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Why Are Some Golf Terms Named After Birds?


In the great game of golf, many scoring terms surprisingly seemed to be named after birds! To people new to golf, this may come as quite the surprise, as the reason for this is not blatantly obvious.

Therefore, if you are not familiar with the etymology of golf scoring terms yet, you may wonder: why are some golf terms named after birds?

In this article, we will tell you exactly why some golf terms are named after birds, and give you some examples.

Why Are Some Golf Terms Named After Birds?

The terms in golf named after birds stem from the word “Birdie”. Birdie” comes from the American slang word “bird” that used to mean “good”. The bird theme continued from birdie, using the names of progressively larger birds to denote even better golf scores, such as eagle, albatross, & condor.

If you have played or watched golf for a while, you may have noticed that many golf terms seem to follow an avian theme. In fact, golf terms such as birdie, eagle, albatross, and condor are all named after bird species. Why is this?

It all started in the 19th century, in America. Back then, the slang word “bird” was commonly used to denote things or events that were “good” or “nice”.

Many linguistic historians claim that the term “birdie” comes from the American slang word “bird”. This explanation of the origin of the term “birdie” makes a lot of sense since a birdie is a very good score to perform in golf.

Decades ago or maybe even centuries ago, people commonly used the expression “that was a bird of a shot!” to describe an excellent golf shot. This expression could be taken as a visual metaphor in which the golf ball is like a bird that flies sentiently & intelligently into the golf hole cup.

Golf terms continued with this logic that birds are desirable outcomes, by using the names of progressively larger birds to represent progressively better scores.

To illustrate this logic, the next best score after a birdie is an eagle, and an eagle is bigger than the image formed in our head when we think of a [small] bird. Since an eagle is larger than a bird, we assume it is a bigger achievement to score than a birdie.

After the eagle, you have the albatross, which is even bigger than an eagle, and even harder and more desirable to score.

Finally, after the albatross, you have the condor. Yes, the condor is smaller than the albatross, but it is still a big bird. The albatross is the largest flying bird known to man. When albatross was coined to signify 3 strokes under par, people probably assumed there would never be a more desirable term coined.

However, there was a more valuable term coined to signify 4 strokes under par, the condor. After the condor, you have the ostrich, but that is a land bird. After the ostrich, you have the phoenix, which is not even a real avian species, but it does tell you the grandeur of scoring one.

In essence, the bird theme certain golf terms share is associated with good and desirable scores. For this reason, only good golf scores use bird names, such as eagle, albatross, and condor.

The negative analogous words for birdie, eagle and albatross, associated with bad scores, do not have bird names; these negative terms are bogey, double bogey, and triple bogey.

Bogeys are generally viewed as undesirable, although the origin of their name comes from the “perfect” score a golfer could score in good weather. A Bogey used to be rare, like the elusive “Bogeyman”, a British legend.

Bogeys used to be a score people were satisfied with; it used to be the equivalent of what we view as “par” today. However, with the advancement of golfer skill, education, athleticism and golf technology, bogeys are now not really satisfying to score for serious golfers.

Will birdies one day replace our concept of par, as golf technology and the skill levels of golfers push through new limits? No one knows how good golfers will be in 100,000 years, and that is an interesting and exciting thought.

In summary, positive golf terms are named after birds because the American slang term bird used to be associated great successes and good outcomes.


There you go! After reading this article, you learned exactly why some golf terms are named after birds, as well as some specific examples.

Do you find it fitting that some golf terms are named after birds? Would you give these terms different names, and if so, which ones? Let us know in the comments down below!

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