When a new golfer hits the green for the first time, a top contender for learning the sport is the terminology. References such as “breakfast ball”, “fried egg” and “gimme” don’t always convey obvious meaning. A good place to learn golf terms is the PGA’s Golf Dictionary, Glossary and Golf Terms list but you won’t find the lingo the locals know.


We reached out to five Southern California courses for terms and phrases not mentioned in the rule books. All managed by JC Golf, Welk Resorts San Diego, The Crossings at Carlsbad Golf Course, Encinitas Ranch Golf Course, Rancho Bernardo Inn Golf Course and Cathedral Canyon Golf Club share some creative terminology.


The Real Golf Terms

19th Hole – The Clubhouse bar.

3-jack – 3 putts.

Ace – Hole in one!

Airmail – A chip or pitch shot that  travels over the green.

Army Golf – Hitting the ball out of bounds to the left then to the right.

Beach or Cat box –The sand trap.

Breakfast Ball – When playing early in the morning and you hit a bad first shot off the first tee and give yourself a free mulligan.

Carpet – The condition of the fairway.

Dance floor – The putting green.

Dart – When you stick an approach shot on the green.

Drink – Water hazard.

Flyer – A ball that travels much further than expected.

Fried Egg – When only the top half of the ball is visible when buried in a sand trap.

Fringe – The area just around the green.

Fore – The alert term used to notify people of a poor shot coming their way.

Gimmie – When a putt is close enough that you would easily make it, many golfers will just pick it up instead of putting it into the hole. This would normally be disqualification in a PGA Tour event but hey, we’re out here to have fun, not play for $1.6 mil.

Hacker – Poor player who takes way too many shots.

Honor – The privilege of playing first from the tee.

Hook – For right-handed players, a ball flight that travels hard left. Sometimes requires “fore”!

Improving Your Lie – Many casual golfers will improve their lie if they find themselves in a divot or buried in thick rough. This means fluffing up your ball so it is sitting in a nice spot on top of the grass. Most golfers are not tour players and improving your lie to make the next shot easier can make the game more enjoyable and improve pace of play.

Knife – Another term for a one iron.

Lag (Putt) – When you get a long putt closer to the hole.

Loop – A round of golf.

Mulligan – When you hit a bad shot and you give yourself a 2nd shot without counting the penalty stroke. (AKA cheating, but this is widely accepted among casual golfers who are not playing for anything serious). It’s not uncommon for golfers to allow each other a “1 mulligan per 9” rule.

Over-clubbing – Taking too much club for a particular shot.

A Provisional – If you hit a shot that looked like it may have gone out of bounds, but you’re not sure, you can hit another shot called a provisional. If you find your first ball, you can play it, but if not, you play your provisional which means you take a 1 stroke penalty.

Sandbagger – A player who plays better than their handicap represents.

Snowman – Scoring an 8 on a hole.

The Tips – Refers to the longest teeing ground from the green. Usually the black tees.

You’re Dancin’ – You’re on the green.

Wave Up / Wave Thru – Allowing a group to play through.

Worm Burner – A type of golf shot where the ball never gets more than a few feet off the ground.


Have some more to add? Send to jcgolf@jcresorts.com and we’ll keep growing the list!