In golf, a “divot” is a piece of turf that is cut out of the ground in the course of playing a stroke. (Divot can also refer to the hole left where the turf was gouged out.)
What Is a Divot In Golf?
Most golf shots played with an iron or wedge will scrape off a thin layer of turf where the ball was resting. This is because those clubs are designed to strike the golf ball on a descending path: Since the iron is still moving downward, it continues down after striking the ball, digging slightly into the turf as the swing bottoms out.
Golfers will take deeper or shallower divots depending on their swing shapes, but divots are the common, expected result of a good golf swing with an iron or wedge.
The term “divot” dates to the 1500s in (appropriately enough) Scotland, although it appears to come from roofing rather than golf. When houses were “shingled” with pieces of sod, those pieces of sod cut out of the ground and layered on rooftops were called divots.
A good divot will start just in front of where the golf ball was at rest, meaning that your club struck the ball first, then the ground. If the divot starts behind the ball, you have mis-hit the shot (this type of mis-hit is often called hitting the ball “heavy” or “fat”).
If your divot points left of the target (for a right-hander), you cut across the ball at impact on an outside-to-inside swing path (which often results in a fade, slice or pull). If your divot points right of the target line (for a right-hander), your swing path was inside-to-outside (which can result in a draw, hook or push).
Taking a divot is appropriate with iron shots, but if you take a divot with a wood you’ve probably mis-hit the golf ball, most likely by having an angle of attack that is too steep.
Divot vs. Divot Hole
As noted, the term “divot” refers to the chunk of grass displaced by the golf shot, but can also mean the bare area left behind. It is acceptable to use “divot” to refer to both. But the bare area can also be called (and often is called) the “divot hole.”
And hitting a drive straight down the middle of the fairway only to have it come to rest on or in a divot hole is bad luck no golfer wants. But if it happens to you, do you have to play the ball out of the divot hole? Or do you get a drop? As it turns out, you cannot move a ball out of a divot.
Do Golfers Need to Try to Replace the Divot?
So you dug up a chunk of turf playing a 5-iron from the fairway, leaving a big ol’ bare patch (the divot hole). Now what? Are you supposed to do anything about that? Repair the damage somehow?
In most cases, yes. The Golf Course Superintendents Association of America says that replacing or repairing a divot greatly speeds up the healing process of the turf. But the specifics of how you repair that divot can differ depending on the golf course’s wishes.
Other Uses of Divot in Golf
A “nice divot” is a divot that is sheared off very cleanly and thinly and remains in one piece. To create a divot is called “taking a divot.” Replacing your divot is also called “fixing a divot” or “repairing a divot.”
Then there’s the divot repair tool, something that should be in every golfer’s bag. But the divot tool isn’t actually used to fix divots – it’s a bit misnamed. It is used to repair ball marks or pitch marks on putting greens.