How to Speak Golf: An Illustrated Guide to Links Lingo

How to Speak Golf: An Illustrated Guide to Links Lingo


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How to Speak Golf: An Illustrated Guide to Links Lingo by Sally Cook, Ross MacDonald

From ace to zinger, How to Speak Golf includes over 125 golf terms paired with charming and clever illustrations that decode the words and phrases that fly around a golf course. Clubhouse Chatter sections are sprinkled throughout where you'll learn about everything from the origins of golf, the worst courses and biggest sand bunkers in the world, to the reason why there are so many bird references in golf terminology, a history of famous holes-in-one, and much, much more!

Some of the terms included in the book are:

-Army golf: The inconsistent hitting of the ball from one side of the fairway to the other. (Think: Left, right, left.)
-Cabbage: The worst of the rough. (Also known as "Spinach" or "Lettuce." Whatever you call it, this is a salad to be avoided.)
-Ham and egg: When two players on a team pair well, with one player excelling whenever the other falters.
-Velcro: Greens that are slow, where it seems like the ball sticks to the grass.

Author Sally Cook and illustrator Ross MacDonald offer the perfect blend of funny anecdotes and fascinating bits of history and trivia. This is the perfect gift book to have you talking like a master whether you're a pro, a lifelong fan, or a novice on the greens.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250071972
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Publication date: 05/10/2016
Series: How To Speak Sports Series
Edition description: Illustrate
Pages: 128
Sales rank: 1,222,870
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.43(h) x 0.56(d)

About the Author

SALLY COOK is the author, with James Charlton, of How to Speak Baseball and Hey Batta Batta Swing!: The Wild Old Days of Baseball, illustrated by Ross MacDonald. She coauthored, with legendary football coach Gene Stallings, Another Season: A Coach's Story of Raising an Exceptional Son, a New York Times bestseller.

ROSS MACDONALD's illustrations have appeared in The New York Times, The New Yorker, Rolling Stone, Harper's, The Atlantic Monthly, and Vanity Fair. He has also written and illustrated several books for children and adults. His most recent is What Would Jesus Craft?

Read an Excerpt

How To Speak Golf

By Sally Cook, Ross MacDonald

Flatiron Books

Copyright © 2016 Sally Cook
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-250-07198-9



Golf, as we know the game, most likely emerged in Scotland. Though there is still debate regarding which country invented the sport, legend has it that a group of sheepherders grew bored tending to their flocks, not far from what is now the Saint Andrews Golf Club, one of the first. These shepherds whacked pebbles and stones into rabbit- and foxholes with their wooden "crooks" or staffs. Various versions of this game were played in nearly every area of the world, including China, Italy, France, Holland, Belgium and even Laos, long before Scotland claimed to invent the game.

The word "golf" originates from the Old Scots terms "glove" or "goff," having evolved from the medieval Dutch term "kolf," meaning "club." The Scots, using wooden balls from Holland, played their game on parkland, whereas the Dutch played a similar game on ice. By the early fifteenth century Scots were playing the game in its rudimentary form: swinging at a ball with a club in order to move it from start to finish with as few strokes as possible. The first documented mention of golf in Scotland was in a 1457 Act of the Scottish Parliament, an edict issued by Scottish King James II, banning the sport, because he thought it distracted soldiers from their archery practice. His son, James III, upheld the ban in 1471. Twenty years later his son, James IV, continued the ban once again until 1502 when the King himself became captivated with the sport and lifted the ban.

During Scotland's short peace with England in the early 1500s, the English, too, established golf. When Scotland and England went back to war in 1547 the game declined in England. But when James VI of Scotland took the throne in England in 1603 and became known as James I (from the union of the Scottish and English crowns), golf returned to England to stay. A group of Edinburgh players were the first to organize a golf club in 1744, and were the first to write rules for the game, easily familiar to modern-day golfers.


The reverse spinning of the ball causing it to slow down or roll back toward the player once it lands on the green. Juice. Junk. English.


Purposely playing or aiming away from hazards or bunkers. No need to post a bond.


A flat, dime-sized object. Marks the position of the ball on the green, when it lies between another ball and the hole.


Slice or shot that fades to the right (left to right for righties) in a banana-shaped curve.

Extreme Slice. This shot has no appeal.


Hitting a tree, but still getting a good score.


"Hazard" usually refers to features built into a golf course to make play more difficult, but the term takes on a new meaning at the Skukuza Golf Course in Kruger National Park, South Africa. Here, the hazards are mobile and unpredictable: lions, elephants, buffalo, leopards, and rhinos. When confronted by four-legged hazards, golfers are advised not to run, but to back away slowly ... and forget about finishing the hole.


A favored form of match play in which the best ball (lowest score) of two players is pitted against the lowest score of the competing team.


The driving club. Golfers sometimes say "Time to let the big dog eat" when they decide to use the driver instead of a higher lofted and short club. Best when the dog makes no barky.


Score of one under par on a given hole.


A mighty swing of the club that deliberately scoops and strikes the sand just behind the ball to hit the ball out of a sand trap. An Explosion.


Score of one over par on a given hole.


Arguably, the course on Ascension Island, a speck of land in the South Atlantic, a thousand miles from the nearest continent, Africa, holds two golf course superlatives: worst and most remote. With no grass, the "greens," called "browns," are made of crushed compacted lava and held together by diesel oil. It's no wonder that Ascension Island's own government's website labels it the worst in the world. Most remote? Well, that's obvious.


A putted ball's deviation from a straight path due to undulations in the surface of the green.


A fairway hazard in the form of a depression in the ground filled with sand. Derives from the Scottish word for scar. Sand Trap. Cat Box. Kitty Litter. Beach.


A ball that lands in a trap and is partially covered in sand. A Fried Egg.


The worst of the rough. Spinach. Lettuce.

A salad to be avoided.


Derives from the French "cadet," the person who carries a player's bag and clubs, and advises the player about the unique characteristics of the course.


When two players sharing a cart hit their shots to a similar, easily reached location.


A condition in which heavy rain or poor drainage has left a portion of fairway intentionally soggy. The player is entitled to relief.


The outcome of backspin when the ball lands on the green. Bite. Grab. Hold.


The former course at the Aramco compound in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, consisted of nothing but sand, making it one endless bunker. The sand, soaked in readily available oil and packed down, formed a smooth putting surface when dried. Did the die-hard golfers use a sand wedge on every shot? Actually, no ... each golfer carried a piece of artificial turf for teeing up the ball. The course has since been replaced by a conventional grass course, to no one's disappointment.


A player who can't stop slicing the ball. A real cutup!


Playing it safe by using a low-risk club for a tough shot.


Hitting the ground and digging up turf before hitting the ball, resulting in little or no contact with the ball itself. Fat, Heavy, or Chunk Shot.


A shot meant to fly for a short time and then roll or bounce most of its way toward the hole. Chip and Run. Chip and Roll.

Bump and Run.


Gripping farther down on the golf club. The opposite of "choking up," for example, on a baseball bat.


The flat, grooved surface of a clubhead, used for striking the ball.


Measured in mph or kph, the speed of the club head, at the moment of impact with the ball. Head Speed.


Turning the shoulders and hips during the backswing before beginning the downswing.


The green. The putting surface. Not a swinging place.


The lowest score on a course of at least 6,500 yards in length is 55. Rhein Gibson, an Australian pro, shot it on May 12, 2012 at River Oaks Golf Club in Edmond, Oklahoma, an eighteen-hole, 6,850-yard par 71 course. Gibson parred the first hole, followed that with an eagle, a birdie, an eagle, and then five straight birdies for a 26 over his first nine holes. Then on his back nine he had two pars, then three birdies, a par, and three more birdies for a second nine of 29 and a total of 55. Just a week earlier Gibson had set the course record of 60. His 55 will likely be tough to beat.


Players who prefer the earliest morning tee times.


The round indentations on the ball, which give it lift. Balls have from 330-500 dimples.


The hunk of dirt and grass that is displaced when a player strikes the ball.


A fairway that is straight for some distance and then bends to the left or the right, resembling the shape of a dog's leg. No hydrants along the way.


Derogatory term for a golf course in poor condition. A Goat Track.


Hole number 14 at the Coeur d'Alene Resort Golf Course in Idaho sports another unusual type of hazard. The green is located on a floating platform in a lake, the entire "fairway" a water hazard. Well-prepared golfers bring plenty of extra balls ... preferably used ones.


Scoring two strokes above par on a hole.


Scoring three below par on any hole.


To sink a putt into the cup.


The initial shot on each hole, hit from a tee.


The hitting surface (where the grooves are) of a clubhead.


A shot which, for a right-handed player, purposely drifts in a controlled fashion from left to right. The opposite


At the 1938 U.S. Open, Ray Ainsley, a pro from Ojai, California, recorded a score of 19 on the par-4 16th hole at Cherry Hills Country Club in Englewood, Colorado. Instead of taking a penalty drop when he sent his approach shot into a creek that bordered the green, Ainsley kept swinging away at the ball.

For almost half an hour he desperately tried to free his ball from the running water. Later, USGA Rules Committee Chairman Morton Bogue asked Ainsley why he hadn't just taken a drop.

"I thought I had to play the ball as it lay all the time," Ainsley replied. Then he recalled the rule allowing relief from a water hazard, in this case a flowing stream. Bud McKinney, his fellow competitor, remembered that day years later. "It was so funny watching him swipe at the ball. By the count of nine strokes, R. L. Anderson, the scorekeeper, started laughing so hard he fell down. Anderson said to me, 'I can't take this any longer, you take up the count.' I walked down the creek behind Ainsley and by this time, a couple of hundred people came down to see what was going on. Ainsley was hitting and hitting the ball and it would occasionally jump like a fish and land on the bank only to roll back in. The crowd would scream, 'There it is!' and then it would roll back into the water. At one point I remember Ainsley dropped a club in the water because the grip was so wet." He ended up losing almost 75 yards as the current pushed the ball downstream. Some people in the gallery disputed Ainsley's final score, thinking he made a 21 or even a 23. McKinney gave his total score as 19, and Ainsley posted a 96 for the round. Not surprisingly, he didn't win the tournament.


THE GOLDEN BEAR: An Australian sportswriter gave Jack Nicklaus the name in the early '60s because Nicklaus was large and blond. Nicklaus also attended a school as a kid where the mascots were the Golden Bears.

BUFFALO BILL: Billy Casper, winner of tournaments in the '50s, '60s, and early '70s, including two U.S. Opens and a Masters, was always battling his weight. He ate organic vegetables and buffalo meat, which helped keep his weight down and earned him his nickname.

FUZZY: Frank Urban Zoeller won the Masters at his first appearance at the event. He won many other PGA events. His nickname comes from his initials.


The areas of mown grass found between the tees, greens, and rough.


Hitting the turf before making contact with the ball.


A type of chip hit high into the air so the ball will stop quickly on the green.A Lob.


When a player illegally kicks his ball into a better position. Not necessarily a shoe-in.


Loud shout warning nearby people that the ball might hit them. Derives from the cannon cry when bystanders were told to clear the fore prior to discharge.


A caddie who doesn't carry a bag, but tracks down balls, offers yardages, rakes bunkers, and reads greens.


A slight move of the hands toward the target before making a swing or a stroke.


A term used by golfers to encourage the ball to travel in the air and/or roll when they think the shot is short.


In casual golf, a very short putt that the other players agree can count automatically without actually being played. Contraction of the phrase "give me." Tap-In.


When the ball hits a tree deep in the rough and bounces out onto the fairway.


Maurice Flitcroft, a British crane operator, crashed the qualifying rounds of the 1976 British Open by discovering a loophole on the application form: Amateurs, but not professionals, were required to enter their handicap on the form. Flitcroft sidestepped the issue by ticking off the box marked "professional." Dressed in plastic shoes and a fishing hat and never having played a full round of golf, he scored a 121, leading the press to refer to him as "British Open Chump."

Subsequently Flitcroft was effectively banned from every golf course in the country. However, years later he attempted to enter the Open, and several other golf competitions, either under his own name or under pseudonyms such as Gene Paceky (as in paycheck), Gerald Hoppy, Arnold Palmtree, and James Beau Jolley. At first he avoided detection by wearing various disguises: a large handlebar moustache and bizarre hats. But irate officials usually chased him off the course once they witnessed his incompetent playing.


THE GIANT: Standing six feet eight inches tall, Craig Smith is the tallest professional golfer in the world.

GREAT WHITE SHARK: His blond hair, six-foot frame, aggressive playing style, and birthplace in Australia, home to the shark, all contribute to Greg Norman's nickname. In the '80s and '90s he was considered the number one golfer for 331 weeks.

BABE: Mildred Ella Didrickson Zaharias, America's first female golf celebrity and leading player of the '40s, winning every golf title available by 1950. She became the first and only female golfer to make the cut at a PGA tour event, shooting 76 and 81 during the first two rounds of the 1945 Los Angeles Open. She says she got her nickname when she hit five homers in a childhood baseball game. She was compared to Babe Ruth, who was then in his heyday.


Hitting the green with a tee shot on a par 3.


An area of the golf course under construction marked by white dotted lines. Players can pick up the ball that lands there and move it to another area on the fairway without penalty.


Poor player. Derives from the image of a player who swings wildly and digs up the turf.

A Duffer. A Chopper.


Kip Henley was caddying for Brian Gay at the RBC Heritage Tournament in 2012 at Harbour Town Golf Links in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, when Gay's ball became stuck in the mud on the fifteenth green. When Henley went to free it, he encountered a six-foot-long alligator. Henley calmly enlisted help from another caddie, Scott Tway, and the two bopped the beast with a rake until it sauntered away.


When two players on a team pair well, with one player excelling whenever the other falters.


A number assigned to each player based on his/her ability, subtracted from the score at the end of a round. A way of providing equality among players of different abilities.


A player with too much wrist movement in his/her swing or putting stroke, causing inconsistent shots or putts. A Wristy.


Densely packed dirt or grass.


The terms "birdie," "eagle," "albatross," and "condor" didn't originate simultaneously. It is widely believed that "birdie" was conceived at the Atlantic City Country Club in New Jersey in about 1903. William Smith hit a straight shot that landed close to the hole, which allowed him a short putt to score one under par. He exclaimed, "That was a bird of a shot!" (Bird in those days was American slang for something that was good.) Thereafter people at the club began to use the term "birdie" for a one-under-par score. The usage spread rapidly and by about 1913 the term was used in Scotland and in England, as well. "Eagle" was an American term, probably because the eagle, the American symbol, was clearly superior to a generic "bird." By about 1919, the term had reached golfers across the Atlantic. "Albatross," on the other hand, originated in Great Britain. Paradoxically, the word, usually associated with bad fortune, was used to describe a three-under-par score, because it is such a rare bird. American golfers more often use the term "double eagle," although it's not four under par (two plus two) but three.

An even rarer bird than an albatross is the condor, the largest flying bird in North America. In fact, scoring a "condor," a hole-in-one on a par 5, is virtually impossible and has only been recorded four times.


Excerpted from How To Speak Golf by Sally Cook, Ross MacDonald. Copyright © 2016 Sally Cook. Excerpted by permission of Flatiron Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Title Page,
Copyright Notice,
Clubhouse Chatter,
Golf's Origins,
Hell Holes,
World's Worst Golf Course?,
World's Biggest Sand Bunker,
Lowest 18-Hole Score,
Hell Holes,
Highest Score on A Single Hole in A PGA Tournament,
Players' Nicknames,
Highest Score in a British Open,
Players' Nicknames,
Hell Holes,
Avian References to Scores,
Players' Nicknames,
Hell Holes,
Men's Golf Garb,
Hell Holes,
Women's Wear,
Players' Nicknames,
Longest Shot,
Golf Tees,
Golf Balls Then and Now,
Brief History of Golf Clubs,
Queen of Clubs,
Players' Nicknames,
Midnight Golf,
Also by Sally Cook,
About the Authors,

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