Golf terminology for beginners

Get your terminology right, and you’re going to sound like you belong on the golf course. Get it wrong and you’ll want the ground beneath you to open up. 

Walking around golf courses and clubhouses, you’ll hear golfers use terms that you’ll be unfamiliar with.

OK! You’re not playing the PGA tour, but you’ll need to know your golf terms, so let’s take a quick look at some of the most used terms.


Every golf hole on the course has a par, and this represents how many shots the hole is assigned. For example, to get par on a par 4 hole, you would have to complete the hole in 4 strokes. 

Each hole will have a par number, and they’ll either be a par-3, par-4, or par-5. To complete a par-3 a beginner would likely drive off the tee and then chip into the green, then putt the ball into the hole. 

Par-3’s would normally be the shortest holes on the course. Par-4’s would be an average length, and the par 5’ the longest holes on the course. 

All courses will have a variety of each one, and the number of par’s will add up to 72. To complete the course in 72 strokes would mean you’ve completed the course in par. Some courses do vary in the overall par number, but generally 72 is the norm.

Length of Par-3, Par-4 and Par-5 holes

Men (tee to green)

  • A par 3 generally will be under 260 yards (240 meters)
  • A par 4 will  be 240-490 yards (220-240 meters)
  • A par 5 will be 450-710 yards (410-610 meters)

Women (tee to green)

  • A par-3 holes will be under 220 yards (200 meters)
  • A par-4 holes will be 200–420 yards (180–380 meters), 
  • A par-5 holes will be 370–600 yards (340–550 meters)

Fun Fact: the longest hole on the planet is the 1110-yard par-7 at the Gunsan Country Club in South Korea.

Free Printable Scorecards


If you’re completed a hole with a Par, congratulations! If you’ve taken one more stroke then you’ve just made a bogey. Any extra shot over a par is going to put you back one stroke. For example, if you are playing a par-4 and you take 5 strokes to complete the hole you’re going over the assigned par number for the hole. This will be added to your scorecard.

For any golfer, even a pro it can affect their confidence going to the next hole. You should not let this affect you, as you have the chance of recovering that stroke on the next holes.

Double Bogey

Similar to a bogey, a double bogey means you have gone over par. If you’re unlucky enough to make a double bogey, then you will have taken two more shots than par. That could mean on a par-5 you’ve taken 7 strokes to complete the hole. Or on a par-4 you took 6 strokes.


To recover from a bogey and get back to par you will need to make a birdie. This is a one less than the assigned number for the hole. As with the last example if you’re playing par-4 and you only take 3 strokes to complete the hole, then you’ve achieved a birdie! This will take you back to level par. 

When you complete each hole, you will mark your scorecard, and at the end of the round you add up your scores per hole against the par rating for each hole. This will give you an overall score.

For example if you shoot a score of 70 on a 72 par course. Then your cumulative score would be 70 which would be classed as a score of 2 under par. Alternatively a score of 74 on a Par 72 course would be 2 over par.


Making an eagle is one shot better than a birdie. For example, if you’re playing a par-4 and only take two strokes to complete the hole, then you’ve made an eagle. This could involve driving down the fairway, then using an iron or hybrid or wedge to hit you second shot straight into the hole.


You probably won’t hear this term very often and less likely to use it if you’re a beginner. An albatross refers to a score of 3 less strokes than making par. There are only two ways to make an albatross. Firstly, you would need to hit a hole in one on a par-4 or hit your 2nd shot into the hole on a par-5. If you are fortunate enough to make either of these shots then you certainly want to share it with your golfing friends.


Having explained the scoring in golf, it can feel unfair if you’re playing someone of a different level. If your partner constantly hits under par scores then you may feel your chances of competing with him or her are lessened.

To make it possible for golfers to compete fairly. A handicap system was introduced. A handicap is a measurement that takes into account a golfers score. So if your average score is 80 which would be 8 over par on a par-72 course, your handicap would be 8. If your playing partner averages 72 on a par-72 course, then you would be given 8 shots, which would even out your scores. So if you were to complete the course with a score of 78, that would mean your overall score would be 70.

Example: (Par 72 course + Handicap 8 = 80) , (78 – 80 = -2)

For a more detailed explanation of a golf handicap

Fact: A scratch golfer is someone who plays off ‘0’ which is to say they would complete a golf course on par, and do not receive a handicap. These golfers have usually played for several years.


You’re standing on the first tee, and  about to hit the ball, then suddenly your nerves get the better of you. You strike the ball and it goes twenty feet! This is where you can play a mulligan. It’s a term used by amateur golfers who hit poorly off the 1st tee.. It happens to the best of us. It’s an unwritten rule that golfers use sometimes, so they can retake the same shot with a new ball. You can only do this if you’re not taking part in a tournament and your playing partners give permission.


This is a golfing term you really need to know. The safety on a golf course is really important. With golf balls flying at speed through the air, there are opportunities for someone to get hurt. 

From personal experience, I know that being hit by a golf ball travelling at speed can be very painful. To try and avoid bystanders and other golfers from being struck by a ball. 

The term fore is what golfers will shout when their ball is heading towards anyone on the course or watching nearby.

Golf etiquette comes into play and any wayward shot needs to be indicated by shouting as loud as possible. It’s likely that your ball could strike another golfer or spectator at long distance, so you need to be prepared to shout loudly and give notice as soon as you think there may be danger.

Golf scoring

Par – Each hole has a rated score, Par-3, Par-4, Par-5. To make par you must equal the rated score

Birdie – Complete one stroke below par

Eagle – Two strokes below par

Double Eagle (Albatross) – Three strokes below par

Bogey – One stroke over par

Double Bogey – Two strokes over par

Triple Bogey – Three stroke over par

Ace – Also know as a hole in one

All Square – Tied score

Gimme – Players agree to give a short putt without being played


Handicap – A system for rating a round of golf a player scores above par average

Fore – A warning to spectators when a ball is hit towards them

Putt – Any shot with a putter

Drive – first golf shot from the tee

Approach – Shot taken towards the putting green

Over Clubbing – Hitting a ball further than normal

Away – The ball which is furthest away from the hole

The Turn – The golf course halfway point

Duff – A bad shot

Mulligan – A shot taken without counting towards the score in casual play (to replace a poor shot)

Hacker – Slang term for a poor player

Hazard – An area on the course that is designed to cause the golfer difficulties

Bunker – A sunken area of sand

Beach – Slang word for a bunker

Casual Water – unnatural areas of water e.g after a large downfall of rain

Follow through – Continuation of the swing after striking the ball

The course

Tee box – Where you start each hole

Green – The putting areas of the course

Cup – Hole on the green

Divot – Taking a chunk of grass when the club head hits the ground

Fairway – From the tee to green short-mown part of the course

Out Of Bounds – An area marked where play is not allowed

Pin – Hole on the putting green

Rough – Long grass off the fairway

Tee Time – The time your game starts

Bunker – A hazard filled with sand also known as a sand trap

Short Game – Using Irons close to the greens

Driving Range – Practice area for woods and Irons

Club face – Where the ball meets the club

To find out more about playing golf visit our ultimate beginners guide