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The GIST's Guide to Golf

If your expert knowledge of golf begins and ends with Happy Gilmore, we’ve got your back. Tap tap taparoo.


A full round of golf is 18 holes. Holes generally range from 100 to 500 yards. Unlike other sports, the goal is to have the lowest score (counted by strokes) at the end of the game — meaning take the least amount of swing or putts to get the ball in the hole. Each hole on the course is given a number of strokes that it should take for a person to get the ball in the hole (this is called par) and typical championship courses have a full par value of 72.

How is it organized?

Similar to tennis, men’s professional golf players play in PGA (Professional Golf Association) Tour and women’s in LPGA tournaments. A tournament consists of four rounds of golf (one per day from Thursday until Sunday). The biggest tournaments are called major championships and in the PGA include The Masters, The US Open, The British Open and the PGA Championship.

Outside of the majors, there are also various other tourneys the pros can partake in. A player’s world ranking is based on how they do in each tournament. The most well-known and prestigious tournament is The Masters, played in Augusta, Georgia. In addition to winning copious amounts of cash money, players also receive the green jacket (super cool to win, super impractical to wear). The Masters is unique because winners are automatically invited back to play in the tournament annually for the rest of their lives!

Golfin’ greats

This isn’t just your grandparents game anymore! While golf is a sport where experience is incredibly important, the past decade has shown that you can be a young gun ad already be at the top of your game. The best in the world these days are Dustin Johnson (American who is married to Wayne Gretzky’s daughter), Rory McIlroy (Irish sweetheart), Brooks Koepka (American who won back-to-back US Open and PGA Championship tourneys) and Jordan Speith (young American cutie). A name you need to know is Tiger Woods. Tiger dominated the game for over a decade, winning 14 major tournaments. AND THEN, unfortunately, he ended up being an utter disappointment. Tiger was caught cheating on his wife and Swedish model, Elin, claiming that he had a “sex addiction”. More recently, Tiger was arrested in Florida in 2017 for a DUI. He has since made a rather spectacular comeback and is ranked in the top ten in the world. Read our #DeepDive on Tiger here.

Gals who golf

A debatably true folklore is that ‘golf’ stands for “Gentlemen Only Ladies Forbidden”. BUT LET US TELL YOU, us ladies have continued to break down those barriers. Professional women play in the LPGA (Ladies PGA) which is organized similarly to the men’s. And Canadian sensation Brooke Henderson is one of the best in the world — she holds the record as the youngest woman to ever win an LPGA tournament AND is the winningest pro golfer in Canadian history (male or female) with nine career titles. Just unreal.

Prep for your next trivia night by making sure you know these facts:

  • When you get a hole-in-one, you only took one stroke from the tee to sink it into the hole. Tradition says that golfer must then buy a drink for each person in the clubhouse. But fear not, most courses have hole-in-one insurance so that you actually don’t have to pay. Hilarious.

  • Jack Nicklaus is strongly considered the best golfer of all-time winning 18 majors, which is still the most ever.

  • Have you ever sipped on an Arnold Palmer, that delicious blend of iced tea and lemonade? Well, the drink is named after a very successful pro golfer who was known to request the combination! The late Arnold Palmer won four (!!!) Masters tournaments and seven majors over his career.

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A golf course has 18 holes. Your goal is to use the least amount of strokes to put the ball in the hole.


The manner in which you get the golf ball into the hole (drive, putt, pitch, sand save, etc.)


The first stroke you take from the tee box (the nice little patch of grass where you can stick your tee in the ground and pop your golf ball on top to hit it off of). Usually you use a driver, which is your biggest club, and you take a huge swing and try to get the ball as far down along the course and as close to the hole as possible. Smash that ball!


Basically you hit the ball and it goes wayyyyy off to the opposite side of your natural swing. This can happen when you haven’t perfected your swing and swipe across the ball when you hit it, putting a spin on it that causes it to go off your desired path.


The hook is the opposite of a slice. For a right-handed golfer, a hook will make the ball go a bit too far to the left.

Making the cut:

In professional tournaments there are four rounds of golf played from Thursday to Sunday. However, after the first two rounds, there is a “cut” so that only the top move on. Generally, it’s only the top 50-70 golfers (including ties) that move on to play the full weekend. 


When you’re on the green, you don’t need to put the ball in the air, silly! Just use your putter and tap, tap, tap it in.

Green / putting green:

The green is the nice little patch of very closely trimmed grass on relatively even, smooth ground surrounding the hole. In your strokes leading up to putting, you try to get the ball onto the green so you can putt the ball into the hole. Sometimes the green can be uneven which is why you’ll see golfers crouching down and having chats with their caddy to figure out which way the ground slants so that they can adjust their aim.

Caddie (Caddy):

The guy/gal who carries your clubs all day and gives you advice on how to shoot. TBH we could use someone following us around all day, carrying our copious amounts of bags and giving us life advice.


The area between the tee box and the putting green, where the grass is cut even and reasonably short. Usually you try to drive your ball somewhere onto the fairway, and then eventually work the ball onto the green from there (in an ideal world this is what you do… but in practice this doesn’t always happen).


The area between the fairway and the out-of-bounds. The grass here is cut higher and it’s harder to hit a good ball. If you hit your ball in the rough, don’t be too discouraged — it’s still better than hitting it in the water or a trap (see below).

Bunker or sand trap:

Small to medium areas, usually lower than the fairway, that are filled with sand. It’s harder to hit the ball from sand so you typically want to avoid these. If not, grab a lawn chair, a towel and post up for some serious tanning.


If you hit the ball into an area from which you can’t play the ball (think pond, into a dense forest etc.) or don’t want to play the ball (near an alligator, from a pile of mud and you just got new shoes etc.), you can drop a ball inbounds and take your shot from there but you get a penalty stroke (plus 1!) as a result. So maybe you should just cozy up to that alligator and get it over with ¯\_(ツ)_/¯


Each hole is assigned the number of strokes it should take to finish. This is called par.


A birdie is when it takes you one less stroke than par to complete a hole, which is freakin’ awesome. If this happens to you, you should be very excited and do a little dance on the green afterwards.


An eagle is when it takes you TWO less strokes than par to complete a hole. This is EXTREMELY impressive. Standing ovation for you, Glen Coco.


Golfers just love using different birds as scoring mechanisms, y’know? An albatross is when a player gets three strokes under par. This can really only happen on a par-4 or par-5 hole. If it was a par-3, it would just be a hole-in-one. 


You get the ball in the hole in one shot! The chances that an average golfer gets a hole in one is 12,500 to one. Fun fact, a GISTer’s mom (who loves golf but is far from a pro golfer) has had two hole-in-ones over her lifetime! #MomLove


A bogey is when it takes you one more stroke than par to complete a hole. Not ideal, but also not the worst thing that can happen. That might be a double bogey (two strokes above par), a triple bogey (three strokes above), a quad bogey (four strokes above)… you get the picture here.

Scratch golfer:

This is a golfer who can, on a regular basis, complete a round at par (i.e. complete each hole at par or have their birdies and bogeys even out so that overall, the round is at par).


Unlike a scratch golfer, others will play rounds where it regularly takes more strokes than par to complete a hole. These people will receive a handicap. Your handicap becomes a measure of your ability to play. In tournaments you should play against someone with a similar handicap so that Tiger Woods isn’t matched with Joe Schmoe because let’s be honest, that would be kind of unfair and probably pretty discouraging for Joe.

Front nine & back nine:

Literally just a fancy way of saying the first nine holes and the last nine holes of the 18-hole golf course.


When you’re a pro and you’re walking into the 18th hole, there’s normally a set of large stands for the fans to sit in (normally fans stand along the side). These are called the grandstands. People get super hyped when the winner of the tournament is coming in to the play their final hole.

PGA Tour:

Professional Golf Association — the organizer of the main professional golf tournaments.

Green Jacket:

The Green Jacket is presented to the winner of the prestigious golf tournament ‘The Masters’. It’s a BFD.

Fun fact: the jacket presented to the winner after the final hole is taken from a club member (who already has a jacket) with a similar build to the winner and is returned after the ceremony, while a tailored version is prepared and presented to the champion at a later date.

Fore (!!!):

Yelled as a warning to innocent golfers or bystanders when it looks like the ball is coming straight at them and they should probably get out of the way and fast. Basically the equivalent of ‘WATCH OUT’ or ‘GET OUTTA THE WAY’. If you’re an inexperienced golfer you may find yourself using this term a lot.


If the tournament is tied at the end of the 18 holes, there’s a playoff hole — one extra hole to determine the winner. You only got one shot, one opportunity, to seize everything you ever wanted (okay, I’m done).


The fancy building where the change room, restaurant and pro shop is. Also known as the place people meet to drink away their sorrows after a terrible round of golf.

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What’s considered a good score? People will say “I shot a 90” and I have no clue what they really mean.

A “good score” is really all relative to who you are and what sort of course you’re playing. If you’re a professional golfer, you’ll probably be shooting 72 (the average par for the entire course) and under. If you’re not a pro, but you LOVE golf, you might be a scratch golfer, which means you’re normally shooting 72. If you’re like us and are just starting to get into golf (and admittedly are still a little hack), you’re happy with shooting 100. This also depends on the course difficulty. Our tip: golf can be frustrating AF and it’s really important to NOT compare yourself to others when first learning. 

What does ‘short game’ mean? 

Short game means anything that happens around the green, which is where the hole is and where players generally putt. Short game includes mostly pitching, chipping and putting.

What do they mean by ‘lipping out’? Are golf players kissing or something?

Wouldn’t that be nice? No snogging here unfortunately. Lipping out is what happens when a person putts and the golf ball catches the rim, aka “lip”, of the hole and the ball doesn’t fall in. Have a look at this video to see what we mean.

What is an “approach”?

Any shot that is played with the intention of hitting the putting green. It usually refers to those second and third shots on a hole when you’re trying to set yourself up for putting success.

Do you have to be fit to play golf?

Yes and no. There are arguments to both sides. Some people say the fitter you are, the better, and some say it’s all about finesse and technique. We are firm believers that being fit helps but it’s not everything. And that’s also part of the reason why we love it. It’s a sport that you can play from age 10 to 90 because it’s not very physically draining!

I’ve heard there’s been drastic rule changes in golf. What are they?

You’ve been paying attention! Recently, there have been major changes to the rules of golf imposed by the USGA (United States Golf Association) and R&A (The Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews) which has sparked a major conversation in the golf world. These rules have been implemented to modernize the game, be more attractive to newcomers and to increase the speed of play.

The full list of changes can be found here, but here’s a couple of examples: 

- Pulling the Pin: You now have the option to leave the flag in while putting! No matter the distance. 

- Looking for a ball: The amount of time you have to search for your ball has dropped from three minutes to five minutes, so try to keep it in play! Easier said than done, we know.

This rule FAQ was written by GISTer Crystina Kertsos

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The GIST’s Guide to The Masters

The Masters (and the Green Jacket awarded to the winner) are two of the most recognizable aspects of professional golf. Get #thegist on why. 



The Masters is the first major golf tournament of the year. It’s always held at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia during the first week of April.

Unlike other golf tournaments where players win a trophy, the winner receives a Green Jacket. Yes, all of these men are playing for a chance to look like Kermit. Okay sorry. That’s rude. The Green Jacket is actually one of the most coveted prizes in all of golf. Read up on all the story and tradition here.

Why are The Masters a big deal?

There are a few reasons why The Masters are such a BFD:

  • The first Masters was played way back in 1934, so there’s a lot of history and tradition embedded in this tournament (PSA: keep reading to learn why we’re not completely in love with these “traditions”).

  • Augusta is one of the most beautiful courses in the world. The Masters is well-known for the Azalea flower that makes the course incredibly colourful and picturesque. Rumour has it the course sometimes uses heaters to make the flowers bloom in time for the tournament. Pretty cool.

  • Augusta is also one of the most famous and prestigious golf courses in the world, but also comes with an air of elitism as Augusta is a private course (meaning that a regular Joe Schmoe can’t just go and play it) and the only way that you can become a member is if you are invited. There are only about 300 members at any given time and the membership fee is as high as $40k just to get in and then $10k annually. Chump change.

  • Only the best of the best are invited to play or qualify to play. And if you win the tournament, you’re invited back to play every single year. Forever and ever.

How’s it organized?

The Masters follows the standard Thursday to Sunday format. Players play four rounds of golf (18 holes in a round and one round each day). The score is cumulative over the course of the four days.

What’s different about The Masters is that there’s a pretty small field of contenders so players generally play in groups of three, rather than groups of four.

After two rounds (36 holes) a “cut” is made. Only those in the top 50 places (including ties) qualify to play on the Saturday and Sunday. If there’s a tie at the end of the tournament, there’s a sudden death playoff hole-by-hole until there’s a winner. Get it? Got it? Good.

The best of the best

Because The Masters are steeped in history, we’re going to start off with the best of the past. Icon Jack Nicklaus, who is widely regarded as the best golfer of all time, has the most Masters wins with six between 1963 and 1986. He was the oldest player to ever win the tournament at 46.

Tiger Woods has won five (!!!) times, including his recent dramatic and emotional victory in 2019 and back in 1997 when he became the youngest player to ever win at the ripe age of 21. Go deeper on why Tiger’s return to form this season was so unexpected.

Some history

Given the tournament has been around for so long, it has a lot of traditional customs. However, we would say that some of these “traditions” are/were downright racist and sexist.

The Masters, hosted at Augusta, kicked off back in the 1930s. From 1930-1975 no black golfers were allowed to play in the tournament. Lee Elder was the first black man to participate in the tournament and he wasn’t “invited” — he automatically qualified by winning another tournament. Further, no African-American members were admitted to the club until 1990 and golfers’ caddies (the people who carry the players clubs and assist the players in calling the shots) had to be black until 1983. Just horrible.

But wait, there’s more. The Masters only started granting female members access to the course in 2012. Yes, only seven years ago. Ridiculous. To date, there are only three members (of the 300) that are women including Condoleeza Rice, Darla Moore, and Ginni Rometty.

The good news? In 2019, Augusta National hosted its first ever amateur women’s tournament. Big ups to 21-year-old American Jennifer Kupcho for winning the tournament and for one of the most epic back nine performances we’ve ever seen.  

We could go on and on about the history of racism and sexism in golf and more particularly The Masters, but that’s not the point of this guide. If we’ve peaked your interest, give this article a read.

Some fun facts:

  • The course was formerly a plant nursery so naturally, each hole on the course is named after a tree or shrub the hole is associated with — like Pink Dogwood or Flowering Crab Apple. You can check out those names here.

  • The purse, aka the amount of prize money up for grabs across all players, went up to $11.5M USD in 2019 and winner Tiger Woods walked away with a cool $2.07M. The top 24 finishers all earn at least $100k. Not a bad payout for four days.

  • When it comes time for the Green Jacket ceremony, the prior year’s tournament winner puts the jacket on the new winner. However, there’s been three times where a player has won back-to-back. When that happens, the Chairman of Augusta National helps the winner into the jacket.

  • Apparently, it’s a tradition for players to “skip” their golf ball over the water in practice rounds, just like you would skip a rock. For more info on this random AF tradition click here.

  • The only Canadian to ever win The Masters was Mike Weir back in 2003.

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