Golf Jargon

Don’t Shank Your Mulligan: A Guide To Golf Lingo

Few games have inspired as much joy—or as much rage—as golf. And it’s not just the game that’s challenging—its terminology can be downright befuddling.

Here’s a glossary of common golfing jargon to help you out as you hit the links this summer. It might not improve your game, but at least you’ll be able to impress your friends.


Bogey is a term used for one stroke over par. Bogeys come in a variety of forms—double bogeys are two strokes over par, triple bogeys are three strokes over par, and so on. The term originated in England.


Also known as a hole-in-one, an ace is a hole completed in a single stroke. These are most common on par 3 holes, which are the shortest holes on a golf course.


A birdie is a hole completed one stroke under par. This term originated in the United States in the late 1800s, when people commonly used “bird” to describe anything that was really good.


An eagle is another Americanism for a hole completed two strokes under par. Some say this term became popular because eagles are larger and more majestic than mere “birdies,” while others say it’s because eagles are rarer.


An albatross is—you guessed it—a term for three under par. Like the bird itself, achieving an albatross in golf is rare indeed.


Keeping with the bird theme, condors are holes-in-one achieved on par 5 holes (i.e., four under par). These are exceptionally rare, but usually occur when a golfer “cuts the corner” on a dogleg by hitting the ball directly over brush or woods. If you actually manage to accomplish this highly improbable feat, we recommend putting your clubs away and leaving the golf course immediately. You’ve already achieved the ultimate in golfing greatness—time for a new challenge.


If you’ve ever played a friendly game of golf, chances are you’ve taken—or at least been sorely tempted to take—a mulligan, or a do-over shot. The precise origins of this term remain unclear, but the popular belief is that a Canadian golfer named David Mulligan became fond of taking “correction” shots in the 1920s. His golf buddies took to calling these do-overs Mulligans, in his honor.


Arguably the most dreaded term in golf, a shank occurs when a player strikes a golf ball with the hosel of a club—the area where the shaft is joined to the club head. This usually results in the ball careening off at a wild angle. Shanks are so dreaded and feared that superstition precludes many golfers from even speaking the world aloud on a golf course.

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  1. Tex says,

    Very nice article. Now I live in West Central Florida and here’s a truly “Floridian” Hole-in-One for you. Played a nice little Executive course one day and on the 16th hole, a par 3, I made the weirdest Hole-in-One. Set up: To the left of the green is a sand trap, then a large live oak tree, then a small lake. To the right of the green is another sand trap, then the cart path, then some pine trees, then some houses. (Ya people really live that close to some greens down here.)
    I know there’s a couple of Alligators in the lake as in most lakes down here but they normally don’t care about us golfers unless we menace them, and we don’t!
    I had the wind from the right so I figured I’ll aim a little extra to the right and I would be on green as usual. When I hit the ball the wind died and my ball went straight into someones back yard flowerbed.
    No big deal. I teed up a new ball and aimed straight for the green this time. Just as I hit the ball the wind came back from the right and slightly towards me (ain’t golf a fantastic game?!?). I figured my ball would either end up in the lake or if I was lucky, on the fringe between the lake and the tree.
    I see my ball bounce on the left side of the fairway just short of the left sand trap. This one should stop on the fringe in the shadow under the oak tree. BUT as I look over to the shadow I see one of the gators is taking a nap right there in the shadow with his mouth wide open as they tend to do. After bouncing once on the fairway short of the sand trap my ball bounced once more to the left of the sand trap and landed right in the mouth of the gator. What are the odds for something like that?
    Unbelievable I know but that’s where my ball came to rest: in the gators gaping mouth.
    He promptly closed his mouth and crawled back into the lake and I took a second Mulligan knowing that I had just made the most crazy Hole-in-One in my life.
    The final result of that hole?
    Well my third ball landed tree feet behind the pin, rolled another foot or so and, since the back of the green is slightly higher than the front, it rolled back to about a foot from the pin for an easy birdie put. But in my book it will always be a “Gator-in-One.

  2. Paul says,

    I have had several rounds of golf in which I have strung several condors together. I actually have had many rounds of golf in which I have strung holes in one, eagles and condors with the ball fly directly into the cup on a par 5 17th hole with such energy that after circling the inside of the cup for 3 seconds (the required time according to the USGA rule 106E) came out, shot off the flagstick, and landed in the cup at the 18th. The long and short of it is, I have played several rounds of golf with a final score of 17. And these are regulation courses with USGA par 72 rating. Paul

  3. G.B. Young says,

    • A bunker, like in World War II. Also called a sand trap as if there’s no way out.

    • A sandy par and sandy birdie. That’s when you get a par or birdie on a hole after hitting out of a bunker. A sandy eagle is also possible.

  4. Phil Infurna says,

    You missed “sandy” which is the act of achieving par on a hole after having been in a sand trap on the same hole.

    Since you included mulligan, you should include “gimme” which is a remaining putt that is so close to the cup that your opponent concedes the putt as made, and allows you to pick up the ball.

  5. Don Belcourt says,

    Lowest 18 hole score – 70 at Portland golf course on Bartlett street in Portland Ct. – par for the course 71. Had a hole in one on the par 4 fifth hole on June 8th 1981. A day I’ll never forget. I shot 30 on the front 9 which was 5 under par.

  6. John L Perry says,

    Best score ever for eighteen holes (one round), accomplished only several times, was 69
    on a par 72.

  7. Jack K says,

    Gary’s right. I’d add that the more modern term (albeit sexist) for an 8 is an “octomom”.
    My best score is an 84. I have a 17 handicap. My golf nick name is “The Bogeyman”.

  8. Gary Freed says,

    You missed a Snowman, which is a score of an eight because the number eight (“8”) looks like a snowman.