Golf is an amazing game for many reasons. First of all, anybody can play the sport no matter your age, gender, ability or location. From grandpas to grandkids, golf is a game that brings us together in a way no other sport really can. Time spent on the golf course and with the golf community is a special 2-4 hours each time spent with old friends, new friends and sometimes in peaceful solitude.
You’re surrounded by the beauty of nature and pushed from within to best only yourself and test what you can do to be a bit better than the last time out. Golf is also a game steeped in a rich tradition flowing with a beautiful language all of its own. Unfortunately, this language barrier might keep some people from enjoying the game as much as they can or keep them away from the golf course in general because they don’t feel comfortable or connected — just like you might feel living in another country where you can’t properly speak to anyone else.
At The Peninsula on the Indian River Bay, nobody should feel disconnected from each other on the gorgeous, award-winning Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course in this prestigious golf community. For those new to the game, or considering living in this exclusive community and enjoying the great golf course to its full potential, take a look over this hand glossary of golf terms you should know out on the course. Next time you hit the links with your friends or family, you’ll be sure to speak the beautiful language of golf fluently!
Why is Knowing Golf Terms Important?
Most essentially, for communication and understanding. Whether you’re playing or just watching golf on television, it’s important to understand what is being discussed. Knowing what’s going on goes a long way to making the game of golf so much more fun! Obviously, if you want to play golf more seriously, or not feel like an outsider during a work or family function on the golf course, then you want to understand at least the very basics of the game.
Beyond the basic and technical terms, there is plenty of slang and phrases common in the game that you’ll hear often out on the golf course. Just like learning a foreign language, understanding and using the popular sayings and slang goes a long way to fitting in and making you feel like a part of the group. This glossary of golf terms is broken up into categories that will make the terms easier to find when you need them for quick reference, so be sure to bookmark this post to review later on when you need it most!
These golf terms all relate to the more technical aspects of the game, specifically to the scoring of the sport, which can seem extremely confusing from an outsider’s perspective. Golf is an old game and many of these terms come from a long time ago and may not make sense to you today, but you’ll be happy to know them for both playing and watching the game.
Par refers to the standard number of shots a player should use to get the ball into the hole. For instance, the most common par for a hole is four strokes, suggesting for the average golfer, it should take four shots to finish the hole. There are also par 3s and par 5s on a golf course, but no fewer or more. Generally, par is calculated by the number of shots it should take an average golfer to reach the area around hole plus two more strokes to get the ball in the hole. Par also refers to the overall number of strokes a player should require to finish their round, as in a par-72 course, where a golfer should need just 72 or fewer strokes to finish all 18 holes.
Interestingly enough, the word “par” in golf comes from the stock exchange term, as in a stock may be above or below its normal or “par” figure. The first recorded use of par in golf was in 1870 when a golf writer said the par score for the course was 49 the 12-hole course.
Bogey refers to a golfer completing a hole with a number of strokes higher than the par score for the hole. For example, if a player took five shots to complete a par 4, they shot a bogey for that hole. Shooting a 4 on a par 3 or scoring a 6 on a par 5 are also bogeys. There is no official term for scores requiring more than one shot over par. They are simply referred to as double bogey, triple bogey and so on. Most golfers consider the maximum strokes for a hole to be either 10 or double the number of strokes relative to the par of the hole (so an 8 on a par 4).
Strangely enough, bogey was originally the first stroke system used in England during the 1800s and was the average score for a hole and course. The term “bogey” comes from the popular song of the time “here comes the bogey man.” Eventually, as golf began to standardize scoring systems across the world for competition, bogey became a bad term meaning a golfer shot above par — the new measurement for an average score on any given hole or round.
The exact opposite of bogey, a birdie is when a golfer finishes a hole with fewer shots than the par score. A player records a birdie when they use only three shots to get the ball in the hole on a par 4, two strokes on a par 3 or four strokes on a par 5.
The term dates back to the early 1900s in America, where a popular saying for something excellent was “bird.” An article in 1911 referred to a great shot as a “bird straight down the course,” which eventually became birdie to officially note one shot under par. Country Club in Atlantic City claims to be the first to coin the term birdie as an official term in 1903 and even dedicated the moment with a small monument out on the course to this day.
An eagle occurs when a golfer completes the hole with a score two shots below what is considered par. This is most frequent on par 5s where a player has more shots to work with and can overcome the par by hitting the ball far or making shots on or around the area of the hole. A player could score an eagle on a par 4 either by reaching the area of the hole on their first shot or getting the ball in the hole with an excellent second shot from far away from the hole. Eagles are fairly uncommon among amateur golfers and hard to obtain even by professionals.
The term itself is clearly an extension of the popularity of birdie, sticking with the bird theme for good scores. Since birdie came to the lexicon in America, it makes sense that an eagle would be the next level since it’s the nation’s symbol. Eventually, both terms caught on in Europe thanks to the dominance of American golfers in high-level competition around the world.
Double Eagle (Or Albatross)
Sticking with the bird theme, an albatross is a score of three strokes under par score. This score is also commonly known as a double eagle and is extremely rare at all levels of golf. Technically, an albatross or double eagle can only occur on a par 5 hole as a par 3 doesn’t have enough strokes for there to be three less than that and three shots under a par 4 would mean getting the ball in the hole on a player’s first shot, which has its own term.
Albatross actually originated in England. Because a double eagle is such a rare feat, British players named it after the extremely rare bird. The term took root shortly after birdie an eagle became mainstream, a clear nod to the American-established reference to birds for scores lower than par — although ironically, Americans called them double eagles, which remains the more popular term to this day for scores three shots under par
One of the most exhilarating feats in the game of golf is putting the ball in the hole on a golfer’s first shot, known as an ace. Most amateur players never hit an ace — also called a hole-in-one — in their life. Many professional players have never scored an ace. Aces are most common on par-3 holes, where the first shot is short so a player reaches the area around the hole on their first shot. Some land directly in the hole, but most hit the area around the green and roll into the hole for an ace. According to the United States Golf Register, the odds of scoring an ace are just one in every 33,000 swings!
The word “ace” comes from Latin, which means a very skilled person or a person who excels at something. So, a player who accomplishes the very rare feat would have to be extremely skilled, and maybe just a little lucky. Ace is also used in tennis to refer to scoring a point on just the serve, so it’s highly likely the term gained official traction in both sports as a result.
The final golf term for today is a handicap, which refers to the standardized system used to rate the average number of strokes above par a player scores in a single round of golf. Because not all players have the same skill level, but can still compete at the same time in golf, there needed to be a way to level the playing field. A handicap takes into account the difference in skill level as well as the difficulty of the course to properly allocate a golfer’s handicap. A handicap is established by posting your scores, honestly, and officially set at a licensed golf club.
The official United States Golf Association handicap system has been in use for more than 100 years, but the term itself has been around since the 1870s, referencing a popular trading game in pubs called “hand in cap,” in which three people traded items in front of a referee, who would decide the amount to make up the difference in value between the traded items. The term “handicap” became popular in betting on horse racing in the 1850s and caught on in golf two decades later and remains a common term in the sport at present.
Now that you have a better understanding of some of the most essential golf terms you should know out on the golf course, it’s time to put this newfound knowledge into action! Living on a golf course is a fantastic way to learn the game and sharpen your skills, especially when you’re lucky enough to play one of the finest courses in the country. Stay tuned for more definitions in part two of this series!
To take advantage of the gorgeous golf course here at The Peninsula on the Indian River Bay, contact Insight Homes today to purchase or build your own beautiful home and play the Jack Nicklaus-designed course whenever you want!