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.



Description of the ball's flight path, where it curves gently left-to-right for a right-handed player, or right-to-left for a left-handed player. The opposite of a draw.
The area of closely mown turf between tee and green, which golfers aim for from the tee on par-4 and par-5 holes. The fairway presents the best surface to play from when not on the teeing ground or green. Fairways are generally bounded by a margin of slightly longer grass known as the "first cut of rough" and beyond that by "rough" (also called primary rough), bunkers and/or water hazards (lakes, rivers, ponds, streams, ditches, etc). Fairways vary enormously in width. A narrow fairway might be just 25 yards (or less) across, while a generously wide fairway may measure 65 yards or more. 35 to 45 yards wide is considered an average width fairway.
fairway bunker
A sand bunker usually found to the side of or occasionally in the middle of the fairway.
fairway wood
A type of golf club known as a wood (or metal) designed to allow the ball to be hit from the fairway, rather than being teed-up, as is usually the case with the driver.
fat shot
[See "duff"].
featherie (ball)
One of the earliest types of golf ball, introduced in 1618. The ball was made by filling a pouch of horse or cow hide with boiled goose feathers. It was highly susceptible to damage and expensive to make, often costing more than a golf club. The featherie began to go out of use in the second half of the 1800s with the introduction of the much cheaper "guttie" ball. Also spelt feathery.
Introduced to the PGA TOUR in 2007, the FedExCup is a season-long competition spanning 37 weeks. Points are accumulated in the opening 33 weeks of the season. The 144 top points scorers then qualify for a 4-tournament playoff series, and the chance to win the FedExCup. At the conclusion of the regular (33-week) season, each player's points total determines his position, or "seed," going into the playoffs. This 4-tournament playoff series culminates with The Tour Championship, where 30 players contest the opportunity to win the FedExCup and collect the single largest individual prize in world sport, $10 million.
A fine-leafed, deep-rooting species of grass common on seaside links and heath land courses in the British Isles, tolerant to drought conditions and providing an ideal surface for putting greens
Also known as a fivesome. The practice of allowing five players to play together in a single flight. This practice is becoming more common in Asia and the USA, but is loathed by most golfers who object to anything that causes unnecessarily slow play.
A stick with a flag to mark the location of the hole on the greens. Also called "Pin"
Flag tournament
Also called Tombstone. In this competition format, each player is given a set number of strokes, based on the par of the course and the player's handicap. To ensure the game is played within the regular round of 18 holes, the strokes received is usually calculated as a factor (say 75%) of the combined total of the par for the course plus handicap. Competitors play the round until such time as their score matches the number of strokes they originally received. At this point, having "expired", they plant their flag. The player who makes it the farthest around the course on his/her allocation of shots wins.
The bottom part of the golf club which rests on the ground as the golfer addresses the ball.
flat swing
Backswing in which the plane is more horizontal than vertical. This is often regarded as a fault, but many fine players have had flat swings, including Ben Hogan
The degree to which a golf club shaft bends during the golf swing. Flex is typically designated by a letter shown on the shaft: L (ladies), A (senior), R (regular), F (firm), S (stiff) and X (extra stiff).
A group of 2, 3 or 4 golfers who share the same tee-off time. Can also be used to describe the trajectory of the ball through the air, as in "low ball flight" or "high ball flight."
Florida scramble
See "scramble (Florida)".
follow through
The final part of the golf swing, which occurs after the ball has been struck to a point (known as the finish) where the golfer and golf club have come to rest.
The word that should be shouted by all golfers who suspect their ball might be in danger of hitting other players or spectators on the golf course.
A forecaddie is a person assigned to an individual golfer or group of golfers to working on their behalf in terms of providing advice about the play of a hole, ball spotting, ball finding, bunker rating, line reading on greens, etc. Unlike a regular caddie however, a forecaddie does not carry anyone's clubs.
formats (playing)

Some of the most common playing formats used in golf competitions (separately defined in this Dictionary) are: better-ball (also known as best ball); four-ball (and its variations); foursome (and its variations); scramble (and its variations); Bingo Bango Bongo; Devil Ball (or Yellow Ball); Flag tournaments; Nines (or Sixes); Strings; Skins, and Wolf.

formats (scoring)

The most important scoring formats used in golf competitions (separately defined in this Dictionary) are: match play and stroke play; stableford and modified stableford, and Par and Bogey.

A match involving four players in teams of two, in which each player plays his/her own ball throughout the match. Scoring is typically on a match play basis.
four-ball (aggregate)
A version of four-ball in which the aggregate score of the two-player team is counted against the aggregate score of the opposing team. Scoring is typically on a stroke play or stableford basis.
four-ball (better ball)
A version of four-ball in which the best score (better ball) of the two-player team is counted against the better ball of the opposing team.
four-ball (Patsome)
A variation of four-ball, in which only the first six holes are played on a four-ball basis (usually better ball). The second six holes are played on a foursome (greensome) basis, and the final six holes on a foursome (alternate shot) basis.
Also known as "alternate shot", this competition format involves four players in teams of two. Each team plays only one ball by alternate strokes. At the start of play each team decides which player will play the first tee-shot, after which they alternate the tee shot on each hole. Scoring can be on a match play, stroke play or stableford basis.
foursome (Canadian)
A variation on foursome. Each player plays his/her own ball from the tee and also plays his/her second shot. The team then choose the best placed ball to complete the hole.
foursome (Chapman)
A variation on foursome (also known as "Pinehurst" or American foursomes). Each player plays his/her own ball from the tee, then plays his/her partner's ball for the second shot. The team then choose the best placed ball and play that one on an alternate shot basis to complete the hole. Named after Dick Chapman, a leading American amateur player, who developed the system in 1947 and popularised it at his home club, Pinehurst.
foursome (greensome)
A variation on foursome (also known as modified Pinehurst). Each player plays his/her own ball from the tee. The team then choose the best placed ball to complete the hole. The player whose tee-shot was not selected plays the second shot; the players then play alternate shots thereafter.
foursome (Scotch)
A variation on foursome in which the concept of alternate shot is maintained throughout the round. In a Scotch foursome, if player A holes out on the green, then player B plays the following tee shot, and so on.
Francis Ouimet Trophy
The Francis D. Ouimet Memorial trophy is presented annually to the winner of the U.S. Senior Open championship.
free drop
Ball dropped without penalty away from an immovable obstruction, or in other circumstances in accordance with the Rules of Golf
The short grass around the putting green that separates it from the fairway.
front nine
First nine holes on an 18 hole golf course. The second nine holes are known as the back nine
front tee
The teeing ground that creates the shortest length from which a hole is played. Can refer to the mens' front tees (often coloured yellow) or womens' back tees (often coloured red).
full back (irons)
[See "blade"].

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