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

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

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

Answer

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 interesting reading and links of interest

  • 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).