I came across a particular golf term today… “dormie”. What does it mean? Well, the Wikipedia article for “dormie” (update: Wikipedia removed the page: “Non-notable term, no sources provided, and WP is not a dictionary.”) was so informative interesting that, instead of paraphrasing the article, I’m going to just show a direct quote.

Dormie (also spelled “dormy”) is a term used in match play golf, denoting that the score is such that one player is the same number of points ahead as there are holes still to play; thus that should one hole be halved, that leading player will win the match.

The player currently in the lead is said to be “dormie” or “dormie-number” where number is the number of holes involved.

The word derives from late 18th and early 19th century Scotland, where golf was played on links on the coast. The heathland near the coast is home to a number of indigenous species, including dormice, or “dormies” in the argot of the East Coast of Scotland. Dormice, as shy creatures, generally hid well from passing golfers, but a sighting was held to be particularly good luck for any links player passing.

From these connotations of good luck the name of the “wee, cowrin’, tim’rous beastie” entered golf parlance, meaning a state of affairs where one stroke of good fortune would award a win to the leading player.

The earliest known mention of the sight of “dormies” as being lucky is from OSA 1791-2 ((Old) Statistical Accounts of Scotland, p. XXX. In its reference to the parish of Monifieth (in which lies Carnoustie where, incidentally, the “Open” (British Open Championship Golf) is often played, and golf was recorded some 25 years before it was St. Andrews), the record of local flora and fauna includes a tangential mention. The usage is also noted by Sir Walter Scott, whose diaries for the year 1828 include a description of a visit to Carnoustie, where he wrote an extended essay on local wildlife, mentioning the peculiar habit of local “gowfers” (golfers) of invoking the name of various rodents during play.

Another theory, and one given in the USGA Museum, states that “dormie” comes from the word “dormir,” which shares a French and Latin origin. “Dormir” means “to sleep.” “Dormie” means that a player has reached a match play lead that is insurmountable – and so the player can relax, knowing that he cannot lose the match. “Dormir” (to sleep) turns into “dormie” (relax, you can’t lose).

Many dictionaries state the etymology of “dormie” as unknown.