA Tour season which sees the first eight or so tour events played in Hawaii, California and Arizona. A prize is awarded for the best performance in the "swing".

Whipping - Waxed thread used to bind the area where the shaft meets the club head. Now redundant because of modern techniques


Yips - This is a nervous disorder that turns a putting stroke into a twitch or a jerk and can thus destroy a players ability to putt.


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