Golf can seem overwhelming for beginners. From birdies to handicaps, bogies to eagles, you may feel like you need to learn a completely new language just to get started. Our beginner's guide to golf contains all you need to know, including a golfing terminology glossary, as well as explanations on how to play golf, the best golf betting strategies to help you turn a profit, and more!
Need-to-Know Golf Terms
If you're entering the sport of golf as a beginner, rest assured that you'll pick up plenty of skills and knowledge along the way as you play. However, there are a number of golf terms you should be acquainted with before going to the first hole. We’ll run through some important golf terms below.
Basic Golf Terms – Scoring
Par: The number of strokes the player is expected to make in order to complete one hole of golf. For instance, if the hole is classed as a par-3, that means you should complete it in three strokes. The par score for most 18-hole courses varies between 68 and 72.
Birdie: When the player scores one below the par score on any particular hole.
Eagle: When the player scores two below the par score on any particular hole.
Albatross (or Double Eagle): When the player scores three below the par score on any particular hole. This is only possible on par-5 holes, and, in rare instances, par-6 holes.
Hole-in-One: When the player completes any given hole in one shot. These most commonly occur on par-3 holes.
Bogey: When the player scores one above the par score on any particular hole.
Double Bogey: When the player scores two above the par score on any particular hole.
Triple Bogey: When the player scores three above the par score on any particular hole.
Handicap: A system based on how many shots a player requires on average to complete the course. For instance, if a player completes the course in five strokes over the par score for that course, they would have a handicap of five. This system is used mainly in amateur play.
Basic Golf Terms – Play
Teeing Ground: The starting position for each hole of golf. Players use a “tee” – a small peg placed under the ball – in order to lift the ball off the ground and keep it stable before it is struck.
Fore: The word that, under common courtesy, must be audibly shouted to warn a crowd, gathering of people, or other players that your ball is heading towards them once struck.
Lie: The location of the golf ball when it stops.
Unplayable Lie: When the ball lands in a location that you cannot play from, such as against a boundary fence.
Fairway: An area of short grass, generally coloured light green, that is the perfect position for your ball to land in. Because the grass is so short, and the lie is good, it's the easiest place from which to strike the ball for your next shot.
Fringe: The area of darker-coloured grass that's slightly higher than the fairway, and is positioned around its wide perimeter. It's slightly trickier to play your next shot from here than from the fairway, but still allows for relatively easy access.
Rough: The area of grass surrounding the fringe. The rough is normally longer and can inhibit the player when approaching their next shot. Playing out of the rough can occasionally require a shorter driver or iron, with intermediate and deep rough providing different levels of difficulty.
Green: The area where the hole and flag are both positioned. Hitting a “green in regulation” gives you the best chance of being able to putt the ball.
Putt: The shot taken when using your putter while attempting to shoot the ball into the hole.
Out of Bounds: An area of the course from which players are barred from taking shots. If the ball lands in this area, they must take a drop shot, or can re-tee if the ball has been hit out of bounds from the tee shot, with a one-stroke penalty.
Drop Shot: When the ball is dropped into a “relief area” – around one to two club lengths away from the previous shot – if the player has hit the ball out of bounds or has encountered an unplayable lie. A drop shot incurs a one-stroke penalty.
Basic Golf Terms – Clubs
Driver: The golf club that can hit the ball the furthest. Generally used for shots in excess of 200 yards.
Iron: The golf club generally used to approach the green, or to get out of rough patches. Types of irons range from numbers 9 down to 1, with the higher numbers required for the longer shots.
Putter: The club used to putt the ball into the hole. Technologically, putters have evolved over the years, allowing for different, personalised grips.
How Does Golf Work?
The sole aim of golf is to hit a ball into the hole in as few strokes as possible, so as to reach the lowest possible par score for the course. Each hole has a par score preset based on its length, difficulty, and terrain, and each has different challenges for a player to face.
In the men’s PGA Tour and women’s LPGA Tour – the two main tours for professional golfers – most tournaments take place over three to four 18-hole rounds, normally played between Thursdays and Sundays. Other events take the form of matchplay, which involves three or four players playing against each other.
Once the player has reached the tee, they use a series of drivers and/or irons in an attempt to land the ball on the green. From there, they will putt the ball into the hole. Each putting green has different characteristics – they are rarely completely flat, and require the player to “read” the green, that is, assess how the ball will spin and curve on it, before they putt, to achieve the best results.
There are numerous external factors that can present challenges to the player, including weather and foliage. In high winds, the ball tends to curve more sharply once it has been struck, making it harder to land on the fairway or green. Putting is also more difficult.
There are two main types of golfers: professional and amateur. Professionals consistently hit lower scores, and generally can hit drives over a longer distance, allowing them to reach the green in fewer shots.
Golf Betting Tips for Beginners
For golf betting beginners, the most important thing to do is to research any internal or external variable that could have an impact on the winner of the tournament.
The first variable is the players themselves. Some players will have a certain affinity to a particular course, almost always performing well there. For instance, when betting on the US Open, you would note that Brooks Koepka has finished as either winner or runner-up on three of the last four occasions the tournament has been held, so will likely be near the front of the field again.
Player form is also a variable to check. While many players in the current PGA Tour field were major winners in the past, making them attractive options to bet on in a straight winner market, their form book might suggest it would be an uphill struggle for them. On the flip side, those in good form will generally receive plenty of media coverage or hype, but as a general rule, you shouldn't bet on a player to win solely on these merits; rather, follow the same technique of completing full and proper research on the player. Namely, consider whether their game suits the course, how the weather conditions will affect their game, and whether their good form can translate effectively to this event.
The weather is a major factor. Each player is different, and will perform better or worse depending on the conditions that face them, although scores are generally higher across the board for all competitors in poor conditions. Make sure you don’t take an upcoming forecast as gospel; rather, use it as a guide, since the forecast could change, bringing different players into play as the weekend develops.
If you think you're ready to handle more specific betting tips, here's an extensive list of tips and predictions for all the major golf tournaments in the UK and the rest of the world:
- President's Cup
- Wells Fargo
- Honda Classic
- RBC Heritage
- Charles Schwab Challenge
- Andalucia Masters
- Genesis Open
- Dubai Desert Classic
- Valspar Championship
- Waste Management
- Pebble Bach
- Arnold Palmer
- WGC Mexico
- The Players Championships
- WGC Dell Technologies
- US Masters
- Byron Nelson
- The Memorial
- FedEx St Jude Invitational
- The Travelers Championship
- The Open Championship
- Scottish Open
- PGA Championship
- BMW PGA Championship
- BMW Championship
- Wyndham Championship
- The Northern Trust Open
- US Open
- Porsche European Open
- Shriner's Hospitals Open
- Alfred Dunhill Links Championship
- KLM Open
- Ryder Cup
- Italian Open
- WGC HSBC Champions
- Sony Open In Hawaii
- DP World Tour Championship
- Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship
Beginners Guide to Playing Golf
If learning about golf terms has made you want to get out on the field for yourself, here are some top golf beginner tips to get you started.
How to Hold a Golf Club
When learning how to grip your club, as a general rule, place your weaker hand on the top grip of the club, with your dominant hand resting below.
From there, it’s important to grip the club tightly with your fingers, focusing on the upper and lower points of the club. The rest of the hand should rest more loosely on the club, giving you the ability to manipulate the rotation of the club and its direction as it heads towards the ball. On contact, you should look to hit the ball square on the club face.
How Do I Improve My Golf Swing?
If you’ve ever looked on, astonished, as professional golfers on television consistently hit drives of over 300 yards, you wouldn't be alone in that respect. The accuracy of a long drive relies primarily on the player's golf swing. It's important to note that even the top players spend many years perfecting their swing; it's not something that always comes naturally.
The key to the golf swing is how the player addresses the ball before playing the shot, and the way in which they grip the golf club. One key point to take note of is the action of turning your shoulders and hips back as you begin the swing movement, in order to generate enough speed to strike the ball cleanly as you return.
Golf Terms FAQs
To mark a scorecard correctly, you have to ensure that key pieces of information are present, including your name, the date, the player handicap (if available), the score, and the player/marker signature (as required). For competition play, you need to tick the par and tee box and include the competition name, or else the card may not be valid.
In order to obtain a golf handicap, you need to have recorded a total of 20 scores. From there, your handicap index is recorded as an average of your best eight scores.
Golfing rules were changed in 2019, redefining the traditional ‘water hazard‘ (hitting the ball, irretrievably, into the water) into the new ‘penalty area‘. If the player hits their ball into one of these penalty areas, they can take a relief option based on where the ball has landed, and incur a penalty.
If a player misses the cut after two rounds of a professional or amateur golf competition, it means they can't compete in the final rounds, and will be marked as a losing bet on your winner/each-way betting slip. The score that is required in order to make the cut differs from tournament to tournament.
ThePuntersPage Final Say
Many golf tips and tricks can be learned out on the course, but it’s good to have a sound knowledge of the rules and basic golf terms before heading out onto the first tee. Golf betting is never easy – with PGA Tour fields often containing over 100 players, narrowing those numbers down to one sole winner can be a challenge. We advise doing your research, learning about the course, and checking up on the form of each player. That way, you're putting yourself in the best possible position of making successful bets on tournament play.