Why do we use the phrase ‘borrow’ when talking about the line of our putts?

Category: Playing the Game and Other Challenges
terminology golf putt borrow


It dates back to (at least) the 17th century. How did they think in those times?


The idea was that the golfer would ‘borrow’ some ground (above a straight line) in so much as they were borrowing it, not keeping it.

More about ‘borrow’ when talking about the line of our putts

  • The earliest reference we could track down was a reference in an 1858 article: ‘…. carefully surveyed the lie of the ground, that he may borrow, if it be sloping’
    • From The historical dictionary of golfing terms: from 1500 to present.
  • The sport of Curling has a similar use for the word both, it is believed, to have Scottish origins.
  • In an 1890 article there was reference to needing to either borrow or put a spin on the ball.  Spinning a putt is a unique concept for us nowadays!
  • The words ‘break’ and ‘borrow’ are both used and a largely interchangeable but we do sometimes use them in different ways. We’re more likely to say (i) there is a lot of borrow (noun) and (ii) a putt will break to the right (verb).