In golf, an albatross or double eagle is a score of three strokes under par on a hole. A player achieves an albatross when they score a two on a par 5 or aces a par 4.
Albatrosses are even rarer than a hole-in-one in golf.
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How birds were associated with golf
The term “bird” was slang for something great or wonderful in the United States in the 1800s. As a result, when golf became popular in the United States in the late 1890s, the term “birdie” came to refer to a score of one-under-par on a hole.
The bird theme continued in golf with the term “eagle,” which referred to a score of two shots under par, which was far more uncommon than a birdie.
Why would a score of three strokes below par be referred to as an Albatross?
This is most likely due to the bird’s status among its feathery companions.
“The most legendary of all birds,” according to the albatross.
According to folklore, harming an albatross can bring bad luck. Because sailors regarded albatrosses to represent the souls of their departed comrades, killing these birds could jeopardize their livelihood.
Albatrosses are big flying birds that can be found mostly in the Southern Ocean and the North Pacific.
Albatross numbers have dropped in the past owing to feather harvesting, and they are frequently designated as an endangered species.
Scoring an albatross
You must be playing on a par-5 hole to score an albatross on a given hole. A hole-in-one would be dubbed a hole-in-one rather than an albatross if you holed out three strokes under par on a par-4 hole.
To accomplish an albatross on a par-5 hole, you must sink your second shot. This achievement would almost certainly necessitate precision and luck on a second shot that would most likely be 200 yards or more from the green.
The chances of creating an albatross
Albatrosses are much rarer than aces since they require two near-perfect shots. To even have a chance of reaching the green in two on a par five or holing a drive on a par four, you must have length off the tee.
This reduces the chance of an albatross to less than 10% of all golfers.
In the final round of the 2012 Masters, Louis Oosthuizen made a double eagle with a 4-iron from 253 yards. This shot came after a 320-yard drive on the second fairway.
The chances of spotting an albatross vary between six million to one and one million to one, depending on the data source. According to the National Hole-in-One Registry, the odds of a hole-in-one for the ordinary golfer are 12,500 to 1.
The chances of getting struck by lightning, according to the CDC, are roughly 500,000 to 1. Although a lightning strike is more likely, an albatross is far more common than winning the lotto.
You have a 14,000,000 to 1 chance of winning the lotto if you choose 6 numbers from a possible pool of 49.
One element that makes scoring an albatross even more difficult is that most golf courses only give players two to five chances to accomplish the accomplishment.
Because it can only be achieved on a par-5 hole, your chances of landing an albatross are limited to the number of par-5 holes on the course.
The albatross remains elusive, despite the fact that you can score a 1-under-par birdie or even a 2-under-par eagle on every hole on any given course.
Notable albatrosses scored
There were three double eagles on the PGA Tour in 2019 and three more in 2020, according to the Double Eagle Club, which is dedicated to the identification, registration, and preservation of Double Eagles scored worldwide.
Yani Tseng’s last albatross on the LPGA Tour came in 2016 at the Sime Darby LPGA in Malaysia.
Tiger Woods and the albatross pursuit
You know how difficult it is to achieve an albatross when the finest of his generation doesn’t have one. Tiger Woods, for example, has yet to make a double eagle in competition.
Tiger has never hit an albatross on the PGA Tour, but he came close in 2015 at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, which Brooks Koepka won.
Tiger struck his second shot within 7 inches from the pin for a tap-in eagle after a 329-yard drive.
Two albatrosses in a single tournament
At the 2015 Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill Club in Orlando, Florida, two albatrosses were recorded in the same tournament for the first time on the PGA Tour. In round three, Daniel Berger hit his on the 6th hole, while Zach Johnson hit an albatross on the 16th hole in round four.
The majors and albatrosses
Albatrosses, as one might assume, are uncommon at men’s major championships, which sometimes feature exceptionally lengthy and tough course layouts. The feat has only occurred 18 times, the most recent being at the 2012 US Open.
Double Eagle vs. albatross
A three-under-par hole score is known by several names. Albatross is one of them. A double eagle is another name for an albatross.
Although some may argue that albatross is a better moniker for the unusual golf feat, the phrase “double eagle” is more commonly used in the industry.
In golf, how rare is an albatross?
We examined the odds of making an ace for an amateur golfer at 12,500 to 1 and for a professional golfer at 2,500 to 1 in a previous article. An albatross has astronomically higher odds, with a 1,000,000 to 1 ratio.
Golfers have a better chance of getting struck by lightning (1 in 555,000) than scoring an albatross. Furthermore, only 10% of golfers can hit the green in two shots on a par 5, meaning that 90% of players will never get the chance to make one.
In golf, how can you get an albatross?
A golfer’s ability to hold a shot from a great distance is influenced by a number of factors. Some of the factors that improve one’s chances of making an albatross include:
- Wind: striking a ball downwind causes it to fly and roll further.
- The firmness of the ground: playing in a firm, desert-like conditions will give the ball more bounce and roll.
- Trees: while fortunate bounces from these woodland monarchs are always appreciated, the results are unpredictable and not always positive.
Whether artificial or natural, cart pathways will gladly offer balls an extra boost in exchange for a scuff mark.
Elevation change in the holes
Courses built in the foothills or in the mountains might have significant elevation variations. Downhill strokes shorten the distance to the hole while increasing the ball’s bounce and roll.
Elevation above sea level
Because the air is less dense at higher elevations, the ball will go further. When you play golf at 5,000 feet, you should expect to gain at least 6% additional yardage.
The shot’s direction
A straight line is the shortest distance between two places.
Doglegs are one type of strategy that necessitates cutting corners—bends left or right on a golf hole that forces a golfer to navigate the hole by hitting consecutive shots that create a 45-90 degree angle.
Many professional golfers may pick angles that cut through and occasionally over woods, lakes, valleys, and hills, reducing the hole’s length.
Playing a 350-yard dogleg as designed versus aiming straight for the hole and only needing to hit the ball 300 yards to get to the hole is an example.
Ability to hit the ball far
Some or all of the factors stated above are required to make a ball in the hole from a great distance. But, more importantly, you must be able to consistently and consistently hit the ball far.
It takes a lot of practice and mental and physical strength to not only perform the same effective swing every time but also to generate enough clubhead speed to smash the ball far enough.
Is it worth the try?
Because the goal of golf is to get the ball into the hole in the fewest number of strokes feasible, the answer should be yes. Is it, however, the best option? Perhaps not.
- 1st Hole at Albatross Golf Club: Par 5, 485 yards, 15mph downwind at 3,000 feet.
- 1st Shot: The driver hit the right side of the target, rebounding off the cart route and bouncing an additional 30 yards. The ball travels 300 yards but comes to a halt in thick rough.
- 2nd Shot: 185 yards to the pin, the ball is in 3″ rough, and the golfer hits their three hybrids 200 yards at this height. A 15-yard-wide brook runs through the hole 40 yards short of the green.
Is it better to try to hole out from here or to look for another way out?
If the creek isn’t present, it’s probably safe to go for it. You never know until you try, so why not give it a shot?
The creek, on the other hand, poses an interesting dilemma: should you go for it, or do you lay down short of the water?
Here’s why you should lay up: the rough’s thickness will limit clubhead speed when the ball is struck and may reduce the overall distance by 15-20%, leaving little room for error in carrying the water hazard.
Just because you’re facing downwind doesn’t imply it’ll assist.
The ball will be pulled down if it does not get above the wind, limiting the distance it goes and making it more difficult to carry the water hazard. Golf is all about playing advantageous percentages based on your golf shot’s dispersion patterns.
The overall area where wayward shots may fall, including bunkers, the putting green, water hazards, and heavy rough, is referred to as dispersion.
The average golfer’s dispersion pattern at 150 yards, someone with an 18-hole average score of 90-100, could be as wide as 50-75 feet. The greater the dispersion pattern becomes, the further back you go.
Conversely, as you move closer, the dispersion pattern becomes narrower. To put things into perspective, PGA TOUR pros aim for the flag on nearly every approach shot from 150 yards and, despite their expertise and ability, miss their target by nearly 28 feet.
Taking these factors into account, the golfer in the example may have a higher chance of success by hitting their second shot 100 yards into the fairway short of the creek and then hitting their third shot the final 85 yards to the hole rather than going for it and risking the water hazard and penalty strokes.
Is there anything better in golf than an albatross?
In golf, there is a score that is both higher and rarer than an albatross, and it is named after another endangered bird species.
A condor is a hole score of 4 under par, and there are only two ways to get this score:
A hole in one on a par 5 hole or a 2 on a par 6 hole.
Incredibly, there have been six recorded condor sightings in golf history, the latest recent in 2020:
- In 1962, Larry Bruce played the 480-yard par-5 5th hole at Hope Country Club in Hope, Arkansas.
- In 1973, Dick Hogan played the 456-yard par-5 8th hole at Piedmont Crescent Golf Course in Burlington, North Carolina.
- In 1995, Shaun Lynch played the 496-yard par-5 17th hole at Teign Valley Golf Club in Christow, England.
- In 2002, Mike Crean played the 517-yard par-5 9th hole at Green Valley Ranch Golf Club in Denver, Colorado.
- In 2007, Jack Bartlett played the 513-yard par-5 17th hole at Royal Wentworth Falls Country Club, New South Wales, Australia.
- In 2020, Kevin Pon played the 667-yard par-6 18th hole at Lake Chabot Golf Course in Oakland, California.
Any golf aficionado who hears the phrase albatross will most likely recall Gene Sarazen in the last round of the 1935 Masters competition at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia. It is not necessary to have witnessed the achievement to get goosebumps when this shot is spoken.
Sarazen blasted what became known as the “shot heard around the world” on the 485-yard par 5 15th hole. Gene Sarazen, who was 235 yards from the hole and three strokes behind the tournament leader, blasted a perfect 4-wood that found its way onto the putting green and into the cup for a 3-under par albatross.
Sarazen tied for the lead after one hole and went on to win his first Masters title in a 36-hole playoff.
Additional scoring terms in golf
Let’s go through some more golf-scoring words now that you know what an albatross is.
From the lowest under par to the greatest above par, they are listed here:
- Condor: a 4-under par as an ace or hole in one on a par 5 or a score of 2 on a par 6.
- Eagle: a 2-under par like a score of 3 on a par 5. This is also known as a hole-in-one on a par 3.
- Birdie: a 1-under par like a 3 on a par 4.
- Par: a score equivalent to the assigned number of strokes, like a 3 on a par 3 hole.
- Bogey: a 1-over par.
- Double bogey: a 2-over par like a 7 on a par 5.
- Triple, quadruple, or quintuple bogey: scores of 3-, 4-, or 5-over pars, respectively.
To understand further, take a look at this chart:
Scores in Relation to Par
|Par 4||Double Eagle|