Top 20 Golf Terms Beginning Golfers Must Know To Not Embarrass Themselves

beginning golfer

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Golf can be a confusing sport, even for experienced players. If you are just starting out, it is important to learn the basics of the game. In this blog post, we will discuss 20 golf terms that every beginner should know. With this knowledge under your belt, you’ll be able to avoid embarrassing yourself on the course!

Tee Box

The tee box is the area where you will start every hole. Typically on the tee box, there will be two tee markers that will alert players as to where the teeing ground is. The tee box is typically slightly elevated, and the grass on the tee box will be cut short.

Most golf courses have several sets of tee boxes. If you can hit your tee shot a very long way, it makes sense to move back to the professional or tournament level tee box. For golfers that struggle to get the golf ball to travel all that far, playing forward tends to be a better decision.

Stroke Play

The most typical way to play golf is stroke play. Stroke play is where you count every golf shot that you hit. It’s fine to play a round of tournament golf or even golf with friends and consider it a stroke play tournament.

With stroke play events, the total number of shots will be compared to other golfers to see who won. However, for beginners, the focus should not be on scoring or the number of strokes and instead on the ability to hit great golf shots.

Match Play

Match play is a different format that playing partners can use to play a friendly round against each other. With match play, each hole will have a winner at the end of the hole. If you make a six and your friend made a five, they would be considered one up. This continues until the end of the 18th hole or even sooner if one person has a considerable lead.

Match play is a fun way for a scratch golfer to play against a higher handicapper and incorporate the player’s handicap. Even if you have a bad hole or send one of your golf balls into the woods, you can still recover in a match play type event.


One of the best ways to get involved in playing at an actual golf course is to sign up for a scramble type golf event. A scramble involves every player hitting a tee shot, and then only the best tee shot is selected. From this position, all players will drop a ball and then play another shot. This continues until the ball is in the hole.

With a scramble type format, you are always playing from the best position of the four golfers in the group. There is no need to stress out about your golf game if you end up with a shot in the bunker or a hazard; chances are one of your playing partners will have your back.

Many beginner golfers confuse the term “best ball” with scramble, and they are two different things.

Flop Shot

A flop shot may sound like a shot that didn’t work out all that well. However, it is instead a very high lofted shot that can be stopped quickly on a putting green. The flop shot can be hit with a sand wedge or a lob wedge, and it is a famous shot that famous players like Phil Mickelson have gotten very good at.

Most golfers don’t use the flop shot all that often, especially beginners, and it is something that you will have to practice. However, if your golf friends happen to mention they are going to hit a flop shot, at least you will now understand what is involved and what the golfers are trying to do with this flop shot skill.

Out of Bounds

Out of bounds is pretty self explanatory, but it can still cost a beginner golfer a few golf balls if they don’t know where the out of bounds stakes are located. When you hit your ball out of bounds, you will have to take a penalty stroke and then re-hit the golf ball from as close as possible to where it initially was hit.

Out of bounds is genuinely the worst penalty in the game of golf because you not only have to lose a shot, but you lose the distance as well. You could hit a 300 yard drive that rolls just one foot out of bounds, and now you have to take a penalty shot and hit again.

The tee shot you hit after a one shot penalty like this will be your third shot. The rules on this were modified in 2019 so there is an alternative option. We won’t muddy the waters here.

Ready Golf

Ready golf means that golfers tee off when they are ready. If you are playing a match, typically, the person who had the lowest score on the previous golf hole will go first. However, this can take a bit of extra time.

For players that are trying to move through a round of golf quickly, tee shots should be hit as soon as a player is ready to go. Sometimes understanding golf terminology is not just about the terms themselves but how they apply to your golf game.

The best golf tips are those that make you feel more comfortable on the golf course and enjoy what you are doing.


A bunker is a sand trap. If you are playing a round of golf and hit the ball in the sand trap, don’t be surprised to hear someone call it a bunker. The terms bunker and sand trap are typically interchangeable. These are areas on the golf course that you want to avoid if you can.

Most beginners tend to get a bit too worried about the sand trap. Once you get a little better at playing golf, you will realize that the right golf club, the proper stance, and the perfect swing thought will make getting out of a bunker incredibly easy.


The word fore is very commonly heard outside the golf course, and most golfers know what it means. Fore is a word that is used to warn people that a golf ball could be coming their way. When the word fore is yelled, golfers should cover their head and duck down so as not to get stuck with a golf ball.

In addition, if your golf ball is headed towards a person in another group, one of the golfers in your group, or even a spectator or homeowner who lives on the course, you must yell fore to warn them.

This is not just common courtesy; it could ensure that someone does not get very hurt from a golf ball hitting them in the head. Always watch your golf ball goes so that it’s easy to find and that you don’t hurt anyone with an errant shot.

Ball Mark

A ball mark can be a confusing terminology for a new golfer because there are two words to know here. The first is a ball mark, and that is a mark that is made on the green after you hit a shot onto the green. This ball mark will look like a small indentation in the turf, and it needs to be repaired by a golfer.

In addition, you may hear the term ball marker. The ball marker is used to describe the coin or small circle used to mark your ball before you pick it up to clean it on the putting green.

A ball marker and a ball mark are two different things, but golfers should know both of these terms and be prepared to fix ball marks and mark the ball correctly.

The Turn

The turn describes the area of the golf course where the front nine ends and the back nine begins. Golfers make the turn as they move from the ninth green to the tenth tee. The turn usually has an area to use the restroom, get a drink and a snack, and then head on to the next golf hole.

When you come up to the turn, it’s a good idea to look at your pace of play and see how long it took you to play the first nine holes. Something that all beginner golfers need to be aware of is the amount of time they are taking to play the golf course.


An approach shot is a shot that approaches the golf green. This approach shot will help you get the ball as close to the hole as possible and be ready to make your next putt. However, in addition to the term approach shot, there is also an area on the golf course called the approach.

The approach is essentially the entrance to the green where there is short grass. For many beginner golfers, the approach is a great area to hit a shot with hopes that it will roll up towards the hole. Many times the safer shot for beginners is to keep the ball lower and have it roll towards the hole.

With the word approach, you will have to take the context of what other golfers are saying to understand fully what they are referring to.


A golfers handicap is essentially a way to describe how good the golfer is. Players that are considered scratch golfers are those that typically shoot par for the course. If par is 72, a scratch golfer will most likely shoot in the low seventies.

The handicap is essentially added to the part for the course to get a general idea of what a golfer shoots. So if someone says to you that they have a ten handicap, they likely shoot in the low 80s. Those that have a 20 handicap will shoot in the low 90s.

One of the best things about the game of golf is that you will be able to play a match against another player because of the handicap system. In other sports like football or hockey, it is very hard for a professional to play against a new player. With golf, a scratch golfer can have a match with a beginner, and it will be fair.

Penalty Shot

A penalty shot is something that golfers must call on themselves at certain times. If you move the ball when you shouldn’t have, or you have more than 14 clubs in the bag, you will need to take a penalty stroke. The penalty shot is typically just one stroke, and you must understand golf rules to know when and if you should take a penalty shot.

Sometimes when dealing with a lost ball, the penalty strokes will add up, and you will end up with a double bogey or even a triple bogey. However, golf is a very honorable sport, and players should be able to call a penalty on themselves if necessary.


The aim is something that every golfer must do before they hit a shot. Aiming the ball towards the target is essential, even if it doesn’t go straight towards the hole. Many beginners end up slicing the ball, but you must first get the ball aimed towards the target if you get your shot near the hole.

Aiming is hard as a beginner, but you will have to learn how to do it with your putting stroke all the way to your tee shot.

Blind Shot

A blind shot is one where you can’t see the hole when you are hitting. Sometimes when you are playing from behind a tree or if a green is elevated, it would be considered a blind shot. The blind shot is difficult, but if you pick a good line and trust it, you can easily pull off one of these shots.

When you are playing a blind shot, you must be able to trust your caddy or whomever you are playing with. They will need to give you good yardage and an accurate read on the green. This is why many players like to use a GPS unit to ensure that they can see where the golf hole is going.


The club head of the golf club is the part where you make contact with the ball. The clubhead is the word that is used on all clubs, including the driver, irons, and even the wedges. Golfers should do the best they can to protect the clubhead of their golf clubs and ensure that it is not going to cause an issue for them in their swing.

If a club head is damaged in any way, chances are it will need to be replaced. Most golf courses offer club repair services for those with issues with their clubhead.


A divot is a piece of grass that comes up when a golfer takes a swing. The divot is entirely acceptable to take, but you will need to handle the area where the divot was taken from the turf. The divot, if taken correctly, will be directly following the golf ball and be in a medium strip.

Most golf courses will ask you to fill the divot with a sand and seed mixture. Other times you will take the piece of grass and put it back from where it was removed. What you should do with your divot will depend on what golf type of grass you are playing on.

Fat Shot

Hitting a fat shot means that you will hit the dirt before you get to the golf ball. When you hit the ball fat, it won’t go nearly as far as a shot that is hit purely. If you continue to hit the ball fat, chances are there is a problem in your golf swing that needs some attention.

Many beginners will hit the ball fat when they first start playing because they don’t accelerate through their golf swing. The fat shot is extremely frustrating to hit, and it can often happen when chipping because golfers get nervous about smaller shots around the golf hole.


A gimmie is a very short putt that is assumed you will make. If you hit your first putt right next to the pin and you have a one inch putt to make, it is considered a gimmie. Some golfers take this concept a bit too far and consider anything that is three feet away or even more to be a gimmie.

The gimmie is typically understood to be any golf ball that is within the length of the putter grip. If a puter grip is about 12 inches long, you will consider anything in this range a gimmie. To keep your handicap legitimate, you will need to make as many of these putts as you can.

As a beginner, practice working on the short putts as they can help you

Frequently Asked Questions

As a beginner, it is common to have many questions about the golf course, the clubs, the scoring, and more. Hopefully, you have a good friend that can teach you the basic golf terms as well as the rules. Here are a few questions that beginner golfers often ask about the terminology and the sport itself.

How many golf clubs should beginners have in their golf bags?

A beginner is allowed to have a total of 14 golf clubs in their bag, just like any other player. However, most beginners don’t need these 14 golf clubs. Most beginners will do just fine with about 10 golf clubs in their bag. Having a mix of a driver, fairway wood, hybrid, irons, and wedges is most important.

What is a beginner golfer’s handicap?

A beginner golfer typically does not have a handicap for a long time. Once they are established and can put in about ten rounds, the handicap will start to develop. Until you start shooting under 110 consistently, having a handicap is helpful, but in the beginning, it makes sense to just play for fun and work on hitting good golf shots.

What tee box should beginner golfers play from?

Beginners should play from the middle tee box, which would be considered the men’s standard or regular tees. Once you have established whether you are a long hitter or a shorter hitter, you can then move back or forward to a place that is more suitable for your golf game. Most players will end up on those middle tees until the handicap drops considerably.

Does watching golf on television help beginners learn the game?

Watching golf on television can be an excellent option for golfers that are looking to learn the game. If you watch what the professional golfers are doing, you can learn a lot about course management and the way to play the game. Players can learn rules and which clubs to use from certain locations.

What is the most important golf etiquette for beginners to know?

The most important golf etiquette for beginners to understand is to be respectful of other players. If you are quiet when other golfers are hitting and you stay out of their line on the putting green, chances are you will be just fine on the golf course. Pay close attention to rules about attire and where to put your golf shoes when changing and heading to the course.


Hopefully, you have a better understanding of the top 20 golf terms for beginning golfers to know not to embarrass themselves. If you make a mistake as a beginner, just let everyone in the group know you are new to the game. Everyone has to start somewhere, and it is expected that you are going to make a few mistakes in your first year as a new player. Don’t let this discourage you; continue to work on learning more and more about the game.

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