Confusing golf terms and their meanings: Part one
Most things in golf are difficult and confusing, that’s just a fact.
There are nonsensical rules to master, a whole dictionary of strange words to learn, and some ludicrous golf etiquette to try and get your head around.
But the good news it that even if you’re terrible at golf, you can still trick people into thinking that you’re brilliant just by using the correct lingo. You can loiter around the clubhouse saying things like, ‘The greens are particularly fast today’ and, ‘I’m really pleased that I got two birdies’ and everybody will immediately accept you as a golfer and won’t make you prove it by actually trying to hit a ball while people laugh and point. That’s the theory anyway…
So to help those of us who want to join in golf conversations/pretend you belong in a golf club, I’ve started what I hope will be a vaguely useful golfing glossary.
What is this par that’s always mentioned?
Par is the number of strokes that a golfer is expected to need to complete an individual hole.
So holes could be listed as par-three, par-four, par-five, or sometimes par-six. Generally the higher the par the longer the hole, so at least you’re getting some warning about how horribly difficult it is.
The par for a hole is always made up of two putts and then the number of strokes that you are expected to need in order to reach the green (the area around the flag and hole).
So if you’re annoying good at golf, a par-three hole should take you one stroke to get to the green, and then another two putts to complete it.
But what’s a course’s par?
If you’re attempting to complete 18 holes of golf, the par is the number of strokes expected to complete all of them. Most courses are between 69-74-par.
So next time you set out to play you can say with confidence something like, ‘Why don’t we try this par-four hole’ or, ‘That 72 par course sounds a bit tricky’. Leaving everyone with no-doubt that you are a highly sophisticated golfing expert.
What is even par and under par?
However, when you use par to describe a golfer’s performance things yet again become more complicated. It’s straightforward enough to understand that if you’ve completed a par-four hole in four strokes then you’re ‘even par’ or ‘level par’.
But if you’re ‘under par’ that means you are actually doing well as you have completed the holes in less strokes than expected. Under par does not mean ‘not doing quite well enough’ or ‘subpar’ like I may have initially thought.
So if someone tells you they are so many under par make sure you don’t respond with ‘Ahh that’s a shame, I’m sure things will pick up’, as that would just be embarrassing.
If like most normal people it takes you more strokes than the assigned par then you are so many ‘over par’.
So if you finish a par-three hole in seven strokes then you can say ‘I’m four-over par for that hole, is it time to retreat to the bar yet?’
What is a bogey?
I know this is probably the first time you’ve heard this word since you were about five, but this is actually a serious golf thing so try not to laugh.
Bogey means that a golfer has made a score of one-over par on an individual hole. So basically it’s a bad thing, and anyone who makes one won’t be too happy about it.
What is a birdie?
On the other hand a birdie is a good thing. This isn’t the singer with the sweet voice and great Skinny Love cover, but when a golfer gets a score of one-under par
What is an eagle?
Continuing with the theme of feathered friends, an eagle is when a golfer gets a score of two-under par.
What is an albatross?
Again following the theme of the more bad-ass the bird, the better the score, an albatross (or a double eagle) is when a golfer scores three-under par on a hole.