Golf Lingo Decoded: Handy Guide to Common Terms and Slang

  • “Par” refers to finishing a hole or round at the baseline expectation
  • “Birdie” and “eagle” refer to finishing under par; “bogey” and worse are over par
  • Slice, hook, shank describe poor shot shapes; gimme and mulligan are casual shortcuts
  • “Fat” and “thin” refer to common mishits; “pure” is ideal contact
  • Golf also has colorful phrases like “grip it and rip it” and “be the right club”

Golf, like any other sport, has its own language. This guide decodes some common golf slang terms and expressions. Study these words and phrases and you’ll be fluent in golf jargon, no matter your skill level.

Golf Jargon:

  • Par: The baseline for describing one’s score on a hole or cumulative score over the course of a round. Finishing a par-4 in four strokes is a par; finishing a round in 72 strokes on a par-72 course is par (or “even par.”)  
  • Birdie: Sinking your putt in one stroke under par on a hole. (Example: “I birdied the 17th!”)
  • Bogey: Taking one stroke over par on a hole. (Example: “Ugh, I carded a bogey on the 3rd hole.”)
  • Eagle: Holing out in two strokes under par on a hole.
  • Slice: A ball curving sharply on a right-to-left trajectory for right-handed golfers (and vice versa for lefties). (Example: “My drive ended up in the trees with a nasty slice.”)
  • Hook: A ball curving from left to right for right-handed golfers (and vice versa for lefties). (Example: “I hooked my approach shot into the bunker.”)
  • Shank: A wildly mishit shot, often emanating from the hosel connecting the clubhead to the shaft, that veers sharply off target. (Example: “Oh no, I completely shanked my 7-iron!”)
  • Gimme: A putt so short it’s considered practically automatic. These are often conceded, or given, by fellow players in a casual round, hence the more formal “give me” label. (Example: “Pick it up, that’s a gimme.”)
  • Mulligan: An informal do-over for a bad first shot, often used during casual rounds. (Example: “Can I have a mulligan on that drive?”)

More Advanced Golf Expressions:

  • Fat: Hitting the ground before the ball, often resulting in weak contact and a messy divot. Also known as “chunking” 
  • Pure: Striking the ball perfectly with clean contact. (Example: “What a pure strike on that iron shot!”)
  • Fried Egg: A ball buried deep in a sand trap, leaving only the top visible. 
  • Thin: Hitting the ball above its center, causing it to fly low and lack distance. (Example: “I thinned my 3-wood, barely made it over the water.”)
  • Stiffed it: Landing your approach shot very close to the hole.
  • Duffed it: Another term identifying a mishit, often in reference to a noncommital chip or pitch.

Golf Idioms:

  • Grip it and rip it: Popularized by John Daly, this refers to minimizing the mental part of the game and swinging freely and ferociously.
  • Drive for show, putt for dough: Essentially means that no matter how impressive your tee shots are, they don’t matter unless you convert your scoring opportunities on the green.
  • Hit ‘em straight: A blanket statement of goodwill that amounts to telling a golfer “break a leg” before they tee it up. 
  • Be right/be the right club: A golfer’s plea when an approach shot is in the air, with the hope being that the distance and club selection were judged correctly and the ball will come to rest at or near the intended target.


Using golf slang terms is an easy way to inject a little humor and camaraderie into your rounds, but make sure it’s used respectfully. Familiarizing yourself with golf jargon will help you understand conversations on the course, connect with fellow players and truly immerse yourself in the unique culture of golf. It won’t be long before you sound like this guy.