About Humana

Understanding the language of golf

As with most sports, golf uses a wide range of unique terminology. A beginning golfer may have a difficult time understanding the differences between a birdie and an eagle, but confusion about these and many other golf terms will lessen as experience with golfing grows.


The goal of golf is to hit a golf ball into a small hole in as few strokes as possible. A golf course typically consists of 18 holes, but there are some that have more or less, usually in multiples of 9 holes. The term "stroke" refers to any time a ball is advanced by being struck with a golf club—the golfer's primary piece of equipment. Some circumstances require that golfers be charged with a stroke even if they have not swung a club - this is referred to as a penalty stroke.


The number of strokes that it "should" take for a golfer to sink the ball on any given hole is referred to as par. A hole can be par 3, 4, or 5, depending on the distance from the tee to the hole. If the golfer finishes a hole with one fewer stroke than par, it is referred to as a birdie; two under par is called an eagle. Example: if on a par 5, a golfer takes four strokes to finish the hole, he or she has officially earned a birdie on that hole. If he finishes the hole using the amount of strokes designated on a hole, then he is said to have "made par."

Hole in one

A rare occurrence in golf is the hole-in-one, usually achieved on par 3 holes, where it only takes one stroke for the golfer to put the ball in the hole.


One over par is called a bogie; two over par, a double bogie; and three over, a triple bogie. After that, a player is said to have made however many strokes over par that it took them to get to the hole - a score of 10 on a par 3 hole is referred to as "seven over par."

The course

The "tee box," is the area at the start of a hole from which the initial golf shot is hit.

The "fairway," is the stretch of land between the tee box and the green.

The difficulty of any hole can be increased by making the fairway turn to the left or right on the way to the hole and these fairways are referred to as "dogleg lefts" and "dogleg rights," respectively.

The hole itself is located on a green, which has shorter grass than the rest of the hole, as well as a flagstick, complete with flag, that is placed in the hole so that golfers can see it from a distance.

Places to avoid on the course are the rough, which is any area that is not the fairway or green, and traps, which can be made of water or sand.


There are also many terms that refer to golf equipment. A tee is a small spike that the golf ball rests on before the golfer hits his or her first stroke—the use of a tee is not required. On longer holes, this first stroke is usually taken with a wood. A wood is a golf club that has a large head made from one of any number of lightweight materials. It is designed to hit the golf ball long distances.

Who is Eugene Carner?

Eugene Carner was born in Atlanta, grew up in Scottsville, Ky. and graduated from Western Kentucky University. His wife Colleen and their four daughters now live in Louisville, Ky. He is the Director of Community Involvement at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church.

He has played golf for more than 45 years. Beginning with a full golf scholarship, he played on a college team and still has the fever for the game. He watches golf, reads about golf, talks about golf with anyone who will listen and even plays golf when he can find the time.

Article written by Eugene Carner