One great thing about golf is its colorful vocabulary.
Luckily for beginners, it’s all very straightforward and intuitive. Of course, that’s not true at all. Sorry for the sarcasm.
As we all know, the terminology of golf can be difficult to pick up for new players. This is the newest installment in a series of golf vocabulary posts to help players (mainly beginners) understand the words used in the game.
Previously, I did editions covering words that are used to describe ball flights and the anatomy of a golf club. Today, I’m going to tread on territory that no golfer likes to face: bad shots. We’re not talking slices and hooks here. We’re talking about really bad shots.
Maybe it’s because bad shots are so painful, but that’s where some of golf’s most colorful vocabulary comes into play. At least colorful in non R-rated sense. Here are some of the terms used to describe shots where it all went wrong.
- Shank - Probably the most dreaded is the shank. The shank is a shot that is struck on the hosel and travels low and right (for a right hander). I covered the shanks in a detailed post a while back, including the basic cause.
- Thin - When a ball is truck very low on the club face, below the sweet spot, that’s referred to as thin. Normally, a thinly struck iron shot results in a very small or no divot. The shot will usually fly on a lower trajectory and land shorter than normal with little spin. With a driver, if your tee is completely undisturbed after the shot, you probably struck the ball thinly.
- Fat - A fat shot is one where the club strikes the ground before striking the ball. Many times, a fat shot will result in a bigger divot than normal, that starts behind the ball. The shot flies much shorter than normal. Synonyms for fat include heavy, chunky and laid the sod over.
- Top - When a ball is topped, the leading edge of the club face (the bottom edge of the face), strikes the ball above its equator (on its top half). A topped shot will usually fly up and then right back down several yards ahead because of the top spin put on the ball.
- Skull - A skulled shot is sort of half way between a thin shot and a top. A skulled shot is one where the leading edge of the club face strikes the ball right near the equator. The ball will have little or no spin and normally flies straight and low, perhaps only a few feet off the ground.
- Smother - Often a smothered shot is mistaken for a topped shot, because the ball can hop up and then right back down to the turf. The difference is that when a ball is smothered, the club approaches from a very steep angle and makes contact above the equator, but with a downward blow. A topped shot is struck above the equator with a level or ascending blow. One way to tell the difference on a tee box is by looking several inches in front of where the ball was teed. If there is a ball crater in the turf, then the ball was smothered and driven right into the ground. After it bounces, it can look much like a topped shot, but the cause is very different.
- Chili Dip – Often used to describe a poor wedge shot, where the club approaches the ball on too steep an angle and the club head is stuffed into the turf and stays there. It’s like a wedge-specific fat smother with little or no follow through.
- Duff - This may vary slightly from place to place, but I typically use duff to generically describe a bad shot. I might say I duffed a particular shot that I hit fat, skulled, smothered, or chili dipped.
- Pop-Up – A pop up, also called a sky ball usually happens on the tee, when your driver makes contact very, very high on the club face, with the head nearly sliding under the teed up ball. The ball will fly extremely high and short and leave a nice scar on the top of your driver in a spot that was never meant to contact a ball.
- Worm Burner – These shots never get far off the ground, sometimes rolling a good distance. They’re very similar to topped shots but don’t have enough top spin to bloop up and down. However, they’re not quite like skulled shots, in that they have enough top spin to get on the ground quickly and roll a decent distance.
I think between these terms and the ball flight terms that I covered previously, you can pretty much describe anything you can do with a golf ball. You can throw in some four-letter words for emphasis, but a shank is still just a shank.
Stay tuned next time for a look at the words that describe the features of a golf course.