If you have been playing golf for years, anywhere but a mini-golf course, you will likely already know the golfing terminology in this article.

If you are just picking up the game, suddenly find yourself invited out on the links (golf course), or are just really curious about the origin of the Golf terms in your video game we have you covered. Golf terminology isn’t that tough, after all, but it is complex.

If you are looking for a humorous and accurate description of Golf terminology, you have found the right place. There are a lot of golf appreciators out there that would love to be golf-players some day. However, not knowing the terminology is nerve-racking when you are in a new situation, especially if you really don’t want to look like an idiot in front of your future boss or, gawd-forbid, father-in-law.

So, what are golf terms, how did it come to be, and what the heck is a fat fade failing to find the fairway?

The history of golf terms, in a nutshell:

The late, great, Robin Williams has a famous sketch on the history of golf, or more accurately, the inception of Golf. (video at end of article.) He got a few things right: historians agree that the roots of the modern game of golf trace back to Scotland. They agree it was around the 1400s. That’s an awfully long time to perfect a game famous for making people homicidal against tiny spheres. He also got the number of holes correct, as there are 18 in a full round of golf. Basically, every term you associate with golf has a historical base, with the long life of the game, that is no wonder.

Golf-like games date back even farther that the 1400s, into ancient Asia, with a version being identified during the Song Dynasty in China in the years 960 to 1279. But, when it comes to the modern day golf, the Scotts have claim to the genesis. And, the first addiction to the game, as well: King James II of Scotland subsequently outlawed the game, as it detracted from the training for the military.

From Scotland to the World.

Golf made its way from Scotland to Great Brittain in the 17th century, which means, for 300 years at least, the Scotts dominated the game. The terminology of golf leans heavily on Olde English, Scottish roots, and French terms – as the Scottish were quite well known for “adopting” French to their own use, and a smattering of others, including Dutch. The first British Open occurred in 1860.

As for its appearance in the Americas, that was in Canada in 1873. That’s when the first permanent course on the continent was built, called “Canada’s Royal Montreal Club.” America, quickly, decided they had to have anything Canada had, and an 18-hole course opened called the Chicago Golf Club in Wheaton, Illinois, in 1893. Golf terms have evolved quite a bit in it’s travel to the present day.

People are still playing the British Open, and courses are now in nearly every corner of the world. Now, on to the golfing terms.

“Golf Terms” definition:

  • The secret language of a species that typically wears funny socks, awkward color combinations and has spikes growing from their shoes. Usually found chasing a totally innocent ball across varying lengths of grass angrily, with a metal rod.

Golfing Terms Glossary, for real:

So, that last definition was firmly tongue in cheek, totally in jest. These are truly, official terms and a little history to help people better understand golf terminology and maybe the game. This glossary of golf terms with historical information is written for non-golf pros and is based on the information from the experts at ScottishGolfHistory.Org, so, not sarcastic at all. As we know, the Scottish are serious about golf.

Golf Ball: These balls have a history, in fact, predating the golf clubs themselves. Balls have historically fallen into the following categories: Wooden, Hairy, Feathery, Gutty, and Haskell. This is more information than any casual or first timer is going to ever need about golf balls. But, it is interesting if you want to do further reading.

Bunker: a geographic feature which holds sand or the like. This is considered a hazard, and it is in your way – avoid it if at all possible.

golf terms history bunker

Bunker, Sand Trap: A hazard you don’t want to be in. Image via Pixabay, CC 0

Caddie: A term that originally meant “boy,” caddies carry clubs. Some are pros, but traditionally they are younger men who can hoof the weight and hand the golfer their clubs.

Coloured Flags: These flags around the perimeter of the course indicate the “In” and “Out.” White flags mark the out, and red mark the “in”.

Eighteen holes of match or medal play will teach you more about your foe than will 18 years of dealing with him across a desk. ~Grantland Rice 

18 Hole Round: The term a “round of golf” is a lot more descriptive than you might think. You are going around the course, from the clubhouse following the holes which usually lead right back to the clubhouse. Hole one and hole 18 are usually close together then. An 18 hole round is now the accepted regulation course and plays 9 holes out and 9 holes in.

Fairway: Originally referring to the “Fair Green,” this term refers to the “center, short mown section” of a golf hole.

Fore!: The thing you call out before hitting your golf ball towards other people. (This one most of us know from Saturday morning cartoons.)

“Golf is a game in which you yell ‘fore’, shoot six and write down five.”
Paul Harvey

Golf: Though Golf Balls, as defined above, predate modern clubs, the name Golf is not an acronym for “Gentleman Only Ladies Forbidden,” but actually came from an archaic word for “club.”

Links: This one is as rich in history and meaning as the humble Golf Ball, above – and with as much extra information. The links originally referred to a specific type of sand and soil in a strip of coastal land prevalent in Scottland. Now, it is used to refer to any course.

‘Out’ and ‘In’: Out describes which direction you are going in a round of golf, away from the clubhouse, toward the 9th hole, is the “Out,” marked by white flags. From the 9th hole, around the back side of the course, playing towards the Clubhouse, is “In.”

Rules of Golf: The first officially accepted rules of golf were framed in 1744. There are 13 of them – and they are in Olde English.

Tee: The small peg, usually made of wood or plastic, that is used to raise the ball above the teeing ground for a player’s first stroke on a hole.

Water Hazard: A hazard filled with water, or waterway through the course. You will want to avoid these, too, as they will cost you an extra stroke on the hole.

Golf Scoring Terms:

Albatross: This is also known as a Double Eagle, a score of 3 under par – basically a golf unicorn but following the pattern of Birdie and Eagle.

Birdie: A score of one less than par, sitting beside an Eagle, and an Albatross. That’s one brave score.

Bogey: it’s a one-off, literally: one off of par the direction you don’t want to go. (One over par, to be clear.)

Eagle: 2 under par, one better than a birdie and one less than an Albatross. Also, bragging rights.

Par: Par originally came from a stock market term, meaning that a stock came in at the value expected, not under or over. Par for a course is the ideal number of strokes, not over and not over.

Hopefully, you have learned something, and are enjoying reading this informative golf terms definition article. Catchy, funny things are often easier to remember. So, hopefully, this has hit that mark and you can begin using actual golf lingo on the links, enjoying your time in the sun, chasing a tiny ball in a little car, 18 times in a row.

Here’s the video with Robin Williams’ hilarious classic (warning: he drops a couple f-bombs):

Featured image via Pexels, CC 0

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