Explaining the Different Meanings of 'Hole' in Golf

Golf ball near hole
By Dan Perry (Makray Memorial Golf Club, Barrington, Illinois) [ CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The term "hole" has several meanings in a golf context. It can refer to the hole in the ground on the putting green; to the whole hole, from tee to green; or, used as a verb, "hole" or "to hole" means to get the golf ball into the hole on the green. That's the object of the game. If you "hole a putt," you have made your putt — rolled it into the cup.

'Hole' Defined in the Rule Book

Here is the official definition of "hole" as it appears in the Rules of Golf, as written by the USGA/R&A:

The finishing point on the putting green for the hole being played:
*The hole must be 4 ¼ inches (108 mm) in diameter and at least 4 inches (101.6 mm) deep.
*If a lining is used, its outer diameter must not exceed 4 ¼ inches (108 mm). The lining must be sunk at least 1 inch (25.4 mm) below the putting green surface, unless the nature of the soil requires that it be closer to the surface.
The word “hole” (when not used as a Definition in italics) is used throughout the Rules to mean the part of the course associated with a particular teeing area, putting green and hole. Play of a hole begins from the teeing area and ends when the ball is holed on the putting green (or when the Rules otherwise say the hole is completed).

How Golfers Use 'Hole' as a Noun

"Hole" can refer to two different things when used as a noun:

1. The point on the green where the flagstick stands and where turf and sod have been removed to create the "hole" into which the player putts. In other words, the hole is literally the hole in the putting green.

The hole on the green is 4.25 inches in diameter and is at least four inches deep according to the rules.

2. One of the units of play on a golf course: That area from the teeing ground, down the fairway and to the putting green constitutes one hole. There are 18 such holes on a regulation golf course.

Also Known As: Cup is a synonym for hole as a noun in the No. 1 usage above.

Examples: As nouns: 1. Julian hit his putt right into the hole on the second green. 2. Kalisha is now playing Hole No. 4.

As a verb: Tiger Woods really needs to hole this putt. Or: She holed her putt to make a birdie.