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How To Speak Golf: 4 Tips To Sound Like A Pro

By Lisa Costantini | Aug. 19, 2016, 12:53 a.m. (ET)

Patrick Reed hits his tee shot on the 16th hole in the third round of golf at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Golf Course on Aug. 13, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro.

Before this week, the last time golf was an Olympic sport was in 1904 — that’s 112 years ago. Since that’s a pretty long time to remember the basics of the sport, we asked 2016 Olympic golfer Patrick Reed — who has been playing as a pro for the past five years — to share some advice that will help you better follow along and understand what you’ve been watching.

Whether you’re just looking to learn the lingo — or impress your boss on the links — here are five tips to help you look and sound like a golfer.

1. What They Do

Eighteen holes of golf makes for a long day. That’s “four and a half to five hours of play,” Reed said. “Being out there in the heat and walking over 7,000 yards a day, it’s a lot.” And even though it’s typically hot — and can be a stressful environment — he said it rarely leads to smack talk. “Between friends,” he said, “you might give each other some grief, but it’s not a normal thing between everybody. It’s more about giving each other some fun.”

Something else that is fun to see is how the players identify their golf balls. The reason, Reed said, “you always put a mark on your golf balls with a Sharpie is so it’s identifiable between other golf balls. Because there’s only so many manufacturers, you want to make sure you always hit your golf ball and not someone else’s.”

For example, his Olympic teammate Bubba Watson marks a big circle next to the logo on his with a bright-colored Sharpie (most recently it was neon pink); while Rickie Fowler draws a neon dot (most recently in orange) above the logo followed by a black straight line, which he uses to help line up his putts.

2. What They Say

Golfers don’t talk much. They leave that job to their caddies, who Reed says is a very important part of the team as “they’re the only person that’s allowed to give you advice while you’re out there on the golf course.” Because of that, he said, “They’re just as important as any other player.”

But when they do talk, words you might hear thrown around are:

-Bunker. “When you hear someone say they hit it into a bunker (or sand trap), that’s usually not a good thing. For one, because it’s considered a hazard (or obstacle), and those are areas you want to avoid — like water. And two, hitting it into a hazard or a water hazard causes a penalty.”

-Birdie, par, eagle. “Words that fans want to listen for and hear are: birdie, which means you did one better than par. (Par means the average score on the hole.) And if you made eagle, that means you did two better than par.”

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-Mulligan. One word you won’t hear is mulligan — “which means if you hit a bad ball you’re able to drop another one and hit it again” — as he joked that they only allow those on practice days.

Other golf words are: Fairways (“Which is the short part of the grass that is easiest to play from and what you want to hit,” he said.) “Rough is the cut of grass just off the fairway that’s really thick. You try to avoid those areas as well,” Reed explained. And instead of the phrase “fried egg,” he said, “A lot of guys use the word plug, which means a ball is buried in the sand.”

3. What They Wear

If all you have in your closet is jeans and basketball shorts, you might be in trouble. Golf has a pretty strict dress code, which is why Reed said you’ll find most golfers dressed alike on the course. “You have to wear slacks and a collared shirt if you’re a male on the golf course,” he said. “I don’t know all the rules for females, but I know a collared shirt is required for every player — no matter the gender.” Other no’s are T-shirts and clothes you might wear to the gym.

4. How They Act

When you think of golf you probably think of tradition, which makes sense seeing as how the game has been played since the 15th century. Because of the history, there is a lot of etiquette involved. For example, in golf, Reed said, “right before you start a round, you take off your hat and greet the players you’re playing with. You introduce yourself and then once you finish and everyone gets done with 18 holes, you take off your hat and thank them for a great round of golf. It’s just something we’ve always done.”

Just like how “everyone cheers if you hit a good shot,” he said it’s also common courtesy to “be as quiet or still as possible when someone is standing over a ball.” Because, he explained, “you want to give them the respect they would give you if you were trying to concentrate and hit a golf shot.”

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Patrick Reed