41 Slang Terms Golfers Have for the Rough

golf ball in the rough

No golfer tries to hit it into the rough, and maybe that's why we have so many different ways to referring to the rough. We need to get creative to describe something we are trying to avoid.

The rough, of course, refers to areas outside the fairways and greens — outside of the areas we are aiming at — where the grass grows just a little bit taller, just a little bit thicker. The rough is supposed to be punitive: Sometimes, as with grass that is only slighly higher than the fairway, just a little bit punitive; sometimes very punitive as with tall, thick grass or unmaintained natural areas.

Here are dozens of slang terms that golfers have for the rough, plus a few extra slang terms along the way for golfers who hit it into the rough.

Leafy Greens

Just about any leafy green can be used as a synonym for the rough. The most common are:
  • Cabbage — and a golfer who keeps hitting into the cabbage is a "cabbage pounder."
  • Spinach — a golfer who keeps hitting into the spinach is called Popeye.
  • Alfalfa
  • Broccoli — a golfer who finds the broccoli repeatedly is a "broccoli beater."
  • Lettuce
Others we've heard include:
  • Radicchio
  • Turnip greens — a golfer who keeps hitting into the rough is "falling off the turnip truck."
  • Bok choy
  • Ch-ch-ch-Chia — as in the TV commercial for the Chia Pet, which is also slang for a golfer who keeps hitting into the chia.
  • Pokey — "Pokey" is slang for jail, which might qualify as a synonym for rough on that basis. But we're actually talking about pokeweed here. We know that because the companion term for a golfer who keeps hitting into the pokey is "poke salad Annie," like the old hit song.
And what do you have if you mix a bunch of greens? A salad. Which brings up these slang terms for the rough:
  • Side salad
  • Chef's salad — this means rough that includes tall turfgrass mixed with weeds. And if that chef's salad is growing on top of pebbly dirt? Then that rough is called "chef's salad with croutons."

Specific Plants Repurposed to Mean Rough

  • Fescue
  • Gorse
  • Heather
Each of the above is a specific thing that has come to be used by some golfers as a general term for rough. Gorse, in particular, is a specific type of shrub that grows on many British links courses. And no Scottish golfer, for example, would ever use "gorse" and "rough" interchangeably. But American golfers, for weeks after watching the British Open, like to shout out, "I'm in the gorse!" when missing a fairway.

References to People or Body Parts

  • Old Man Par's back hair/nose hair/ear hair — Old Man Par is apparently one hairy dude.
  • Old Tom's Eyebrows — "You missed the fairway right, looks like you'll be hitting out of Old Tom's eyebrows."
  • Harden's beard — gnarly Bermuda rough. A reference to NBA superstar James Harden, who popularized big, thick beards among athletes.
  • Bouffant and beehive — tall hairdos that were once popular
  • Armpit — refers specifically to rough at the point where a dogleg hole turns.

Animal Terms That Are Slang for Rough

  • Rabbit house
  • Goat's breakfast — "Looks like you're in the goat's breakfast again, Jim"
  • Snake farm

Types of Places That Mean Rough

A few different types of places can stand in for golf course rough, too, including:
  • Grass farm
  • Chop shop
  • Nursery (as in plants, not babies)
  • Pasture
  • Duffer State Park — "Dude, you just hit it into Duffer State Park. Take plenty of water and don't forget the bug spray."

Light Rough Around Greens

The green surrounds include areas such as the collar and apron that fall into a range somewhere between rough and fairway — they are cut higher than fairway, but don't really qualify as full-on rough. The slang terms for those areas reflect that:
  • Brillo
  • Frog hair
  • Lint
  • Stubble
  • Peach fuzz

And a Few More Slang Words for Golf Course Rough

  • Hay
  • Jungle — dense rough in an area with plenty of trees.
  • Back country — rough far off the fairway. A golfer who hits it into the back country is going backpacking.
  • Mahoofka — we have no idea where this word comes from or how it came to mean rough. We just know that if you hit your ball into the mahoofka, you better take a weedeater and a machete.
Does your group use different words to mean rough, terms we haven't included? Tweet us at @golfcompendium and let us hear 'em.

Photo credit: "Golf Ball in Rough" by One Tree Hill Studios is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

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