Sunday, 5 July 2009

Understanding Golfing Jargon

The Rule book is written in a very precise and deliberate fashion and it will help golfers to understand the Rules better if they are aware of the correct meanings of words that are used therein. I will try and explain a few of the more common ones in this blog.

  • Stroke play: There are two different ways to play golf; match play, where one side plays against another, and stroke play, where competitors play against every other player in the competition. Strokes, bogey, par and Stableford are all forms of stroke play in which play is against a fixed score at each hole. It is important to note that the Rules for stroke play and match play vary considerably and it is therefore not permitted to combine the two forms of play (Rule 33-1)
  • Playing partner: Many golfers playing in a group of three or four refer to the other players in their group as their playing partners. This is incorrect; they are playing with fellow-competitors. A playing partner is someone on your side, for example in a foursome or four-ball.
  • Foursome: Similar to above, foursome does not mean four players in a group but refers to a form of stroke play or match play where a side of two players play one ball alternately.
  • Opponent: In golf an opponent is someone playing against you in a match.
  • Through the green: This is the whole area of the course except the teeing ground and putting green of the hole being played and all hazards on the course.
  • Teeing ground: Players often refer to ‘tee boxes’, which is not strictly correct. A player starts each hole with a stroke from the teeing ground, which is limited to a rectangular area two club-lengths in depth, the front and the sides of which are defined by the outside limits of two tee-markers.
  • Rub of the green: I dedicated a whole blog entry to this term at rub of the green.
  • Fairway: Most of us understand what the fairway is, even if we don’t hit it as often as we would like. However, be careful, as the Rules generally refer to closely mown areas, which are any areas of the course, including paths through the rough, cut to fairway height or less.
  • Loose Impediment: Any natural object that is not fixed or growing, solidly embedded or adhering to the ball. See my blog loose impediments and movable obstructions.
  • Movable Obstruction: Any artificial object that can easily be moved except objects defining out of bounds.

The best advice that I can give to anyone wishing to gain a better knowledge of the Rules of Golf is to start by reading and understanding the fifty or so definitions at the beginning of the Rules book. They are easy to read and provide a good basis for correct application of the Rules. (edit: As Backspin has pointed out below these are available online at USGA Rules & Decisions.)

Please let me know if there are any golfing terms that you don’t understand.


Barry Rhodes
999Q on Twitter
rules at barryrhodes dot com

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Backspin said...

Good article, I just love the The USGA site and it´s rules and decision page, check it out

Toni said...

Good post, i need learn more

tafftrader said...

what if it is possible to drop behind a red stake hazard? i have seen instances where this is possible since the committee have improperly marked the hazard. can you go back as far as you like in a straight line?

Barry Rhodes said...


I am not sure that I understand your question; "what if it is possible to drop behind a red stake hazard?" Did you mean to say "impossible"? "can you go back as far as you like in a straight line?" A straight line from where?

I think that you will find my short video on lateral water hazards useful and will probably clarify the situation for you;

Decision 26/3 may also be relevant;
"Q. An unmarked ditch on the left of a hole is in bounds, but the left-hand margin is out of bounds. Accordingly, it is impossible to drop behind the water hazard under Rule 26-1b. A player's ball comes to rest in the ditch. Is the player restricted to playing the ball as it lies or proceeding under Rule 26-1a?

A. It is the responsibility of the Committee to define accurately the margins of water hazards and lateral water hazards — see Rule 33-2a. However, if the Committee has not done so, the ditch is, by definition, a lateral water hazard and the player should be permitted to proceed under Rule 26-1c(i)."