Golf Course Terms

Definitions of Golf Course Terms

Our glossary of golf course terms is one part of our larger Glossary of Golf Terms. If you need the definition of golf course term, we explain terms relating to architecture, maintenance, turfgrasses, course setup and other areas.

The grid that appears first includes terms for which we have more in-depth definitions. Click on a link to find the definition. And below that are more golf course terms explained here on the page.

90-Degree Rule
Abnormal Ground Conditions
Alternate Greens
Back Nine
Back Tees
Ball Mark
Blue Tees
Cart Path Only
Casual Water
Championship Tees
Church Pews bunker
Course Furniture
Cross Bunker
Desert Course
Divot Tool Dormant
Double Green
False Front
First Cut
Forced Carry
Golf Club
Ground Under Repair
Heathland Course
Island Green
Ladies Tees
Lateral Water Hazard
Municipal Course
Out of Bounds
Par 3 / Par-3 Hole
Par 4 / Par-4 Hole
Par 5 / Par-5 Hole
Parkland Course Pin Placement
Pitch mark
Pot Bunker
Primary Rough
Private Course
Punchbowl Green
Punched Greens
Red Tees
Redan / Redan Hole
Resort Course
Semi-Private Course
Signature Hole
Stadium Course
Tee Box
Teeing Ground
Warm-Season Grasses
Waste Bunker (or Waste Area)
Water Hazard
White Tees

... and More Golf Course Terms Defined

Alternate Fairway: A second fairway on the same golf hole that gives golfers the option to play to one fairway or the other.

Alternate Tees: A second tee box on the same golf hole. Alternate tees are most common on 9-hole golf courses: Golfers play one set of tee boxes on the first nine holes, then play the "alternate tees" on the second nine, giving a slightly different look to each hole.

Approach Course: Also called a pitch-and-putt. An approach course has holes that often max out at 100 yards in length, and might be as short as 30 or 40 yards, and may lack any designated teeing areas. Good for short-game practice and for beginning golfers.

Bail-Out Area: A landing area on a hole designed to provide a safer alternative to golfers who don't want to attempt the riskier play that some golfers will choose to make on that hole.

Ballmark Tool: A small, two-pronged tool, made of metal or plastic, and used to repair ballmarks (also known as pitch marks) on the putting green. The tool is an essential piece of equipment that every golfer should carry in his or her golf bag. Often mistakenly called a divot tool. See How to Repair Ballmarks on the Green.

Bermudagrass: Name for a family of warm-season turfgrasses commonly used on golf courses in warm, tropical climates. Most common in the southern United States. Tifsport, Tifeagle and Tifdwarf are some of the names of common varieties. Bermudagrasses have thicker blades than bentgrass, resulting in a grainier appearance to putting surfaces.

Burn: A creek, stream or small river that runs through a golf course; the term is most common in Great Britain.

Cape Hole: Today the term typically refers to a hole on a golf course that plays around a large, lateral hazard, and presents a risk-reward tee shot - the option of crossing part of that hazard (or playing around it). The fairway on a cape hole gently curves around the hazard, as opposed to the sharper dogleg style of hole.

Cart Path: The designated route around a golf course that riding golf carts are expected to follow. A cart path is usually paved in concrete or covered in some other surface (such as crushed stone), although some courses have more rudimentary cart paths - ones that are just trails worn down by traffic. See Golf Cart Rules and Etiquette for considerations.

Collection Area: A depression to the side of a green whose positioning, often combined with the contours of the green, result in many approach shots collecting in it. Sometimes called a roll-off area or run-off area.

Cool-Season Grasses: Exactly what the name implies: Varieties of grass that grow best in cooler conditions, as opposed to hotter climates. Golf courses in cooler regions are likely to be turfed with a cool-season grass. And golf courses in warmer locales might use a cool-season grass during winter as an overseed. Some examples of cool-season grasses cited by the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America include colonial bentgrass, creeping bentgrass, Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass, fine fescue and tall fescue.

Course: The Rules of Golf define the "course" as "the entire area in which play is permitted." For a tour of common features on golf courses, see Meet the Golf Course.

Crowned Green: Also called a domed green or turtleback green. See Putting Green definition.

Cup: The hole on the putting green or, in a more specific usage, the (usually plastic) liner-slash-receptacle sunk down into the hole on the putting green.

Daily Fee Course: A golf course that is open to the public but is privately owned and operated (as opposed to a municipal course). Daily fee courses are often (but not always) upscale and try to provide the golfer a "country club for a day"-type experience.

Double Cut Green: "Double cut" is an adjective referring to putting greens; "double cutting" is the verb that refers to the action taken. A "double cut" green is one that has been mowed twice in the same day, usually back-to-back in the morning (although a superintendent may choose to mow once in the morning and once in the late afternoon or evening). The second mowing is usually in a direction perpendicular to the first mowing. Double cutting is one way a golf course superintendant can increase the speed of the putting greens.

Facing: A grassy incline up out of a bunker that slopes in the direction of a putting green.

Finishing Hole: The finishing hole on a golf course is the last hole on that course. If it's an 18-hole course, the finishing hole is Hole No. 18. If it's a 9-hole course, the finishing hole is Hole No. 9. The term can also mean the final hole of a golfer's round, whatever that hole might be.

Footprinting: A trail of footprints left behind where golf course grass has been killed due to walking on turf that is covered in frost or ice.

Front Nine: The first nine holes of an 18-hole golf course (holes 1-9), or the first nine holes of a golfer's round.

Grain: The direction in which the individual blades of grass are growing on a golf course; most commonly applied to putting greens, where the grain can affect putts. A putt struck against the grain will be slower; a putt struck with the grain will be faster. If the grain is running across the line of the putt, it can cause the putt to move in the direction of the grain.

Grass Bunker: A depression or hollowed-out area on the golf course that is filled with grass (usually in the form of thick rough) rather than sand. Although golfers often call these areas grass bunkers they are not, in fact, bunkers or hazards under the Rules of Golf. They are treated like any other grassed area of the golf course. So, for example, grounding a club - which is not allowed in a sand bunker - is OK in a grass bunker.

Heather: Catch-all term applied by golfers to tall, thin grasses that border the primary rough (or in some cases, comprise the primary rough) on a golf course.

Hole Location: Also called "pin placement," this refers either to the specific place on a green where the hole is located (exactly what it sounds like, in other words); or to the multiple areas of a putting green where a superintendent has the option to cut the hole. See How to Read Pin Sheets for more.

Lip: Can refer to a bunker or to the hole cut in the putting green:

  • Bunker lip: A bunker lip is a well-defined edge of sod or turf around the bunker that acts as a rim. A lip requires the golfer to get a ball airborne out of the sand in order to clear the bunker's edge.
  • Hole lip: The rim of the hole on the putting green, its edge, is called the "lip."

Par-6 Hole: A hole on a golf course that is expected to require six strokes for an expert golfer to play. Par-6s are rare on golf courses. But when they exist, the yardage guidelines are effective playing lengths of more than 690 yards for men and more than 575 yards for women.

Pitch-and-Putt: See Approach Course above.

Public Course: Any golf course that primarily serves the general public. For example, municipal courses or daily fee courses.

Routing: Term applied to the path that a golf course follows from its first tee to its 18th green - the specific way the holes are strung together.

Sand Trap: Another name for a bunker. The USGA, R&A and the Rules of Golf only use bunker, never sand trap, which is considered more golfer's lingo.

Split Fairway: A fairway that branches into two separate fairways each approaching the same green. The fairway may be split by a natural feature, such as a creek or ravine. Or the feature that splits the fairway might be manmade, such as a waste bunker, mounding, or simply a long patch of rough.

Striping: A criss-cross or other pattern in the fairway grass visible from above. It is caused when blades of grass are pushed in different directions by the course mowers.

Through Line: An extension of your putting line a couple feet beyond the hole. In other words, if your putted ball rolled over the hole, or just barely missed the hole, and kept rolling a couple feet, the through line is that ball's path. Golfers generally try to avoid stepping on a fellow-competitor's through line just as they would try to avoid another golfer's putting line.

Water Hole: Any hole on a golf course that includes a water hazard on or alongside the hole (in a position where the water can come into play).

Watch Now: How to Properly Grip a Golf Club