Why is the Poor Golfer called Duffer?


A “duffer” is a golf colloquial or slang term for a mediocre or poor golfer. Some non-golfers mistake “duffer” for “golfer,” but this is incorrect. Duffer does not apply to all golfers, only those who aren’t among the best. (In his instructional book Golf for Dummies (Buy on Amazon), Gary McCord defines duffer as simply “bad player.”)

Man wearing red shirt playing golf

Is the term ‘Duffer’ derogatory?

The term can be derogatory, but it doesn’t have to be and, depending on the context, isn’t always.

There’s nothing particularly insulting about saying, for example, that “most of the golfers who play this golf course are duffers.” After all, the majority of golfers on most public courses are mediocre to poor players (higher handicappers, in other words — recreational golfers, the majority of whom never break 100). That’s not a bad thing at all!

However, if a good golfer — a low-handicapper — is referred to as a duffer, the term becomes derogatory. And woe betides anyone who calls a golf pro a “duffer” or uses the term “duffer” as a synonym for “golfer.”

We once knew a sports reporter (who didn’t play golf) who mistakenly referred to his city’s golf course professionals as “duffers” in a newspaper article, thinking he was just using another term for “golfers.” That was a huge oversight! Those professionals were understandably upset.

Is it possible to be a ‘Duffer’ and a ‘Hacker’ at the same time?

Duffer is similar to “hacker” in that both terms refer to weaker players. However, the hacker is a stronger, more derogatory term. More on this can be found in our examination of the golf term ‘hacker.’

What Is the Golf Origin of the Phrase “Duffer”?

The second definition of “duffer” according to Merriam-Webster is “an incompetent, ineffectual, or clumsy person; especially: a mediocre golfer.” Non-golf definitions of the term include “a peddler, especially of cheap flashy articles;” and “something counterfeit or worthless.”

As a result, the term does not derive from golf. But how did it become a golf term? The origin of the term “duff” in golf is likely related to that of “duff,” which is sometimes used to indicate a mishit (“Bob duffed his chip shot”). A “duff” in golf is synonymous with a flub, a screw-up — a chili dip, even.

The Historical Dictionary of Golfing Terms cites usage of duffer from 1875, indicating that the term has been used in golf since at least the nineteenth century.

Old man playing golf

What is a duffer league?

The Allentown Duffers League, founded in 1951 by a small group of players, has grown to become one of the area’s largest and longest-running golf associations. The league has 100 players divided into ten flights, with a waiting list of 35 more players.

Other slang terms used in golf

If there is one thing you can be certain of in any sport, it is that it has its own language. It can even be regional, with different terms referring to different things all over the world. Golf has its own language, complete with slang terms, that is spoken all over the world.

Backdoor putt

A putt in which the ball catches the edge of a hole spins around and falls into the cup from that back edge.


A hole in one on a five-part hole, or four under, is the rarest of golfing birds.

Daisy cutter

A shot that never leaves the ground and, as a result, would cut the daisies if any were present – also known as a worm burner in the United States.

Don Henley 

Because he was a member of The Eagles, he was referred to as an eagle. Slang does not have to be difficult!


A dunch is a poorly fattened pitch or a chip shot that barely moves from its original position after the ball is hit.