A golf course has 18 holes. Your goal is to use the least amount of strokes to put the ball in the hole.
The manner in which you get the golf ball into the hole (drive, putt, pitch, sand save, etc.)
The first stroke you take from the tee box (the nice little patch of grass where you can stick your tee in the ground, pop your ball on top of it and let it fly). Sometimes you use a driver, which is your biggest club, and you take a huge swing and try to get the ball as far down the course and as close to the hole as possible. Smash that ball!
Basically you hit the ball and it goes wayyyyy off to the opposite side of your natural swing. This can happen when you haven’t perfected your swing and swipe across the ball when you hit it, putting a spin on it that causes it to go off your desired path.
The hook is the opposite of a slice. For a right-handed golfer, a hook will make the ball go a bit too far to the left.
Making the cut
In professional tournaments, there are four rounds of golf generally played from Thursday to Sunday. However, after the first two rounds, there is a “cut” so that only the top players move on. Generally, it’s only the top 50-70 golfers (including ties) that move on to play the full weekend.
When you’re on the green, just use your putter and tap, tap, tap it in. Though, that's easier said than done.
Green / putting green
The green is the nice patch of very closely trimmed grass on relatively even, smooth ground surrounding the hole. Sometimes the green can be uneven which is why you’ll see golfers crouching down and having chats with their caddy to figure out which way the ground slants so that they can adjust their aim.
The guy/gal who carries your clubs all day and gives you advice on how to shoot. TBH we could use someone following us around all day, carrying our copious amounts of bags and giving us life advice. Any takers?
The area between the tee box and the putting green where the grass is cut even and reasonably short. Usually you try to drive your ball somewhere onto the fairway, and then eventually work the ball onto the green from there (in an ideal world this is what you do…but in practice this doesn’t always happen).
The area between the fairway and out-of-bounds. The grass here is cut higher and it’s harder to hit a good ball out of it. If you hit your ball in the rough, don’t be too discouraged — it’s still better than hitting it in the water or a trap (see below).
Bunker or sand trap
Small to medium sized areas, usually lower than the fairway, that are filled with sand. It’s harder to hit the ball from sand so you typically want to avoid these. If not, grab a lawn chair and a towel and post up for some serious tanning.
If you hit the ball into an area from which you can’t play the ball (think into a pond, into a dense forest etc.) or don’t want to play the ball (near an alligator), you can drop a ball inbound and take your shot from there but you get a penalty stroke (plus 1!) as a result. So maybe you should just cozy up to that alligator and get it over with.
Each hole is assigned the number of strokes it should take to finish. This is called par.
A birdie is when it takes you one less stroke than par to complete a hole, which is awesome. If this happens to you, you should be very excited and do a little dance or fist pump afterward.
An eagle is when it takes you two less strokes than par to complete a hole. This is extremely impressive. You go Glen Coco.
Golfers just love using different birds as scoring mechanisms. An albatross is when a player gets three strokes under par. This can really only happen on a par-4 or par-5 hole. If it was a par-3, it would just be a hole-in-one.
You get the ball in the hole in one shot! The chances that an average golfer gets a hole in one is 12,500 to one.
A bogey is when it takes you one more stroke than par to complete a hole. Not ideal, but also not the worst thing that can happen. That might be a double bogey (two strokes above par), a triple bogey (three strokes above), a quad bogey (four strokes above)…you get the picture.
This is a golfer who can, on a regular basis, complete a round at par (i.e. complete each hole at par or have their birdies and bogeys even out so that overall, the round is at par).
Unlike a scratch golfer, others will play rounds where it regularly takes more strokes than par to complete a hole. These people will receive a handicap. Your handicap becomes a measure of your ability to play. In tournaments you should play against someone with a similar handicap so that Tiger Woods isn’t matched with Joe Schmoe because let’s be honest, that would be kind of unfair and probably pretty discouraging for Joe.
Front nine & back nine
Literally just a fancy way of saying the first nine holes and the last nine holes of an 18-hole golf course.
When you’re a pro and you’re walking into the 18th hole, there’s normally a set of large stands for the fans to sit in (normally fans stand along the back and sides of the green). These are called the grandstands. People get super hyped when the winner of the tournament is coming in to play their final hole.
PGA & LPGA Tour
Professional Golf Association and Ladies Professional Golf Association — the organizers of the main professional golf tournaments.
The Green Jacket is presented to the winner of the Masters, the most prestigious men’s golf tournament. It’s a BFD.
Fun fact: the jacket presented to the winner after the final hole is taken from a club member (who already has a jacket) with a similar build to the winner and is returned after the ceremony, while a tailored version is prepared and presented to the champion at a later date.
Yelled as a warning to innocent golfers or bystanders when it looks like the ball is coming straight at them and they should probably get out of the way and fast. Basically, "fore" is the equivalent of yelling "WATCH OUT" or "GET OUTTA THE WAY!" If you’re an inexperienced golfer you may find yourself using this term a lot.
If the tournament is tied at the end of the 18 holes, there’s playoff holes — one extra hole (or if needed, two, three, four, etc.) to determine the winner.
The fancy building where the change room, restaurant and pro shop is. Also known as the hub where people meet to drink away their sorrows after a terrible round of golf.