Some General Golfing Terminology

There are some terms used in golf that may not be familiar to new players or, indeed, fully understood by all players. This is far from an exhaustive list but we will mention some that most players will encounter, and a few that may be a misunderstood by many players.


The modern meaning of this is, somewhat ironically, a score of one over par for a hole. However, this is not its original meaning. It formerly referred to the score that a "good" (or scratch?) golfer would be expected to take, though taking  account of a hole's difficulty, not just its length, similar to the more modern "par". The earlier definition gets a historical nod in the "Bogey" form of competition in which the golfer plays matchplay against par for the course.

Casual Water

Here's the R&A definition: "Casual Water" is any temporary accumulation of water on the course that is not in a water hazard and is visible before or after the player takes his stance. Snow and natural ice, other than frost, are either casual water or loose impediments, at the option of the player. Manufactured ice is an obstruction. Dew and frost are not casual water.

So, what does all that actually mean? Let's say we've had some heavy rain, or maybe someone has carelessly left a hosepipe on overnight. Puddles have formed on the course. These would be "casual water" except where any such water collects within the boundaries of an existing water hazard. If, when taking your stance to play your shot, water oozes out of the ground at your feet, that also counts as casual water and relief may be taken according to the rules.


Quite simply, these are any bunkers or water hazards.

Lateral Water Hazard

A lateral water hazard is one where it is not possible or practical to drop the ball behind the hazard while remaining on the line to the hole. Lateral water hazards are marked by red stakes. (Stakes marking normal water hazards are yellow.) In this case we still have all the same options we would have for an ordinary water hazard except that, because we physically cannot drop the ball directly behind the hazard, we instead have the option to drop within two club lengths, not nearer the hole, of the point where our ball last entered the water hazard. Simples!


The player who plays first from a tee is said to have the "honour".


When is a ball "holed"? This may not be quite as obvious as it sounds! In fact the whole ball has to be in the hole AND at rest. If a ball pitches into the hole but rebounds back out, that's just tough luck. It has NOT been holed.

Local Rules

Each golf club is responsible for defining rules that apply specifically to their own course. Usually they will make some mention of out of bounds, immovable obstructions, and any other conditions peculiar to the  course, and will often make reference to the Rules of Golf. Local Rules are almost always printed on the scorecard. It is every golfer's own responsibility to read and abide by these rules when playing on that golf course.


This is the practice of replaying a shot under no penalty and, as such, does NOT form part of the rules of golf! It turns up occasionally during informal play or charity events, but in normal play you should never see it!


An obstruction is anything artificial, including the artificial surfaces and sides of roads and paths, except:

a) objects defining out of bounds, such as walls, fences, stakes and railings;

b) any part of an immovable artificial object that is out of bounds;

c) any construction declared by the committee to be an integral part of the course.

There are two kinds of obstructions, movable and immovable, and these are treated quite differently so it's important for players to know which kind of obstruction something is, and of course how you should deal with it.

An obstruction is movable if it may be moved without unreasonable effort, without unduly delaying play and without causing damage. Otherwise it is an immovable obstruction. However, the committee can define a "movable" obstruction as "immovable" so take note of any local rues. 

For example, if your ball comes to rest under the green keeper's tractor then the tractor may be either movable or immovable. If it can safely be moved without having to wait (i.e. you can avoid any undue delay) then it is a movable obstruction. However, if there is no green keeper around to move it, or if moving it would cause damage, it would be an immovable obstruction.  

There is, in fact, a third type of obstruction (temporary immovable) though this is not something most of us will ever need to be concerned about. These would most often be found when a large competition is being staged, involving, for example, spectator seating or marquees for exhibitors.   

Preferred Lies

This is commonly referred to as "winter rules" and is the practice of lifting, cleaning, and replacing balls in accordance with notices displayed by the club. If there are no notices displayed, there are not preferred lies.


There is often confusion over stakes. Those marking out of bounds (white) are immovable obstructions. Stakes for other purposes, e.g. distance markers or stakes marking water hazard boundaries, are usually movable obstructions but you should always check local rules to be certain. 

Through the Green

This is a term you'll find used in the rules of golf, and it's surprising how many golfers don't actually know what it means. It is, quite simply, all areas of a golf course excluding the green and tees of the hole being played, and excluding all hazards on the course.

Sometimes we'll see "closely mown areas through the green" mentioned in local rules. Essentially that is just adding the rough to the list of what's not "through the green". You could think of it as meaning "fairways" but remember that it also includes other areas where the grass is kept short, like fringes of greens, paths between holes and paths the greens staff use to move around the course.

© 2016 Isle of Skye Golf Club, Sconser, Isle of Skye IV48 8TD  Tel: 01478 650465

  • Facebook Social Icon
  • Twitter Social Icon

Members Only