Glossary of Golf: the key words

  • Golf de Cornouaille, La forêt Fouesnant, Britanny

    Golf de Cornouaille, La forêt Fouesnant, Britanny

    © Atout France/Michel Angot

  • Golf d'Houlgate.

    Golf d'Houlgate.

    © Atout France/CDT Calvados

Glossary of Golf: the key words France fr

Stance: The player’s position as he addresses the ball before playing it.

Approach: A short shot intended to hit the green (area of closely mowed grass around the flag-stick) and get the ball as close to the hole as possible.

Air shoot: An attempted shot… that misses the ball (but it counts as one stroke).

Backspin: Self-explanatory. A ball with a lot of backspin will stop very quickly once it hits the green.

Birdie: A score of 1 stroke below Par (set score).

Bogey: A score of 1 stroke over Par (double bogey: +2; triple bogey: +3).

Bunker: Usually hollow hazards filled with sand, found either on the Fairway or around the green, always at strategically located sites to make things a little more complicated.

Green card: Qualification test held by certain clubs with a certificate attesting to appropriate behavior and skill. The card gives beginners access to the main course.

Chip: A little shot hit short and sharp around the green to get the ball as near to the hole as possible.

Compact course: see Pitch & putt.

Club: Used to hit the ball. You will see that golf is basically all about ballistics. The distance covered by the ball depends on the club-face, more or less open, and the speed of the club head when it hits the ball. They are split into three categories:

    Woods: so called because originally the head of the club was made of wood.

    Irons: clubs with a steel head and with different loft values (club face angle).

    Putter: used to hit the ball over shorter distances and mostly on the green.

Tee-box: A flat area, often slightly elevated, on which are placed colored markers (often globe-like), which demarcate the area from which you play when hitting your first shot. The color of each marker differs according to the skill and proficiency of your game.

Divot: a clump of earth or grass ripped out by the club when hitting the ball (a divot should always be carefully replaced immediately after the shot).

Dog-Leg: A hole that turns to the left or right. Golfers talk about a “dog-leg to the right” or a “dog-leg to the left.”

Drive: The first shot played on a long hole, often hit with a driver (club 1-wood).

Eagle: A score of 2 strokes under Par.

Fairway: Closely mowed, neatly groomed grassy surface between the tee-box and the green.

Green: Very finely mowed area of grass on which is placed the hole marked by a flag.

Green fee: Daily fee paid to play a course.

Grip: Either the way of holding a club or the part of the club held in the hands (made of leather or rubber).

Handicap: The number of strokes that a player can subtract from his result to adjust his score to that of a player with zero margin of error. The margin of error or handicap for a course is set based on the golfer’s index and is between 0 and 53.4. A few very good players have a negative handicap. The system enables players of different levels to play together on an equal footing.

Index: The result of a mathematic equation indicating the anticipated performance of a player on a normal course. The index makes it possible to establish a golfer’s margin of error (or course handicap) depending on the degree of difficulty for each course.

“Licence” (player’s certificate): The “licence” in France is a unilateral administrative act from the Fédération française de Golf (French only) that allows players to play the game and take part in tournaments. It necessarily includes insurance coverage for civil responsibility. The FFG “licence” is mandatory in three cases:

    When the golfer is a member of a sports association affiliated with the FFG;

    When a golfer wishes to play in tournaments;

    When a club demands it for golfers to access facilities on account of its affiliation to the FFG.

Par: The ideal score set for each hole, and consequently for the whole course (which is the sum of the pars for each hole).

Course: Stretch of land where golf is played.

Pitch and putt: A small compact golf course (nothing to do with miniature golf). The surface area varies between 12 and 37 acres. It is playable for golfers of all levels. A pitch and putt course may comprise 9 or 18 holes, each one being a par 3.

Pitching wedge: A rather heavy club with a very open face. It is widely used for pitch shots to approach the green.

Driving range: Practice ground where golfers hit balls from artificial tee areas.

Putter: Club with a vertical face used on the green to roll the ball towards the hole.

Putting green: green where you practice putting.

Water hazards: Lakes, ponds, streams or rivers, which enhance the landscape and serve as real hazards.

Rough: Longer grass on the edges of the course.

Scramble: A team of two, three or four players. Each player hits a tee shot. They then choose the best ball, from where all players play a second shot. They then again choose the best ball. Etc.

Stableford: This counting method awards points to the score achieved on each hole compared with Par for the hole.

Stroke play: This type of tournament is won by the player who plays the round or rounds with the least number of strokes. In a tournament played “net,” the winner is the person whose gross score, reduced by his or her playing handicap, is the lowest.

Sweet spot: The ideal spot on the club head to hit the ball.

Swing: The whole golf movement… in one word.

Tee: A peg made of wood or plastic pushed into the ground. It is used to raise the ball for the tee-shot.


Official forms of the game:

    SIMPLE: a single player.
    FOURSOME (Rule 29): Four players split into two teams. The two players play a single ball alternately from the tee boxes and throughout the round.
    THREESOME (Rule 29): The same as a Foursome except that one of the two teams is a single player.
    MATCH PLAY: Played hole by hole. A hole is won by the player or team hitting the fewest strokes. In a tournament played net, the lowest net score wins the hole. The game is won by the player or team who leads by a number of holes that is greater than the number of holes still to be played.
    THREE BALL MATCH PLAY (Rule 30): A match play tournament where 3 players form a team each playing his or her own ball. Each player plays two separate matches against the other two.
    FOUR BALL MATCH PLAY (Rule 30): The 2 players in each team each play a ball and count the best score achieved on each hole.
    BEST BALL MATCH PLAY (Rule 30): Same as a 4-ball, except that one of the teams is composed of a single player; the other may be of 2 or 3 players.