29 Golfing Terms Every Beginner Must Know

Golf holds an appeal for players of all ages and backgrounds. Its combination of skill, strategy, and camaraderie makes it a beloved sport for many. 

For beginners stepping onto the course for the first time, the array of terminology can be overwhelming. 

Fear not, as we’ve compiled a list of 29 golfing terms that every beginner should know to navigate their round with confidence. 

Understanding the Golf Course  

Let’s start with the basics. The golf course is divided into several distinct areas, each with its own purpose and challenges: 

1. Tee Box: where you start to play the hole.

2. Green: where you complete the hole. Putting is done on the green. 

3. Penalty Areas: this is where the ball will be unplayable and due to this you will receive penalty stroke/s. For example, hitting the ball in the water or hitting in the bush and not being able to find the ball or it being unplayable. 

4. Bunkers: A depression filled with sand, typically located near the green. Hitting out of a bunker requires a special technique. The bunker is somewhere you want to avoid. 

5. Out of Bounds: Areas designated by white stakes or lines where play is prohibited. Hitting out of bounds incurs a penalty stroke. 

The other areas that are not numbered are the general play areas, and this consists of the following:

Fairway: the maintained areas of grass. This is where you want to be, as it is the easiest surface for hitting the ball. 

Rough: The longer grass surrounding the fairway. Shots from the rough require more precision and strength. In some courses, there are different cuts of rough. Usually referred to as the 1st and 2nd cut. 

Golf Equipment  

Now, let’s talk about the key pieces of equipment you need to play the game: 

6. Golf Clubs

a. Driver: The longest club in the bag, used for hitting shots off the tee. 

b. Fairway Woods: there are a variety of woods (3,5 & 7) which can be used off the tee or on the fairway. 

c. Hybrid: are also known as rescue clubs and are a combination of a fairway wood and irons. They have a similar use as fairway woods and some irons. 

d. Irons: typically used for various distances from the fairway or rough. 

e. Wedges: Specialized irons designed for short, high approach shots, typically used around the green or out of bunkers. 

f. Putter: The club used from anywhere on the green. 

7. Golf Balls: These are essential as this is what you hit. There are various types of golf balls to assist the golfer. For beginners, you want a ball that is affordable and forgiving. 

8. Golf Glove: are worn on your non-dominant hand, they help to improve your grip and will prevent you from blisters as well. Choose a glove that fits snug and comfortably.

9. Golf Tees: They are used on the tee box to elevate your ball off the ground and offer less resistance when hitting the ball. You do not need to use a tee, but it is advised that you do. 

10. Golf Bag: Are essential for carrying your golf clubs, balls, and other golf accessories. 

11. Golf Shoes: provide the required traction and stability to maintain your balance in your swing. As a beginner, you probably do not need golf shoes straight away. 

12. Golf Apparel: at some courses, golf apparel is required, as there are dress codes. Before playing look at the golf courses website to understand what the dress code is. 

For a more in-depth look into golf clubs, check out the article Types of Golf Clubs and Their Uses

Scoring Terms 

Understanding how to score is essential for tracking your progress. When you play a round you will have a scorecard for the golf course which indicates what the par is for each hole, the distance, and the difficulty of each hole on the course. The key golf scoring terms are: 

13. Par: The standard number of strokes a golfer should take to complete a hole. 

14. Birdie: Scoring one stroke under par on a hole. 

15. Bogey: Scoring one stroke over par on a hole. 

16. Eagle: Scoring two strokes under par on a hole. 


Relation to Par 













Double Bogey 


Triple Bogey 

+4 or worse 

Quadruple Bogey 

Table 1: Golf Scoring Terms 

Understanding Golf Shots 

When you are playing a round of golf, you are going to find yourself in different situations. This will call for a particular shot, you will need to play: 

17. Drive: A long shot played from the tee box at the start of each hole. 

18. Approach Shot: a shot from the fairway or rough with the intention of hitting the ball on the green. An iron, wood or hybrid are used for these shots. 

19. Lay-up: a shot to leave the ball in a favorable position on the course to set yourself up for your next approach shot. 

20. Chip Shot: A short shot played near the green, usually with a wedge, to get the ball close to the hole. This is played with reduced swing power, not a full swing. 

21.  Putt: A short, controlled stroke on the green intended to roll the ball into the hole. 

Golfing Etiquette and Terms 

There are particular etiquette requirements you need to be aware of, if you want to get invited back for another game: 

22.  Honor Golf: The privilege of teeing off first, typically given to the player with the lowest score on the previous hole. 

23.  Ready Golf: A method of play in which players hit their shots as soon as they are ready, rather than strictly adhering to the order of play. 

24.  Fore: A warning shouted to alert others on the course of an errant shot heading their way. 

For more information on golf etiquette, please read 19 Rules of Golf Etiquette Every Beginner Needs to Know

Common Golfing Jargon  

25. Mulligan: A do-over shot, often informally allowed in casual games. Where you have hit a wayward ball, and you can hit it again without any penalty. Make sure to check with your playing partners before the round if you are playing mulligans. 

26. Gimme: A short putt that is conceded by opponents, usually within a club-length of the hole. 

27. Up and Down: Successfully completing a hole with one chip and one putt after missing the green in regulation. 

28. Slice: this will be common for beginner golfers. It is where you have hit the ball, and it curves from left to right (for right-handed golfers). 

29. Topped Shot: happens when the bottom of the golf club hits the top of the golf ball. Leading to the ball rolling a few yards in front of you.  

Final Thoughts 

Now knowing these golfing terms, you can now approach the course with confidence and a better understanding of the game. As you continue playing golf, remember to keep practicing and learning. 

Golf is a game of patience and skill, and mastering its terminology is just the first step in your golfing journey. 

So, grab your clubs, hit the course, and enjoy the road ahead.