Golf glossary for tournament spectators

Golf glossary for tournament spectators

Like any sport, golf — as well as the PGA Tour — has its own unique language. Here are a few terms you might hear in local watering holes, as well as on TV, when the tournament comes to town.

Designated Event

The PGA Tour recently announced that the 2023 RBC Heritage would enjoy what it calls “designated status.” That means many of the top pros will compete for a purse that is now $20 million. The extra attention also should give a boost to The Heritage Classic Foundation, which helps the community reap the benefits of the tournament’s presence on the island.  

Green Speed

The speed a ball travels over a prescribed distance on the putting surface. For an event like the RBC Heritage, the green speeds will be between 12 and 13 as measured by a device called a “Stimpmeter.” The rest of the year the green speed at Harbour Town is around 11 or 12, while most other courses in the area usually roll at 9 or 10.


A Stimpmeter is a device used in professional tournament play to measure the ball speed of putting surfaces. The device is used to launch the ball from a prescribed angle to the putting surface to measure the distance that the ball rolls across the green.  The Stimpmeter is 36 inches long and has a V-shaped chute down which a golf ball can roll. It has two notches in it on which a ball can rest. The Stimpmeter was invented in the 1930s by Ed Stimpson.

Pace of Place

Quite simply, how quickly players move round the golf course. At a usually busy course like Harbour Town, the recommended pace of play for an 18-hole round is about 4-1/2 hours. At less challenging courses, it should be faster than that, closer to 4 hours. 

Height of Cut

The prescribed height that the grasses around the course should be cut. The PGA Tour requests specific heights of cut for tees, fairways, roughs and greens during a tournament. Each area may be cut at a different height, with the greens being the lowest, measured in hundredths of an inch: For example, 1/10-inch is the thickness of a dime.


The area of grass that tightly surrounds a green, wrapping around the perimeter and typically at a slightly higher height of cut.


This is the area of turf from the end of the fairway to the start of the green. You also might hear players and others talk about an “approach shot,” which is the one they hit, planning to have it land, and stop, on the green. 

Inside the Ropes

This is where the players are — along with their caddies, standard bearers (the people holding a sign with the scores on it), the scorer, occasionally a walking Rules official, media, and except during tournament play, girlfriends and wives, psychologists, others in the players’ entourage.  During the tournament media with special armbands or stickers can walk inside the ropes but must stay an arm’s length from the ropes and not go any closer toward the players.  Of course, also inside the ropes are television personnel, including camera, audio and course reporters.

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