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Golf slang: an essential guide

Golf Care, 27th June 2024

golf slang


Golf is a sport that can easily confuse the newcomer with its weird and wonderful sayings. In this blog, we’ll look at some commonly used golf slang and explain what each term actually means.

Golf slang

golf slang


An ace is a hole-in-one. Not many of us can claim to have had one of these, but the word stems from other games, such as the ace in a deck of cards representing the number one. The term ‘ace’ is believed to have been used in golf since the 1920s.


Army Golf

This comes up when a player is struggling to find a fairway and is hitting it all over the place: left-right-left, left-right-left—you get it.



A birdie means one-under-par. It’s said that someone remarked ‘that is a bird of a shot’ at the Country Club in Atlantic City in 1903, and a playing partner claimed they should double his money if he played the hole in one-under.

So it became known as a ‘birdie’ all around the world. Similarly, an eagle is bigger than your average bird, and an albatross is very rare, much like its golfing version.



This was originally accepted as the score that recreational golfers should record on a hole. So, in the early days, there was no talk of a score to par but rather a player’s aggregate score.

Now, a bogey is when a player finishes a hole over par. The word itself comes from the popular song ‘The Bogey Man’ from the early 1890s.



The French for ‘to sleep’ is ‘dormir’, which lends itself to the fact that a golfer in ‘dormie’ can relax given that they can’t lose the match.

Dormie means that a player is leading by as many holes as there are holes remaining.



This can also be described as spinach, and refers to very tangly, gnarly rough. So, cabbage is certainly not something you want to get involved with on the golf course.


Chilli Dip

Again, this is not very favourable and refers to when a player mishits a shot so badly behind the ball that it barely moves or not even at all. This is also sometimes referred to as a ‘chunk’ or a ‘fat’.



According to the USGA, ‘fore’ originates from Scotland and is a shortened version of ‘before’ or ‘afore’.

The old Scottish warning, essentially meaning “look out ahead,” most probably originated in military circles, where it was used by artillerymen as a warning to troops in forward positions. It’s thought that golfers used this as early as the 18th century.

Whatever the origin, however, it’s one of the most unwanted words to be uttered or heard on the golf course, as it usually means a wayward shot is heading your way.

Related: Why do golfers shout fore?


Foot Wedge

This is fairly literal and refers to when a player chooses to use their foot to improve their lie into a better position. So, yes, basically, this is a cheat.


Fried Egg

This is when a ball is plugged into a bunker and simply does what it sounds like. For years, the difficulty of this shot has been exaggerated, but with some green to work with, there’s no need to fear it too much. 



Gimme is believed to have been coined in the early 1900s, with the most likely derivation being a slightly shorter version of the phrase ‘give me’.

It refers to a putt so short that it is virtually unmissable. So, rather than making your partner roll it in, you essentially ‘give it’ to them without them playing the shot.

Whatever the origin, a gimme still seems to cause the odd argument with some golfers being very affronted by the lack of their playing partners’ generosity. There have been many famous flare-ups in the professional game over some unnecessary confusion over a short putt that hasn’t been conceded.


Inside the Leather

Back in the days of leather grips, this would refer to any putt concession inside where the grip started. So, if you could get your putt close to the hole, and it was measured to be ‘inside the leather’, you could then pick it up.



A mulligan is simply a replayed shot. There are various claims over the origin of the opportunity to replay a shot, but the most likely is that Mr Mulligan, a Canadian hotelier from the 1920s, hit a shot and impulsively hit another one.

Mulligan called it a ‘correction shot’, and it was agreed that it merited a better name.



According to the Oxford English Dictionary, par derives from the Latin meaning ‘equal’ or ‘equality’. It took until the 19th century for it to come into golf, though, and in 1911, the USGA defined it as ‘perfect play without flukes and under ordinary weather conditions, always allowing two strokes on each putting green’.



This was originally a term used to describe gangs who would use a small bag or sock filled with heavy sand in the 19th century to assault their victims. In golf, however, it refers to a bandit who plays off a handicap which is too high for their relative skills.

Sandbaggers generally pop up when there’s a decent prize to be had!



This is an old English word and refers to the lower part of a leg—think of a lamb shank.

It’s thought that it came into the golfing world in the 1920s and is the most feared shot in the game—so bad that many players won’t even say the word. For those lucky enough not to be familiar, a shank is when the ball meets the hosel of the club and heads sideways.



This is when you record an eight on the scorecard, and whatever your standard, it’s not going to do you any favours. 


Worm burner

This refers to a shot that is topped and barely gets off the ground.



Yips are involuntary spasms that can affect all parts of a golfer’s game—or indeed any sportsperson’s, for that matter.

Tommy Armour is the golfer thought to have brought the word into our consciousness, having suffered from the affliction despite being a three-time Major winner in the 1920s and 30s.


How much of this golf slang do you recognise? How many of these golf slang terms have you used yourself when playing? Get in touch via our social media channels and let us know!


Specialist golf insurance with Golf Care

There’s no golf slang term for specialist golf insurance (that we know of, anyway), but you may still want to consider it if you play golf often.

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