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Golf Talk for Beginners

Quick Guide for Beginners

The Basics

Golf has many terms which are unique to the game. Here are a few explanations of some of the words used in golf to help you through your New2Golf Experience:

Hole Scoring
Par – The allocated number of strokes given to each hole and to the full round
Birdie – Scoring one under par on a hole
Eagle – Scoring two under par on a hole
Bogey – Scoring one over par on a hole

Types of Shots
Air shot – When you try to hit the ball and miss
Draw – A shot which curves gently from right to left, when played by a right-handed player. It’s the opposite for left-handers.
Hook – A shot which curves sharply right to left, when played by a right-handed player. It’s the opposite for left-handers.
Fade – A shot which curves gently from left to right, when played by a right-handed player. It’s the opposite for left-handers.
Slice – A shot which curves sharply left to right, when played by a right-handed player. It’s the opposite for left-handers.

Areas on Course
Tee box – The starting point for a hole
Fairway – The well mown grass from tee to green
Rough – Taller grass that lines the fairway
Green – The putting surface on a hole
Water hazard – Any sea, lake, pond, river, ditch, surface drainage ditch or other open water course (doesn’t have to contain water) – defined by yellow stakes or lines
Casual water – A temporary accumulation of water on the course where you may take a free drop
Out of bounds – When your ball goes over a boundary of the course
Handicap – An allowance of strokes allocated to each player based on their ability
Net Score – A player’s score after subtracting their handicap from the gross or actual score
Marker – Someone appointed to record your score

Honour – The right to play first from the teeing ground. It’s determined by the lowest score on the previous hole or on the first tee by the flip of a coin
Lost ball – When you can’t find your ball within five minutes of starting to look for it
Provisional ball – Another ball that is played when you think your ball might have gone out of bounds or is lost.

 Etiquette and Rules

Golf relies on players to keep the rules and follow a code of behaviour known as etiquette.

There are many rules of the game but the basic principle is simple: play the ball as it lies and play the course as you find it.
The Rules of Golf have developed over more than 250 years and are written and revised by the game’s governing bodies, The R&A and the United States Golf Association.

Etiquette is the manner in which the game of golf should be played and if followed, all players will gain maximum enjoyment from the game. It is a mixture of common sense and courtesy and means showing consideration to other golfers and for the course. For example, golfers should take care not to distract fellow players by making a noise or moving while they take their shot. They should also look after the course by, for example, raking bunkers, replacing divots and repairing pitch-marks on the green.

You can find full details of the rules, etiquette and amateur status at R&A. This includes a quick guide to the most commonly used rules and a rules quiz.

Wales Golf also provide pocket rules and etiquette booklets available to order through

Handicaps and Competitions

The Golfing Handicap
The handicap system is a great advantage of playing golf. It means players of all abilities can play and compete together on a level playing field.

The handicap is an allowance of shots per round, based on a player’s ability. Handicaps start at 28 for men and 36 for women and the better the player, the lower their handicap.

At the end of a round each player adds up their total number of shots and deducts their handicap to get their net score. So, if your handicap is 20 and your gross score is 90, your net score is 70. If you play with a five-handicapper who scores gross 77, net 72, you are the winner!

Competition Formats
There are many different competition formats in golf and the most common include:

  • Stableford – a point-scoring system depending on the shots taken on each hole. This is a very popular format because one or two bad holes do not rule out a good overall score.
  • Match Play – head to head golf. Each hole is treated as a separate competition and players can either win, halve or lose a hole. The winner is determined by the number of holes won.
  • Medal or Stroke Play – each shot is counted and added up at the end of the round. If it’s a handicap competition then you subtract your handicap from the total to get your net score. If it’s a scratch competition then the gross score counts.
  • Foursomes – golfers play in pairs and take alternate shots.
  • Greensome – similar to foursomes except both players tee off at each hole before choosing which ball to play. For the rest of the hole they take alternate shots.

Where to Play

There are many places you can play golf in Wales and many facilities that are ideal to start the game.

Golf Courses
There are over 140 courses in Wales affiliated to Wales Golf and around 200 golf facilities. Courses are usually 18-holes long, but there are also many nine-hole layouts or some even smaller, shorter layouts. All courses – For information on all courses in Wales click onto the Visit Wales website.

Par three courses – These are short courses where the aim is to take three shots on each hole. They’re ideal for the beginner and improver. Pitch and putt – These are even shorter courses and also perfect for the beginner.

Driving ranges – The place to hone your technique. Buy a bucket of balls, head for a bay and practice what you’ve been taught.

Junior Club Accreditation Clubs – These facilities have reached the national standard accreditation award for developing Junior Golf in Wales. A list of these facilities can be found here

The Ryder Cup Legacy Fund facilities – The RCW legacy fund project was created to ensure that the staging of the Ryder Cup in Wales impacted on the whole of the nation, not just during the event, but for years to come. A £2 million commitment from the Welsh Assembly Government provided a huge opportunity to boost the development of the game in Wales. 40 facilities were funded to develop and create specific beginner facilities which could be used to introduce people to the game.