Golf Dictionary - What golf terms really mean


S-word Ssssssh! This is a very bad word in golf. A shank is a shot that flies ninety degrees to the right after the ball has been struck with the club's hosel. So devastating is this affliction that if you get the shanks, the best thing to do is leave the course immediately and seek professional help— from your bartender.

Sand Trap - A deep depression filled with sand filled with golfers in a deep depression.

Sandbagger A golfer who falsely posts high scores in order to inflate his handicap, thereby making him more difficult to defeat in matches. This is serious cheating. Also known as a ringer.

Sandy When you escape from a bunker to make birdie or par, you've made a sandy. One of many junk bets golfers make during a match. ,

Scats A betting game in which all the members of a group play against each other for a predetermined amount on each hole. Ties carry over to the next hole.

Sclaff - Onomatopoetic Scottish word for a flubbed shot in which the ground is contacted before the ball is hit. The game's Celtic inventors had plenty of time to develop a rich vocabulary for golfing mishaps, such as a ball topped lightly into the water (firkel), a ball hit a short distance through dense grass (glef f ), straight into the air (pooth), into the woods (slessgrack), into rocks (lofonnock) and into other players (yebastard).

Score - The total number of strokes needed to complete 18 holes or three times the caddy's tip, whichever is closest to 75.

Scorecard - A piece of paper on which a player's opening offer is written prior to the commencement of serious negotiations.

Scrambler A golfer who plays somewhat erratically but manages to salvage good scores from inconsistent play. A scramble refers to a golf competition in which each of four players on a team hits a tee shot and picks a best ball, then plays a second shot from that spot. The team continues to pick a best ball and play from that spot until a shot is holed.

Scrape it around To play spotty or inconsistent golf but still manage to post a good score. Great pros like Jack Nicklaus stay in tournament contention by scraping it around on days when they don't have their A game.

Scratch Term to describe a golfer who has a zero handicap; that is, he is starting from scratch. Dream on.

Scratch Player - A player with a handicap of zero; a par golfer; a rat; a louse; a stinker.

Scuff A lousy shot that results from hitting the ground before hitting the ball. (See also fat, hit it.}

Senior - A golfer who attributes poor play to the fact that he or she lacks the physique of a younger player. See JUNIOR.

Set of Clubs - A collection of no more than 14 golf clubs, usually consisting of three or four woods, nine or ten irons, and a putter. The chief distinction among the types of clubs is that the woods make a sound like "speck" or "frop" when the ball is improperly hit, whereas the irons emit a sharp "jink," "fank" or "whenng" and the putter produces a soft "tilk."

Set them up What you do when you improve your lie in the fairway. Also what you ask the bartender to do after you've taken money from your archrival. (See also roll it.)

Shag - To retrieve golf balls. Golf is full of odd terms and expressions. After hitting a 5-iron shot right onto the green, for example, you might answer an opponent's question about what club you used by saying, "The stick I used was a 7iron"; when citing a nonexistent rule to improve your lie, you might say, "I'm claiming relief from this lie under the rule covering tassleclots"; and after scoring a 6 on a hole, the right way to report your tally is to say, "I carded a five."

Shag hag Any container used by a golfer to hold practice balls.

Shank - The most dramatic and unsettling form of misplayed shot, in which, as the clubshaft vibrates violently, the ball flies off to the right at nearly a 90° angle, embarrassing the golfer and endangering his or her fellow players. Duffers who consistently shank their balls are urged to buy and study Shanks-No Thanks by R. K. Hoffman or, in extreme cases, M. S. Howard's excellent Tennis for Beginners.

Shape it To curve a shot intentionally to fit the hole. Corey Pavin is the absolute best at this.

Shooting the lights out Hitting all the shots and making low scores.

Short Game - The short shots played around the green (chips, putts, pitches and sand trap blasts) and the cheap shots taken between the green and the next tee (quips, digs, cracks, slams and jests).

Short grass Where you are when you hit the fairway with your drive.

Short hole Term used to describe any par three.

Short stick The putter, so named because it's the shortest club in the bag. You can make up for a lot of bad work with other sticks if you can handle the short stick.

Shotgun start Some tournaments station players on each tee to start a round so that they can all finish at roughly the same time. This is called a shotgun start because the beginning of play was once signalled by a shotgun blast. Now they use a horn to signal the beginning of play—it's a lot safer.

Side Each nine holes—front and back. Also each team in a competition.

Sitter Term for a ball sitting atop the grass in the rough. Pray for a sitter when you see your tee shot heading for trouble.

Skull - To hit the upper part of the ball, causing a fast, low driving shot. You might try hitting slightly more under the ball with a sweeping movement of the arms.

Sky - To hit too far under the ball, causing a high, ballooning shot. You might try using your hands to open up the clubface a bit.

Slam-dunk To hit the ball into the hole with great force. This usually happens when a putt or chip that is moving much faster than the ideal speed slams into the back of the cup, pops into the air, and falls into the hole.

Slice - To hit the ball with too open a clubface. You might try closing it up a little.

Slice A shot that curves to the right. The most common fault of amateur golfers, generally caused by an open club face at impact.

Slick Term used to describe fast greens.

Slider A putt that breaks slightly and subtly in either direction. Also a low, hard left-to-right shot. Fred Couples hits lots of sliders off the tee.

Smile Balls that are skulled or otherwise mishit often wind up with a cut on their surface that resembles a smile, though you won't be smiling as you reach into your bag for another ball.

Smoked Term for a ball that is hit hard and far.

Smother - To hit the ball with too closed a clubface. You might try opening it back up and hitting more on the upper part of the ball.

Smother hook A hook that flies left and low to the ground, though only for a short distance; it is struck with a severely closed club face.

Snake A long putt that breaks in more than one direction. One of the most famous snakes ever holed was a sixty-footer by Ben Crenshaw on the tenth hole at Augusta National Golf Club during the 1984 Masters Tournament.

Snap hook See duck hook and rope hook.

Sniper See duck hook, rope hook, and snap hook, all names for the same crummy shot.

Snowman A score of eight for a hole, so named because the digit resembles a snowman. Also called lots of unprintable names. (See also Frosty.,)

Sock - To hit someone under the chin or on the lower part of the face with a closed hand driven by a fast, upward-sweeping movement of the arm.

Spin - Professional golfers and other accomplished players can apply a variety of spins to the ball to make it curve around obstacles, turn into the wind or stop dead where it lands. These shots take skill and practice, but most beginners have a bag of tricks, too! For example, even the rankest of amateurs can amaze their playing companions and themselves by making a ball run right across the centre of the hole without going in, rise straight up into the air, execute unbelievably sharp left or right turns, travel sideways or even backwards, or disappear entirely.

Spinach The roughest of the rough. When you were a kid, you hated spinach for the taste. Now, as a mature, open-minded adult golfer, you hate spinach because you can't play a decent shot out of the stuff. (See also cabbage.}

Spraying Term that means your shot pattern is all over the place and your misses are about as predictable as the weather.

Stake it To knock the ball really close to the hole (stake). (See also leaner.)

Stance - The proper positioning of the feet for the golf stroke may seem a fairly complex matter, but there are really only a few basics to master: just remember to put the clubhead behind the ball with your left hand on the grip (some say the right hand), then step forward with your right foot (some say the left foot), bring up your left foot (or right) and grasp the grip with your right hand (or left). Now line up the ball with your left heel, your left toe, the inside of your left foot, or between your feet, with the left foot slightly forward, the right foot slightly forward, or both feet parallel. That's all there is to it!

Stand on it What you do when you swing your hardest, to get maximum distance out of a club.

Stick Short for flagstick Also, a shot that hits and stops quickly is said to stick to the green.

Sticks Your clubs. When your tee shot lands near the hole, your competitor might ask, "What stick did you use?" Then you hold up five fingers to identify the three iron you just hit.

Stiff Term used to describe a ball hit very close to the hole. Also, when a club shaft has very little bend, it is a stiff shaft. And when you don't tip your caddie after the round, you stiff him.

Stoney When a golfer knocks the ball to within gimme range, it is stone dead, or stoney.

Stop the bleeding Finally to make a par or birdie after several less than stellar holes.

Strait Jacket - Confining garment that some golfers have found to be necessary after long periods spent attempting to master the stance.

Striped it To hit a good tee shot.

Stroke - Any forward movement of the club that is made with the intention of hitting and moving the ball and is observed by another golfer.

Stymie - A ball whose path to the hole is blocked by another ball is said to be "stymied," and under current rules the impeding ball is marked and moved. At one time, such shots had to be played by making the ball hop over or curve around the impediment, but a notorious, deliberately laid stymie during extra holes of the 1951 English Amateur Championship led to a modification of the rule, first in Britain and then, a little later, in the U.S. Other important rule changes and the circumstances under which they were made:

LIMIT SET ON TIME SPENT SEARCHING FOR LOST BALL: "The Lang, Lang Combing of the Glen," 14th hole, Loath Links, October 11, 1871-April 8, 1872

UNORTHODOX SWINGS AND CLUBS DISALLOWED: Lacrosse player Francois Foisette wins the Canadian Open, 1899

"ELIGIBLE PLAYER" MORE FULLY DEFINED: Kabu, a chimpanzee, wins the Calcutta Open, 1901

PLAY STRICTLY PROHIBITED FROM LIES BEYOND THE BOUNDARY of A COURSE: "The Mashie Incident," British-Chinese border skirmish, Hong Kong, 1909

FOURTEEN-CLUB MAXIMUM ESTABLISHED: "Relatively Bloody Saturday," the Caddy Strike of 1926

DISCONTINUANCE OF TOURNAMENT PLAY PERMITTED: "The Battle of the Glorious Leg-of-the-Dog 15th," third round of the Spanish Open, Valencia, 1937


PENALTY FOR ACCIDENTALLY KNOCKING BALL OFF TEE Executive Order #l, President Gerald Ford, 1974

Sudden Death - Term for the situation that exists when a match is tied at the end of 18 holes and the player who feels the least amount of confidence about beating the opposition in extra-holes play suddenly remembers the death, earlier in the day, of a beloved aunt.

Suck back A ball that hits the green and then reverses direction due to backspin is said to have sucked back. As far as amateur golfers are concerned, this phrase is useful only as a spectator, since amateurs rarely generate enough back-spin to get a ball to suck back.

Sucker pin A pin that is cut so close to a hazard that only a sucker would fire right at it.

Swing - A full golf swing consists of the backswing that carries the clubhead up to the topswing point, the downswing that brings the clubhead to the point of impact, and the follow through. If the ball dribbles a few feet forward or hooks or slices violently into the woods or rough, the follow-through can be extended into the foresling-a graceful, lateral motion that sends the club spiraling into the underbrush. Alternatively, the follow-through may be stopped and the club brought up sharply in a vertical arc until the clubhead is behind the back, pointing at the ground, then swept smoothly up into the more classic topfling, which combines the power and accuracy necessary to send even the heaviest club into a distant water hazard.

Swing doctor A teaching professional. Consult with caution; often the cure is worse than the disease.

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