What Do Golfers Mean by "Pin High" and "Hole High"?

A golf ball on green next to the flagstick

Tim Clayton/Corbis / Getty Images

"Pin high" and "hole high" are terms that describe the depth at which a golfer places his or her approach shot on or near the green. Hitting it pin high or hole high means your ball traveled the correct distance to reach the hole but not the precise direction. 

Pin high and hole high mean exactly the same thing. In theory, golfers could also use "flag high" or "flagstick high," which would be proper terminology, but those terms never gained acceptance. Technically, the pole with the flag that indicates the location of the hole is called the "flagstick," although golfers commonly refer to it as the "pin," a term not found in the official rules of golf.

Hitting It Pin High

Picture the putting surface from front to back; pin high or hole high means your ball comes to rest even with the pin, or flagstick. You didn't leave the ball short and you didn't hit it long—your shot was pin high.

Pin high is often used as a kind of consolation when a golfer's direction is off. For example, your ball winds up well right or well left of the flag, but "at least you're pin high." The ball could be pin high but in a greenside bunker—not a good place to be. Or it could be pin high just 2 feet to the right of the hole, leaving an easy birdie putt.

Hole High Doesn't Indicate the Specific Depth of a Shot

If you hit the green, the terms pin high and hole high by themselves don't tell you anything about where on the green—front, middle or back—your ball is sitting, or even whether it is left or right of the hole. The terms only indicate that your ball is sitting level with the flagstick. It takes knowing whether the hole is cut in the front, middle or back to know the specific depth of your approach shot.

Technology now helps golfers dial in the distance to the hole. Handheld GPS devices, GPS watches, cart-installed GPS units, mobile phone apps, and portable rangefinders are all common tools of the modern game that provide the distance to the hole or a specific location on the green. No longer do golfers have to pace off the distance from the 100- or 150-yard markers to get their shots to hole high.

If you play in a tournament, you may receive a hole location or "pin sheet" that shows you the depth and width of the green as well as the exact location of the hole. With that information and a bit of skill, you may find yourself pin high with a tap-in putt, or maybe even the elusive hole in one.