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

sandie
A sandie (also spelt sandy) means that your bunker shot, from a greenside or fairway bunker, is followed by a putt that sinks the ball into the hole. Said another way, you have got "up and down" in two strokes from the bunker.
sandies
A type of side bet in golf, which provides a pre-determined reward to any player who makes a par on a hole having been in a bunker on that hole.
sand trap
A hollow in the ground, which occurs naturally or is designed into the course and is filled with sand. Usually called a sand bunker.
sand wedge
A lofted club (usually 54-58 degrees), also known as a "sand iron" with a wide flange designed for playing from bunkers. US player Gene Sarazen is credited with its invention.
sclaff
[See "duff"].
scoop
The action many golfers mistakenly employ to get the ball airborne, rather than hitting down on the ball and allowing the loft of the club to do the work.
scorecard
The card provided by the golf club on which a player records the scores of one of his playing companions (and marks his/her own score) during a competition.
Scottish greens
Term used in some parts of the USA for temporary winter greens.
scramble
Also known as best shot format. A team game in which the 2, 3 or 4 players in a team all tee-off, the best positioned ball is then chosen and all players in the team play their next shot from that position. Subsequent shots are played from the position chosen as the best "team" position. There are many variations on the Scramble theme, including: Ambrose, Delaney, Miami and Texas scrambles.
scramble (Ambrose)
A variation on a standard scramble, in which handicaps are taken into account to give each team an appropriate handicap.
scramble (Florida)
A variation on a standard scramble (sometimes known as Step Aside scramble, Dropout scramble, or Mexican Standoff). In a Florida scramble, the player who's ball is selected for the "next shot" has to skip, or sits out, the playing of that next shot. He/she then participates on subsequent shots.
scramble (Miami / Delaney)
A variation on a Florida scramble. In a Miami scramble (also known as a Delaney scramble), the player whose tee-shot is selected for the second shot sits out the playing of that second shot, and all subsequent shots on that hole until the ball is on the green. When the ball is on the green, all players can putt.
scramble (Texas)
A variation on a standard scramble. In a Texas scramble, each member of the team is required to "contribute" a minimum number of drives during the round. Typically for a four-person team, it would be four drives each.
scratch (player)
A player whose handicap is zero or below, and whose average score for a round of golf is par or better.
Seagram Gold Cup

Between 1936 and 1970 the Seagram Gold Cup was presented to the winner of the Canadian Open Championship by the tournament's then sponsor Seagram Company.

Secretary
A golf club Secretary is usually a full-time appointment made by the Club Committee. While in office the Secretary's role is to lead the day-to-day management of the Club.
semi-private club
An American term for a golf club which is privately or member-owned, but which is open for visitors to play on a pay & play basis.
Seniors Tour
See European Seniors Tour; Champions Tour.
shaft
The section of the golf club between the grip and the club head.
shag bag
A bag designed for the collection and storage of golf balls, which is used whilst practising.
shank
A mishit (many would say the worst mishit in golf) in which the golf ball is struck by the hosel of the club and squirts off to the right (for a right handed player).
short game
Play within 100 yards (90m) of the green, especially chipping, pitching, bunker shots and putting.
short hole
A par-3 hole.
short-iron
An iron club for hitting short-range shots; the term is usually applied to 8 ad 9-irons and the pitching wedge. Other types of irons include: long-irons (numbered 1 to 4) and mid-irons (numbered 5 to 7). Short-irons have the most degrees of loft of the irons, although less loft than gap, sand and lob wedges.
short stick
Sometimes used to describe a putter.
shot
The act of hitting the ball.
shot-gun start
A way to start a tournament in which groups of players tee off simultaneously from different holes.
side bets
Side betting is not altogether uncommon in golf! Some examples, which are defined elsewhere in this Dictionary include: Arnies; barkies; Nassau, and sandies.
sidehill lie
The description of a ball's position when it comes to rest on a slope. When playing a sidehill lie, the ball will either be above the level of the player's feet, or below the level (which is also known as a hanging lie).
Signature Course
A signature golf course (e.g. a Gary Player Signature Course) will have been designed with the close personal involvement of the "signature" designer. For "non-signature" courses, the designer may have developed the course design plans on a "desk-top" basis, without even having visited the site. Alternatively the plans may have been developed by others, then looked-over and improved by the named designer.
single
A player who is not accompanied by other players.
sink a putt
The action of putting the ball into the hole.
Sir Henry Cotton Award
Established in 1960, the Sir Henry Cotton Award is presented to the European mens' Rookie of the Year. The winner is selected by a panel comprising the PGA European Tour, the R&A and the Association of Golf Writers, and is usually the highest-placed, first-season player on the European Tour's Order of Merit. The Award predates the founding of the PGA European Tour in 1972.
Sixes
Also known as Split-six. A scoring system used when three golfers play together. It is based on splitting six points per hole amongst the three players. Typically the lowest score for the hole attracts 4 pts, next-lowest 2 pts, and highest score 0 pt. Ties are resolved by dividing the points proportionately among the players: a tie for first is worth 3 pts each, a tie for second is worth 1 pts each, and a three way tie gives 2 pts each. A variation of Sixes is Nines (also known as Nine-points), based on distributing nine points per hole.
Skins
In a skins game, generally played between 2, 3 or 4 players, each hole is worth a given amount of points or money. A player who wins the hole outright is said to win the "skin," and whatever that skin is worth (for that hole and any prior holes which were not won outright). If a hole is not won, then the value or points from that hole carry forward to the next hole, and so on.
slice
A golf shot that curves to the right (for a right handed player), caused by the application of clockwise spin to the ball, either deliberately or unintentionally. The opposite of a hook.
slope rating
Introduced in the United States by the USGA, the slope rating of a course describes the relative difficulty of that particular course for a bogey golfer compared to a scratch golfer. For more difficult courses, the assumption is that players' scores will rise more quickly than their handicaps would predict. The "slope rating" of a course predicts that rise. A golf course of standard playing difficulty has a slope rating of 113, while slope ratings range from a minimum of 55 (a very easy course) to a maximum of 155 (extremely difficult).
Smyth Salva
Presented to the lowest scoring amateur in the Women's British Open, provided the player makes the cut and plays in all four rounds.
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. (See the Tournaments in our Encyclopedia of Golf section).
Southern Africa Tour
See Sunshine Tour.
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.
speed of play
[See "pace of play"].
spikes
Spikes are screwed into the underside of golf shoes, to provide golfers with the necessary grip while playing shots. Also known as cleets or studs (or coggs in Ireland). Originally made of metal, many golf clubs nowadays insist on players wearing "soft spikes" made of plastic.
Split-six
See "Sixes".
spoon (club)
Traditional name for a lofted fairway wood the equivalent of the modern-day 3-wood. An approach wood that had more loft than the spoon, was known as baffing spoon or "baffy."
stableford
A form of stroke play. A player is awarded a fixed number of points for each hole, based on his/her net score at each hole. The system was developed by Dr Frank Stableford, and has become very popular for club competitions in Europe. A player's net score for each hole attracts a certain number of points: 2 pts (for net par); 3 pts (1-under par); 4 pts (2-under); 5 pts (3-under); 1 pt (1-over par); 0 pts (2 or more over par). A key ingredient of stableford is finishing the hole and "picking-up" when no points can be scored). Modified stableford competitions use variations on the basic stabelford points per hole scoring system are to be found in games such as Denver and Murphy.
stance
Taking one's stance involves placing the feet in position in readiness to make a stroke.
standard scratch score
The total score that a scratch handicap golfer (i.e. 0 hcp) is expected to make over a specific 18-hole golf course.
stick
Can refer to the flagstick that marks the hole, or one's golf clubs (sticks).
stimp meter
The device used to measure the stimp (i.e. speed) of a putting green.
Stonehaven Cup
Awarded annually to the winner of the men's Australian Open Championship.
String
In this competition format each player (or team) is given a length of string, with which to improve bad lies. Typically players get 50cm (20 inches) of string for each point of their handicap. When confronted with a bad lie, the player can move the ball (without penalty) and cut-off an equivalent length of string from their allocation. Once the string is used up, subsequent bad lies cannot be improved.
stroke
The act of hitting the ball.
stroke and distance
A term commonly used for the penalty associated with a lost ball or hitting the ball out of bounds. The player is required to re-play his/her shot from where it was last played. The original stroke counts on the player's score, while a penalty of one shot is added to the player's score for losing the ball or going out of bounds. The player has therefore incurred a penalty "stroke" and loses the "distance" that the original shot travelled.
stroke hole
A hole at which a player receives a shot(s) as determined by his/her playing handicap and the stroke index of the hole.
stroke index
Used to indicate the relative difficulty of the holes on a golf course, and as a basis for determining where a player receives strokes based on his/her handicap. The lower the stroke index number, the harder the hole is deemed to be.
stroke play
One of the two fundamental forms of competition in golf (the other is match play). In stroke play the number of strokes a player (or team) takes to complete a round is compared with the scores of the other competitors. The winner is the player (or team) with the lowest score, which, depending on the competition being played, might be on a gross or net basis. Stroke play has largely supplanted match play in professional tournament golf. Stableford scoring, particularly common in European amateur competitions, is a variation of stroke play, where the number of strokes per hole is converted into a fixed number of points.
strokesaver
[See "yardage guide"].
studs
[See "spikes"].
stymie
Traditionally the stymie occured on the green, when one players' ball blocked the route of another player's ball to the hole. To reach the hole the stymied player was required to play his/her ball over the top of the obstructing ball. Stymie's were outlawed from golf in 1951. Nowadays a player is said to be stymied if an object such as a tree blocks the player's intended shot towards the green.
sudden-death playoff
A situation where additional holes are required to produce a winner of a tied competition. The first player to record a score lower than his/her opponents' score wins in a "sudden-death" playoff.
summer rules
The normal local rules (summer rules) of the course are applied during the regular playing season. Any temporary "winter" rules do not apply in this period.
Sunshine Tour
More commonly used name for the Southern Africa Tour. The Tour's principal role is the sanctioning, management, marketing, technical administration, development and promotion of professional golf tournaments in the region of Southern Africa. [Website: sunshinetour.com].
swale
A small grassy depression or hollow in the terrain around the green, usually closely mown, which allows the ball to run away from the green into a "gathering area" of closely mown grass, or possibly into longer grass, water or sand. Swales, which are sometimes called run-offs, can occur naturally or be designed into the course.
sweet spot
The preferred spot on the club face with which to hit the ball, which imparts the greatest distance and best trajectory to the ball flight.
swing
The action of hitting the golf ball, which comprises the backswing, downswing and follow-through.

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