Old Golf Lingo: 'Bolt' and 'Bolt the Hole'

Once upon a time, it was common in golf (at least in the U.K.) to hear golfers talking about needing to "bolt" a stroke, or to brag about "bolting the hole." The old golf lingo is mostly gone from the game, but let's find out what it meant. Maybe you'd like to bring it back to your group of golf buddies.

A "bolted shot" or "bolted stroke" is one that results in the golf ball slamming into the hole traveling at a good speed. The term was used whether such a stroke was a putt or a shot played from anywhere off the green.

As a verb, "bolt" usually referred to hitting a putt (that rammed into the cup) with lots of speed. An example of this usage can be found in Great Triumvirate member James Braid's 1908 book Advanced Golf (affiliate links used for books). When writing about short (2-to-3-foot) putts but on tricky greens, Braid began:

"Too many players do not seem to believe, or to have the courage to act upon their belief, that the best thing to with such putts is to bolt them ..."
But that was Braid's recommendation: "... his best policy is to make dead certain of his line to the centre of the hole and to play boldly."

The Historical Dictionary of Golfing Terms defines bolt as, "To hole out (a shot or putt) with a hard, fast shot; to putt out ... with such a stroke." The earliest usage cited by the HDGT was from 1853, the latest from 1930, although we can be sure the variations of "bolt" were in use both sooner and later than those dates.

Another of the dictionary's citations was Bernard Darwin's 1930 book Second Shots, in which Darwin wrote of a golfer who "halved the last by bolting a difficult, corkscrewy putt."

The use of "bolt" as golf lingo appears to have chiefly been a Britishism, rather than an Americanism. Golfers today no longer use the term (but anyone can bring it back if they wish!), but rather a whole slew of similar terms and expressions. Ram, jam, crash, charge, slam, jar, dunk — all of those action words and many others are used today to mean the same thing "bolting the shot" once meant in golf.

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