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.

Term

Definition

R&A
The Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews. Among its main functions is the organisation of The Open Championship, British Amateur Championship and several other top level competitions in the UK. It is also the governing body for the Rules of Golf, which are applied throughout the world (except in the USA and Mexico, where similar rules drawn up by the USGA are applied). [website: www.randa.org].
Race to Dubai
In 2009 the European Tour's season-long Order of Merit was replaced by The Race to Dubai. Within the new format players are awarded Race to Dubai points according to their performance in all events on the Tour, including Majors and WGC events. At the end of the tour's 47-tournament season, the top 60 players compete in the final grand event, the World Tour Championship in Dubai. The event carries a first prize of €1,333,330 and a 5-year European Tour Card exemption for the winner. At the conclusion of the World Tour Championship, the tour's leading money-winner is declared the Race to Dubai champion, receiving the iconic Harry Vardon Trophy, plus a 7-year European Tour Card exemption. The champion also receives a US$1,250,000 bonus from the Race to Dubai's $5 million bonus pool. The 14 other leading players in the Race to Dubai rankings also receive graduated bonuses from the pool.
ranger
[See "course ranger"].
recovery shot
A "defensive" rather than an "attacking" shot played from rough or a difficult lie, which is intended to get the ball back in play.
referee
An official who interprets and gives rulings on the Rules of Golf during the play of a competition.
rescue club
[See "hybrid"].
resort course
A golf course usually found as part of a golf resort hotel. The course is often designed with the full range of players and golfing abilities in mind, and will often (though not always) lack the more penal elements of tougher golf courses.
revetted bunker
A sand bunker where the front wall is built by laying sods of turf one on top of another, which creates distinctive horizontal lines in the bunker face. The term is related to "revetment", i.e. a barricade or retaining wall of earth or sand bags.
rimmed
[See "lip-out].
Robert Cox Cup
Since 1896, presented annually to the winner of the United States Women's Amateur Championship. The trophy was donated by Robert Cox of Edinburgh, Scotland, a member of the United Kingdom Parliament and a golf course designer. It is the only USGA trophy donated by someone from outside the USA, and remains the oldest surviving trophy awarded for a USGA championship.
rookie
A newcomer to a professional golf tour who is playing his/her first full season on the tour. There have been many seasoned players who are called "rookies" as they join a tour for the first time, not least players joining the senior tours.
rough
Beyond the closely mown grass of the fairway lies a margin of slightly longer grass known as the "first cut of rough." Beyond that lies the primary rough, usually just called rough. Rough takes many forms and includes, but is not limited to: tall fescues, heather, bushes, wetland areas, desert, bushveld, scrubland and rock strewn areas. Fairways (with or without a first cut of rough) can also be bounded by water (the sea, lakes, rivers, streams, ditches, ponds, etc), sand (bunkers, sandy waste areas or beach) and vegetation (jungle, forest, woodland, etc) all of which may lie within the boundary of the course.
round
A round of golf usually involves playing all the holes on a golf course, which typically comprises 9 or 18 holes.
Royal golf clubs
Almost 100 golf clubs around the world (maybe more?) enjoy a "Royal" prefix conferred on the club by a reigning monarch. Several other clubs simply use Royal in their name, at the desire of their owners. The first club honoured by a monarch's royal prerogative is the Perth Golfing Society (1833), closely followed by the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews.

The "monarch-granted" Royals can be found in the following countries: England (19), Spain (18), Belgium (11), Scotland (10), Morocco (10?), Australia (8), Canada (6), South Africa (4); Northern Ireland (3), Channel Islands (2), Ireland (2), New Zealand (2), Wales (2), and one each in: Brunei, Czech Rep, Germany, India, Malaysia, Malta, Netherlands, Papua New Guinea, Sri Lanka and Sweden.

At least three golf clubs were granted a "Royal" prefix but voted to cease using it, namely: Singapore Island GC, Hong Kong GC and Curragh GC (which subsequently reinstated the prefix). Look for the Did You Know section in our pages for each Royal golf club, to find details of which other clubs are "Royal" in that country.
rubber-core ball
[See "haskell (ball)"].
rule
One of the official Rules of Golf published by the R&A or USGA, or a "local rule" that applies only to the specific golf club for which the rule was written. Local rules are usually shown on the scorecard for the course.
run-off area
[See "swale"].
run up
A low trajectory shot where the ball bounces before and then onto the green, before rolling towards the hole.
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, who play a combination of foursomes, four balls and singles spread over three days of competition. (See our Tournaments section > by Tournament > Ryder Cup). The trophy itself is a mere 17 inches tall, and was designed by Mappin & Webb of London.

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Where2Golf Spotlight

Tournaments:
PGA Championship: the first men’s major of the year will be contested at TPC Harding Park, without spectators being present (Aug 6-9).
European Senior (Staysure) Tour: the Europe-based over-50s tour for men has taken the reluctant step of cancelling the entire 2020 season, based on the additional coronavirus risk associated with the age demographic of the players.

Who's Who:
Miguel Ángel Jiménez: recorded his 707th European Tour start at the English Open in July, surpassing Sam Torrance’s record for the most appearances on the Tour.
Brooks Koepka: the former world No.1 defends his title at the WGC-FedEx St Jude Invitational at TPC Southwind in Memphis (July 30-Aug 2).

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