Golf Glossary: 9 Amazing Golfing Terms for Beginners (2023)

Have you ever wondered how Golfing terms were first used, and how they became common use in modern golf? Well if you’re curious here we explain the most common words in the golf glossary for beginners. Read on to find out more about golfing terminology. If you know of any other golfing phrases and golf origins then why not comment below.

golf glossary history

BOGEY: Golf Glossary

Originally a score which the good golfer should aim for on a hole was known as the ‘ground score’. One day, the secretary at Great Yarmouth, Dr Browne, and Major Wellman played a match with the ground score as a ‘third man’. When Wellman failed to outplay the ground score, he said to Browne: “this player of yours is a regular bogey man!” -a Scottish term fora devil or monster in undefined form. The description stuck, and golfers started playing against ‘Mister Bogey’ instead of the ground score.

DORMY: Golf Glossary

Sometimes clubs have accommodation known as a Dormy House, and when someone in a match is up by as many holes as there are left, they are dormy’. The origin of both terms comes from the French word dormir, to sleep. If someone was dormy, the match could soon be put to sleep.

CADDIE: Golf Glossary

From the French word cadet, meaning boy. The earliest record of cadet in the English language is 1610, and caddie 1634. Then, caddies were errand boys and only later did the word become linked with bag carriers at golf courses.

If you’re looking to understand golf from a caddies perspective why not have a listen to the Real Life Caddie Podcast, this is the hilarious podcast from real life caddies working out of Pebble Beach. If you are looking for more podcast recomendations have a look at our top 23 golf podcasts article.

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BIRDIE: Golf Glossary

From the American slang ‘bird’ to describe something wonderful. A plaque at Atlantic City CC, New Jersey records the birth of the birdie in 1903. During a money game, Abner ‘Ab’ Smith hit his ball close and hailed it ‘a bird of a shot’. He suggested when one of them won a hole with an under-par score they should receive double money. They adopted the name ‘birdie’ for this score.

Birdie golf glossary

SCRATCH: Golf Glossary

The starting line for races was often simply a line scratched in the dirt. In handicap races, the best athletes started at the scratch mark, behind slower competitors. Thus, competitions where all players started level were ‘scratch competitions’.

From the Anglo-Saxon word hlinc, meaning ridge or a grassy or hummocky area of land. So, golflinks really just meant ‘golf lands‘. Later, links came to refer to a specific type of coastal terrain, but originally all courses tended to be referred to as links.

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PAR: Golf Glossary

A Stock Exchange term for the face value of the price of a stock. The price that stock was trading at could be described as above or below par depending on how it was doing.

EAGLE: Golf Glossary

Eagle, like birdie, began in America. Ab Smith said his group christened a shot of two-under-par as an ‘eagle’. No one knows why. PG Wodehouse used the term “eagle’ in The Heart of a Goof, a collection of golfing stories (1926), but the word took a while to be adopted. Bobby Jones made an eagle in the 1930 Amateur Championship, but no reports at that time used the term. The British dubbed three-under on a hole as an Albatross. Many Americans use double eagle, although when Gene Sarazen made one to get into the play-off to win the 1935 Masters, he called it a ‘dodo’.

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FAIRWAY: Golf Glossary

There was no such thing as a fairway in the original game. There were no lawnmowers, so no carefully cultivated plots of land with definitions between fairway and rough. The original term for the putting surface was ‘fair green’. One approached the fair green along the fairway, a nautical term for a navigable channel.


What words in the golf glossary have I missed? Do you know of the origin of any golfing terms or golf terminology that you can share in the comments below?

If you’re a beginner and looking to improve your golf why not check out our other articles on choosing the best golf balls, and the best budget golf drivers under £200.


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