The Different Meanings of the Term "Cut" in Golf

For golfers, "cut" is a multi-purpose word

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"Cut" has several meanings in golf including the reduction of a tournament field; a shot that is a controlled fade; the position of the hole on the green; and the gradation of rough. For golfers, "cut" is a multi-purpose word! So let's look at each usage, in turn, starting with golf tournament cuts.

The 'Cut' In Golf Tournaments

The "cut" in a tournament is the elimination of, typically, the lower half of a stroke-play field at the midpoint of the tournament or after 36 holes. The term comes from the fact that the number of golfers in the tournament is being cut in half (roughly) or at least trimmed by a significant number.

Those golfers who continue playing following the cut have made the cut; those who don't advance and don't continue playing have missed the cut. The "cut line" is the specific score -- for example, 147, or 3-over-par -- below which golfers miss the cut.

Tournaments and tours set their own cut rules, so the cut rules can vary from event to event and tour to tour. For the cut policies at the four majors, see:

There are also separate policies for the PGA Tour cut rule. And note that the cut typically (but not always) used in full-field European Tour events is Top 65 plus ties, and the cut typically (but not always) used in full-field LPGA Tour events is Top 70 plus ties.

Playing a 'Cut' Shot

A second way golfers use the term "cut" is to describe a particular type of golf shot: When a golfer intentionally plays a fade shot, it is called a "cut shot." A fade curves gently to the right for a right-handed golfer, to the left for a left-handed golfer.

In this meaning, "cut" can be a noun (the shot itself: "I played a cut") or a verb ("He needs to cut this one around the tree limbs").

The 'Cut' of the Golf Hole

"Cut" can also refer to the positioning of the cup or hole on the putting green. For example, "the hole is cut on the front-left portion of the green." This meaning derives from the hole-cutting tool used to remove the turf and sod where the cup is to be placed.

Another related usage is when a putt drops into the very center of the hole: "That putt was center cut." ("Center cut" can also refer to a hole that is cut in the center of the green.)

The 'Cut' of Rough

And finally, "cut" can refer to gradations in the height of the rough -- first cut, second cut and so on. The "first cut of rough" is that directly adjacent to the fairway, and is the rough that is lowest in height.

A golf course won't necessarily have multiple "cuts of rough," but those that do will step up the rough height as you move farther off the fairway. And that results in a first cut, a second cut, and perhaps even a third cut of rough.