Golf Dictionary

Glossary of golf terms

Online Golf Dictionary A - Z  

Our Golf Dictionary covers the main terms used in the game of golf. The first step in demystifying what golf is about, is to understand the language and terminology that golfers commonly use.


sand trapA hollow in the ground, which occurs naturally or is designed into the course and is filled with sand. Usually called a sand bunker.
sand wedgeA 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.
sandieA 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.
sclaff[See "duff"].
scoopThe 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.
scorecardThe 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 greensTerm used in some parts of the USA for temporary winter greens.
scramble[See Texas Scramble].
scratch (player)A player whose handicap is zero or below, and whose average score for a round of golf is par or better.
SecretaryA 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 clubAn 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 TourSee European Seniors Tour; Champions Tour.
shaftThe section of the golf club between the grip and the club head.
shag bagA bag designed for the collection and storage of golf balls, which is used whilst practising.
shankA 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 gamePlay within 100 yards (90m) of the green, especially chipping, pitching, bunker shots and putting.
short holeA par-3 hole.
short stickSometimes used to describe a putter.
short-ironAn 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.
shotThe act of hitting the ball.
shot-gun startA way to start a tournament in which groups of players tee off simultaneously from different holes.
sidehill lieThe 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 CourseA 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.
singleA player who is not accompanied by other players.
sink a puttThe action of putting the ball into the hole.
Sir Henry Cotton AwardEstablished 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.
skins gameIn a skins game scoring is conducted by the holes won. If a hole is not won, then the value or points from that hole carry forward to the next hole, and so on. The player who wins the hole is said to win the "skin," and whatever that skin is worth (for that holes and any prior holes which were not won outright).
sliceA 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 ratingIntroduced 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 SalvaPresented to the lowest scoring amateur in the Women's British Open, provided the player makes the cut and plays in all four rounds.
Solheim CupPresented 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 TourSee Sunshine Tour.
spade mashieA 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"].
spikesSpikes 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.
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."
stablefordA scoring system developed by Dr Frank Stableford, which has become very popular for club competitions in Europe. A player's net score for each hole attracts a certain number of points : par = 2 pts; one under par = 3 pts; 2 under = 4 pts; 3 under = 5 pts; one over par = 1 pt; 2 over = 0 pts. Variations on this points per hole scoring system are to be found in games such as Denver and Murphy.
stanceTaking one's stance involves placing the feet in position in readiness to make a stroke.
standard scratch scoreThe total score that a scratch handicap golfer (i.e. 0 hcp) is expected to make over a specific 18-hole golf course.
stickCan refer to the flagstick that marks the hole, or one's golf clubs (sticks).
stimp meterThe device used to measure the stimp (i.e. speed) of a putting green.
Stonehaven CupAwarded annually to the winner of the men's Australian Open Championship.
strokeThe act of hitting the ball.
stroke and distanceA 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 holeA hole at which a player receives a shot(s) as determined by his/her playing handicap and the stroke index of the hole.
stroke indexUsed 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 playForm of competition in which the number of strokes a player takes to complete a round is compared with the other players' scores for a round. Stroke play has largely supplanted match play in professional tournament golf.
strokesaver[See "yardage guide"].
studs[See "spikes"].
stymieTraditionally 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 playoffA 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 rulesThe 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 TourMore 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:].
swaleA 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 spotThe preferred spot on the club face with which to hit the ball, which imparts the greatest distance and best trajectory to the ball flight.
swingThe action of hitting the golf ball, which comprises the backswing, downswing and follow-through.

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