What Is a Wormburner in Golf?

The slang term describes a type of (usually mis-hit) golf shot

Comical depiction of a wormburner golf shot
Now that is a wormburner!. artychoke98/DigitalVision Vectors/Getty Images

"Wormburner" is a golf slang term applied to a shot in which the golf ball barely gets off the ground - or doesn't get off the ground at all. A wormburner might really be scorched and, if the golf course being played has firm ground that promotes roll, might even result in decent distance.

But they are often ugly shots. And pity those poor worms in the ground who can't even stick their heads up for fear of getting hit by the golf ball.

(We've seen the term spelled as two words - "worm burner" - and hyphenated - "worm-burner" - in addition to the one-word spelling we use here.)

Does 'Wormburner' Imply a Bad Shot?

While "wormburner" is usually applied, by recreational golfers, to bad shots or mis-hits - "Nice wormburner, pal!" followed by laughter among your group - that isn't always the case.

In recent times we've started hearing the term used by a few better golfers as a synonym for a stinger or punch shot - a shot where the golfer is intentionally playing for a low trajectory. But this isn't all that common.

Why would a golfer good enough to do it intentionally hit a very low shot where the ball doesn't get far off the ground? To keep the ball out of strong winds is one reason; another is to create a lot of roll-out on very firm fairways.

As for the more common usage of wormburner as a comical description of poor shot: Unintentionally hitting a low screamer is usually the result of hitting the ball very thin. That means the leading edge of the club makes contact somewhere around the middle of the ball. A sorry looking wormburner can also result from topping the ball.

Who Invented 'Wormburner'?

OxfordDictionaries.com says the term's earliest appearance in media is a newspaper reference from the early 1960s, and says the sport of golf is where it originated.

Other dictionaries, though, claim "wormburner" originated in baseball, where its definition is a scorching fast ground ball hit by a batter.

It's certainly impossible to say who invented the term, regardless of which sport it arose in.

However, we can say who bears much of the responsibility for popularizing the term among golfers: Jimmy Demaret.

Demaret was a 3-time Masters champion and is a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame. Once his playing days - mostly the 1940s and 1950s - were over, Demaret started working on television in golf broadcasts. Always a very colorful player, Demaret became a very colorful broadcaster.

And that "color" included the use of many slang terms. Among the words now common in golf that Demaret first used before a wide audience was "frog hair." And "wormburner" was another.

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