Golf Expressions


The hole. The cup. The place to put your putts. When you sink a putt, you canned it.


The green. Soft, well-manicured fairways are also referred to as being “like carpet.”

Cart golf

Term for when two golfers riding in the same golf cart repeatedly hit the ball in the same direction (usually into the rough). An efficient but not necessarily pleasant way to play golf.

Does it open up over there?

A phrase often used on holes with doglegs. The answer is almost always “No” but playing partners will respond with “I’m not sure.” This conversation takes place even if you have played this course 50 times.

Dog track

Derogatory term for a golf course that is not well maintained.


A shot that travels only a few feet, usually without getting airborne.


To miss the ball completely. The air moves, but nothing else does.


A terrible shot. Putt, chip, pitch, drive—it doesn’t matter. If you hit it bad, you flubbed it, buddy.

Get down

A message from golfer to ball asking it to cease flying—now! Usually heard after a ball is hit too far or offline; almost always uttered with great agitation.

Get up

A message from golfer to ball asking it to fly


A conceded putt, shortened from the phrase “Give it to me.” Gimmes are the center of many golfing controversies, especially amongst the ranks of amateurs who are always looking for an opponent to concede a putt, even if their ball is off the green.


A terrible golfer. A person who hacks it around the golf course.

In the leather

Phrase meaning a putt is close enough to the cup (a distance no greated than the length of the putter grip) to be conceded.


The yearning chasm that is in front of the cup, when a putt stops just inches short of its intended destination. For example, “He left it right in the jaws.”


A putt in the three-to-four foot range that causes emotional and physical problems for the golfer. The term comes from the nervous trembling that accompanies these short putts.


The one iron. The toughest club to hit. If you carry a knife in your bag, you’re either a real player, or phony who wants to look like a real player. A few swings with the knife will reveal the true you. Lee Trevino advises golfers caught in a lightening storm to hold their one irons aloft because “even God can’t hit a one iron.” 

Million-dollar swing

A flawless swing a’ la Tom Purtzer or Steve Elkington or Tiger Woods.


To miss-hit a shot.

Nineteenth hole

The bar and grill you visit after your round. This is the place where most golfers find their best lies.

Nip it

When you hit an iron shot without taking a divot, you have nipped it. Good golfers do this in an attempt to minimize backspin; bad golfers do it by accident. 

On the screws

Description for a well-executed shot. In the good ‘ol days, when woods were made of wood, club makers fitted a piece of plastic insert into the club face as a safeguard against premature wear. These inserts were fastened to the club with screws. When a golf would hit a good shot, he would say, “I hit it on the screws.”

Pin high

Whenever the ball lies at the same elevation as the hole.


A shot that heads right for the flagstick from the moment it leaves the clubface.

Pitch and putt

A derisive term given to golf courses that are short and easily conquered, so named because just a pitch and a putt will get you into the hole.

Play ’em down

To play the ball as it lies. The only way to fly.


Duck hook. 

Rope hook

Term for a low, hard hook that will run great distances after hitting the ground. Very bad.


Whenever the ball is moving along the ground, it is said to be running.


A shank is a severe miss hit in which the golf ball is struck by the hosel of the club. On a shank, a player has managed to strike the ball with a part of the club other than the clubface. A shanked shot will scoot a short distance, often out to the right, or might be severely sliced or hook. Someone who shanks a lot might be said to “have the shanks” or to be “shanking it.”

Short grass

Where you are when you hit the fairway with your drive.

Short stick

The putter, so named because it’s the shortest club in the bag. You can make up for a lot of bad work with other sticks if you can handle the short stick.

Tap in

A short, easy putt, that anyone can make.


A putt that’s long enough so that it’s not a gimme but short enough so that a decent player should hole it, so called because it tests a golfer’s skill.

Texas wedge

When you use your putter from off the green, that a club becomes a Texas wedge, so named bacause the shot became popular in Texas, where hard, dry conditions make it less risky to putt from off the green.

Thin, hit it

To hit the ball in the center with the club’s leading edge, instead of sliding under it. Chances are your shot will fly lower and farther than you intended. This is still much better than hitting it fat.


If there is very little cushion (grass) between the ball and God’s earth, you have a tight lie. If the guys in your group don’t want to play for some cash, they’re tight.


Anything bad that happens to you on the course, especially when you hit a poor shot, is ugly. So when you hit an incredibly bad shot, don’t curse, just say, “Man, that was ugly,” and everyone will nod in understanding.

Up and down

A way of describing the short game; if you chip on and then one -putt, you’re up and down in two. Also, when your level of play alternates between good and bad, you’re having and up-and-down round.


A shot hit with a higher-than-anticipated trajectory to a point short of the target. Also called ballooning.


A putt that rolls all the way around the edge of the cup before coming out.

Weekend warriors

Golfers who play infrequently, so called because the only time they can play is on weekends.


When you swing at the ball and miss.

Winter rules

In certain areas where the winters are harsh, golf courses don’t receive much maintenance between October and April. To make winter golf more palatable in these areas, many courses enact winter rules, which provide for improved lies under certain circumstances. Winter rules are fair since golf was not meant to be played on a poorly maintained course, though the Scots play on rough courses year-round.


A putt that is pulled to the left.