Glossary of golf terms

Our golf dictionary covers the main terms used in golf. The first step in demystifying the game is to understand the language and terminology that golfers commonly use.



A caddie (also spelt caddy) carries the clubs for a player during a round of golf. The caddie may assist and give advice to the player, but he/she cannot play the ball for the player at any time. Caddie comes from the French "cadet", i.e. a young man, including those who would be available for brief hire as messengers. It is said that Mary Queen of Scots used her sea-faring cadets to carry her golf clubs when she played, and it was in Scotland the word cadet was corrupted to caddie. Alternative names for a caddie include: bagger, bag-toter, looper, lugger or noonan.
A golf club Captain is usually elected by the Club's members (sometimes appointed) for one or more years. While in office the Captain's role is to represent the Club on occasions such as dinners, championships, club events and inter-club events.
Distance between the point from which a ball is played to the point where it lands. When the ball is hit over water or a bunker, it is said to "carry" the hazard.
[See buggy].
cart path
Man-made path lining and connecting the holes of a golf course, on which carts/buggies drive.
casual water
A temporary accumulation of water (from rain or water leakage) that appears when the player takes his/her stance. Relief can be taken from casual water, i.e. the ball can be moved to a place which is not affected by casual water.
cavity-back iron
A cavity-back iron is a type of golf clubs where the back of the clubhead is hollowed out, which creates greater weighting around the perimeter of the club, a larger "sweet-spot" and a more forgiving club for golfers of all levels to use.
Challenge Tour
[See European Challenge Tour].
Champions Tour
Established in 1989, and run by the PGA TOUR, the Champions Tour is the leading US-based tour for senior professional golfers, aged 50 and over. The Champions Tour provides a season-long tour with events played predominantly in the USA. Known as the Seniors PGA Tour until 2002. Most of the tournaments are played over 54 rather than 72 holes. [Website:].
Charles Schwab Cup
Established in 2001, the Charles Schwab Cup is a season-long, points-based competition to determine the Champions Tour's leading player. During the Champions Tour season, points are awarded to top-10 finishers based on the players' winnings (every $1,000 translates into one Ch Schwab Cup point). Double-points are awarded at the five senior Majors and treble at the season-ending Ch Schwab Cup Championship in October. The Ch Schwab Cup Championship is contested by the 30 players who hold the highest number of points prior to the Championship. The Ch Schwab Cup winner is the player with the season's highest points tally at the conclusion of the Championship. A first prize of a £1,000,000 annuity is presented to the Ch Schwab Cup winner (and often donated to charity - a precedent set by the first winner, Allen Doyle).
Low running shot normally played from near the edge of the green towards the hole.
chipping iron
Also known as a chipper, the chipping iron is a relatively straight faced club, used for playing low chip shots from just off the green.
To choke on a shot is generally applied when a player is needing to play an important or difficult shot when under pressure, but instead looses his/her nerve and plays a very poor shot.
[See "duff"].
Claret Jug
The Claret Jug, arguably the most famous and sought after trophy in golf, is presented to the winner of the Open Championship (one of the four Mens' Majors). The trophy was first presented in 1872 and was designed by Mackay Cunningham & Co. of Edinburgh. The earliest Open Championship winners were not presented with the Claret Jug, but with a red Moroccan leather belt. The belt was retained by Young Tom Morris after winning his third consecutive Open in 1870. The Open was not played in 1871. In 1872 it was Young Tom Morris who lifted the Claret Jug for the first time, on the occasion of his fourth straight Open Championship win. (See our Tournaments section > by Tournament > The Open).
cleek (club)
Term of Scottish origin to describe an iron club, roughly equivalent to the modern 2-iron (which itself is seldom used by todays' players). There were variations of this club, including short cleeks, driving cleeks and putting cleeks
[See "spikes"].
closed face
The position of a golf club which is turned slightly inward at impact in an attempt to prevent a slice or hook the ball.
closed stance
The position at address, where the leading foot is nearer to the ball than the back foot, usually adopted to hook the ball or prevent a slice.
club face
The part of the clubhead that makes direct contact with the golf ball.
club head
The end of the golf club that includes the club face and is used for striking the ball.
The building(s) in which a Golf Club's administrative activities are conducted and where players' facilities are found (e.g. changing rooms, restaurant, bar, caddie master, etc.).
[See "spikes"].
The grass edge around a green or bunker.
Golf clubs are often owned by their members, who appoint a Committee from within the membership to run the Club and manage its future. The Committee will usually appoint a full-time Secretary to manage the Club on a day-to-day basis.
competition formats & side bets

See separate entries (alphabetically listed) provide an explanation of the following:
COMPETITION FORMATS: accumulator / alternate shot / better-ball / Bingo, Bango, Bongo / cricket / devil ball / flags / four-ball / four-ball (aggregate) / four-ball (better-ball) / four-ball (Patsome) / foursome / foursome (Canadian) / foursome (Chapman or Pinehurst or American) / foursome (greensome or modified Pinehurst) / foursome (Scotch) / Nassau / nines (or nine-points or 5-3-1) / par (or bogey) / scramble / scramble (Ambrose) / scramble (Florida or Step Aside or Dropout or Mexican Standoff) / scramble (Miami or Delaney) / scramble (Texas) / sixes (or Split-Six) / skins / strings / wolf.
SIDE BETS/ADD ONS: arnies; barkies (or woodies); Portuguese or Spanish caddie; sandies.

A measure of the softness of a golf ball; usually 90 compression, although harder balls (100 compression) are often used in windy conditions.
couch grass
[See bermuda grass].
A course on which the game of golf is played usually comprises 9 or 18 holes. The oldest known course that is still played on is Musselburgh Old Links near Edinburgh in Scotland, where the game has been continuosly played since at least the early 1500s. As of 2008, there were thought to be approximately 35,000 golf courses worldwide, with 50% of them located in the United States.
course furniture
All the paraphernalia needed around the course, such as tee-box markers, signage, waste bins, seats, ball washers, etc.
course ranger
A club official who patrols the golf course ensuring that an adequate pace of play is maintained and that club rules (e.g. regarding dress code, smoking, alcohol consumption, etc) are being observed. Also known as a course marshall or players' assistant.
course rating
The course rating for a par-72 golf course is a number generally between 67 and 77 that is used to measure the average "good score" expected to be made by a scratch golfer on that course. On a par-72 course a rating of 77 indicates the course is particularly tough (which often means long), while a rating of 67 suggests a much easier (and shorter) course.

An excellent scoring format for a game involving three players. Six points are available on each hole: four to the player with the lowest net score, two points for the second lowest net score. Points are shared for equal scores on a hole. Also known as "Split Six" and other colloquial terms.

cross bunker
Bunker lying across the line of the fairway
A commonly used term for the hole in the green into which the ball is putted.
Curtis Cup
Presented to the winner of the two-yearly match between the best women amateur golfers representing the USA and Europe. The Curtis Cup was originally donated by Margaret Curtis and her sister Harriot in 1932, for the biennial match between the USA and Gt Britain. The sisters were among the best American amateur players of the early 1900s, winning four US Women's Amateur championships between them. (See Tournaments section in Encyclopedia).
The qualifying score that needs to be attained to progress to the next stage of a tournament. The cut is usually set so that a fixed number of players, plus anyone tied for that place, or anyone within a certain number of strokes of the lead move on to the subsequent round(s). In a 4-round, 72-hole tournament the cut is usually made after two rounds. On the European Tour for example, the cut rule is typically that the top 65 players plus ties advance to the final two days; players outside the top 65 are said to have "missed the cut" and are eliminated from the competition. Tournaments may have more than one cut.
cut shot
Shot that makes the ball spin in a clockwise direction resulting in a left to right bending flight. It can either be deliberate or a mistake

Find a course



124th US Open: the No.2 Course at Pinehurst once again plays host to this most illustrious championship (June 13-16). Wyndham Clark defends his title, having won at Los Angeles CC in 2023.

79th Women’s US Open: the second women’s major championship of the season gets underway at Lancaster CC in Pennsylvania. It’s the second time the championship has been held here.
(May 30-June 2).

Who's Who

Nelly Korda: won the Mizuho Americas Open (May 16-19) at Liberty National GC, continuing her extraordinary form in LPGA events. This was her sixth win in seven starts in 2024.

Xander Schauffele: recorded his first major championship win, and second record-equalling low score of 62 in a major. Only he, Branden Grace, Rickie Fowler and Shane Lowry have achieved this feat in a men’s major championship.

Marco Simone Golf & Country Club

Marco Simone Golf & Country Club: With a clubhouse that might befit a Roman Emperor, and a golf course to match, you can be sure of a memorable outing at Rome's most talked about golf facility.

Jim Fazio's original layout was much changed to create a modern Ryder Cup course ... now one of the Eternal City's (and Italy's) most revered.

Prince's Golf Club, Kent (UK)

Here at Prince’s Golf Club you'll find 27 excellent holes of links golf. Just over the fence and sharing similar terrain is Royal St George’s; but Prince’s is far from overshadowed by its venerable neighbour. The three nine-hole loops at Prince's, laid out over gently undulating terrain, are sure to bring a smile of satisfaction to all lovers of links golf.

Stay&Play at Prince's: excellent onsite Lodge accommodation available

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