What Is a Snowman in Golf? – Top Golf Terms Explained

What is a Snowman in Golf


Golf, often hailed as a gentleman’s game, is a sport that traverses meticulously manicured landscapes, where every stroke counts and every hole presents a unique challenge. Yet, within this realm of precision and strategy, there exists a curious phenomenon known as the “snowman.” For those unacquainted with golfing lingo, the term might conjure images of wintry fairways adorned with frosty sculptures. However, in the lexicon of golf, a snowman carries an entirely different connotation. One that seasoned golfers hope to avoid at all costs. Join us on a journey through the intricacies of a snowman in golf, exploring its origins, implications, and significance on the green, as I bring you a comprehensive guide to the snowman.

Origins of the Snowman

Before delving into the depths of snowman golf, it’s essential to understand its roots. The term “snowman” derives its name from the resemblance of the number “8” to the shape of a snowman—a round ball of snow atop another ball of snow. In golfing terms, a snowman symbolises a score of eight strokes on a single hole. While this might seem innocuous to the uninitiated, within the realm of golf, it signifies a significant setback, often synonymous with frustration and disappointment.

What is a Snowman - Golf Terms Explained

I would love to tell you I’m not a member of the Snowman Club. It’s not a great place to be a member, but I can 100% confirm I am a multiple member of this golf club! I have tried to research where the term originates but it is unclear, some suggest it began in the United States, some say Scotland (plenty of snow!) and some golfers even suggest it originates from South Africa. If you happen to know the answer I’d love you to drop it in the comments at the end of this article.

The Anatomy of a Snowman

Imagine stepping onto the tee box of a picturesque par-5 hole, surrounded by lush fairways and pristine greens. You take your first shot, a mighty swing with hopes of sending the golf ball soaring towards the distant pin. However, fate has other plans, and your shot veers off course, landing squarely in a water hazard. Undeterred, you take your second shot, only to find yourself ensnared in a sand trap—a dreaded sand bunker, colloquially referred to as the “cat box” or “fried egg.” With each subsequent stroke, you struggle to extricate yourself from the predicament, succumbing to the relentless challenges of the course.

As your playing partners watch on, you navigate through a series of chip shots and approach shots, each fraught with their own set of obstacles. Despite your best efforts, the ball refuses to cooperate, bouncing off trees and careening into the rough. Finally, after what feels like an eternity, you sink the ball into the cup, but not before tallying eight strokes on the scorecard, or the common term – a snowman. 8 shots on an individual hole.

Implications of the Snowman

In the realm of golf, where every stroke is meticulously recorded, the snowman carries significant implications for a player’s overall score. A single snowman can derail an otherwise promising round of golf, turning aspirations of glory into a battle for redemption. Moreover, the psychological impact of such a setback cannot be understated, as the spectre of the snowman looms large in the minds of golfers worldwide.

For amateur golfers, the snowman serves as a humbling reminder of the challenges inherent in the sport—a rite of passage that tests one’s resilience and resolve. Even professional golfers, revered for their prowess on the green, are not immune to the dreaded snowman. Legends of the game, from Jack Nicklaus, Nick Faldo & Tiger Woods to Rory McIlroy, have encountered their fair share of eight-stroke setbacks, serving as a testament to the unpredictable nature of golf.

Navigating the Snowman

To avoid the dreaded snowman, golfers must employ a combination of skill, strategy, and mental fortitude. Whether it’s mastering the short game to salvage a wayward shot or honing the art of course management to mitigate risk, every aspect of golfing prowess comes into play. Moreover, maintaining a positive mindset in the face of adversity is paramount, as the ability to rebound from setbacks is often the mark of a true champion.

From the infamous Texas wedge to the elusive double eagle, golfing jargon is replete with terms that capture the essence of the sport. Yet, it is the dreaded snowman that serves as a sobering reminder of the fine line between triumph and defeat on the golf course. As golfers of all skill levels strive to improve their game, the quest to avoid the snowman remains an ever-present challenge. One that tests the limits of determination and resilience.

Most Common Golf Terms

A snowman is a term used far too frequently in my Saturday 4 ball, and while it may not need explaining to us, hopefully, you will find this article useful to you. If you want to read more about some of the strange phrases, golf slang, and other terms used in golf, why not check out our Golf Terms Explained series of articles?

The Evolution of Snowman Golf

In recent years, the concept of snowman golf has evolved beyond its traditional confines, spawning new slang terms and creative interpretations. From the “banana ball” to the “bo Derek,” golfers have devised playful monikers to describe the myriad ways in which a snowman can manifest. Moreover, with the advent of social media and online forums, the snowman has become a subject of lighthearted banter among golfing enthusiasts, serving as a source of camaraderie amidst the rigours of the course.

Professional tournaments, such as the Open Championship and televised golf events, have witnessed their fair share of abominable snowman scores, captivating audiences around the world. Whether it’s a seasoned golfer grappling with the challenges of a treacherous sand trap or a novice contending with the pressure of their first round of golf, the snowman transcends age, skill level, and nationality. While it may seem like a difficult achievement, one bad tee shot sent flying out of bounds could set you easily on the way to a triple bogey on a par 5. It would be commonplace for your playing partner to bring out the golf lingo and question why they’ve witnessed a snowman in the middle of a golf course.

Par 6 Snowman

It’s now even easier to score a Snowman than ever before. As more courses add Par 6 holes to their par rating, “just” a double bogey could enter you into the snowman club. That could just be a poor approach shot, followed by a bad chip shot and a missed short putt. A snowman on a Par 6 such as “The Devil” at Westray Golf Club (below, ironically it is also the 8th hole on the course!), might not lead you to feel like throwing your set of clubs in the nearest pond as it may do on a Par 3 or 4.

Par 6 Holes - Beware of Snowmen
Beware of Snowmen!

Snowmen In Match Play Golf

This is far rarer than in most other golf formats. For you to record a snowman in match play your opponent would need a pretty high golf score on that hole too since otherwise you’d likely pick up and give them the hole. Bad shot after bad shot from both golfers is pretty rare, although not completely unheard of!

Scoring a Snowman in Stableford Golf

Scoring a snowman in Stableford golf presents a unique challenge, as it requires players to navigate through a series of setbacks while minimising the impact on their overall score. Unlike traditional stroke play, where every stroke is tallied individually, Stableford golf offers some reprieve for high-scoring holes, allowing players to cap their losses and focus on the next challenge by picking up.

While a snowman might seem unlikely, a golfer with a higher handicap could still score Stableford points with an 8. For example, if a player receives two shots on a par 5 and scores a snowman, they would still earn one Stableford point as this would be a net bogey. Different scores mean different things depending on a golfer’s handicap. That is one of the beauties of Stableford golf. If you’d like to know more about this format, read our article – Stableford Scoring System: Your Complete Guide.

Is a Right-Handed Golfer More Susceptible to a Snowman?

More snowmen are scored by right-handed golfers than left-handed golfers. While that is a fact, it’s not because right-handed golfers are more susceptible to snowmen than left-handed golfers … there are just a lot more R/H golfers around the world.

How to Prevent a Snowman in Golf

An eight in golf is not caused by one bad shot. It’s not caused by hitting fairway woods when a golfer should have played a safe 7 iron. Neither is it caused by hitting the ball with the wrong part of the club or a very sharp fade shot. An eight is scored by a golfer making repeated errors on the same hole. Put simply, the easiest way to avoid an 8 on your scorecard is to play safe every shot. My first recommendation would be to think about every shot. Playing the “percentage shot” each time will massively reduce the chance of a golfer scoring an 8 on any given hole. A lot of people could avoid an 8 in golf simply by concentrating harder on every single shot.

Phil Mickelson – King of the Snowman

One of the most memorable snowmen by a professional golfer in recent history was scored by Phil Mickelson. One of golf’s most famous faces began his third round of the 2020 US Masters with dreams of making history and becoming the oldest-ever Masters champion, After 36 holes at Augusta, Mickelson was just four shots behind the lead and a good third round on Saturday could have seen him rise to the top of the leaderboard. It was not to be. Mickelson started with a par but then had a run of five bogeys in his next six holes. Mickelson scored a couple of birdies though over the next few holes to bring himself back into contention until he capitulated on the 15th hole.

Phil Mickelson Scored a Snowman at The Masters

After pulling his tee shot into the pine straw, Mickelson attempted a punch-out shot, but it, unfortunately, ricocheted off a tree and veered backwards. Undeterred, he managed to advance the ball to a spot with a clear shot, only to see his fourth stroke sail over the green and land in the pond. Following a drop, Mickelson struggled to recover, ultimately failing to get up and down, resulting in a triple-bogey eight on the hole and securing his place in snowman history!

Conclusion: Navigating the Snowman’s Shadow

In conclusion, the snowman in golf represents more than just a high score on a single hole—it embodies the trials and tribulations of the sport itself. From its humble origins to its pervasive presence in golfing culture, the snowman serves as a poignant reminder of the inherent unpredictability of the game. 

As golfers of all backgrounds continue to flock to the fairways in search of glory, the quest to avoid the dreaded snowman remains a universal pursuit—one that unites players from St. Barthélemy to South Korea in a shared appreciation for the challenges and triumphs of the sport. So, the next time you step onto the tee box, heed the lessons of the snowman and embrace the journey that lies ahead, for in the game of golf, as in life, it’s not the number of strokes that define us but rather the resilience and determination with which we face each challenge.

While the odd snowman on any given hole is inevitable, it’s best to try to avoid one on the first hole. The strange quietness on the second tee from your golf buddies is painful. Not that I’m talking from personal experience …

Are you a member of the snowman club? Is there a particular hole on your course where snowmen hang out regularly? Is there one type of shot that you know could lead to a snowman? Let us know in the comments below.

Bye for now!


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