The story goes that one fine day in 1899, three gentlemen were playing a round of golf in New Jersey and one of them happened to hit a bird in flight. The ball fell to the ground remarkably near to the hole and his friends remarked that he had hit a ‘birdie’.
From that day forward the term birdie has been used to describe a score of 1 under par. Since then, more aviary-themed names have been introduced to describe other impressive golf scores.
Just like the mysterious bird itself, the albatross is one of the most rare and least talked about of these golf scores and very few golfers will ever see one in their lifetime. Read on to find out all you need to know about this mythical sporting feit…
What Is An Albatross In Golf?
An albatross (or double eagle as it is sometimes known) is a score of 3 under par on a par-5 hole.
What Are The Odds Of Scoring An Albatross In Golf?
The odds of scoring an albatross are extremely, extremely low. To put it into context, the Professional Golfing Association (PGA) estimates that the odds of scoring a hole-in-one for a professional golfer are 3,700 to 1, and for an amateur are 12,700 to 1.
Although those odds are pretty slim, the odds of scoring an albatross are estimated to be 6 MILLION to 1, which is far, far slimmer!
Why Is An Albatross So Rare In Golf?
The fact that it is only possible to score an albatross on a par-5 hole makes the odds of scoring an albatross even slimmer than those of other rare shots. For example, you could score a hole-in-one on any hole regardless of the par.
It is also possible to score a birdie (1 under par), or an eagle (two under par) on any hole.
Most golf holes are rated between par 3-5, with the total 18 hole round adding up to about par-72.
The majority of holes on any course will be rated par-4, with a few par-3 holes that are generally shorter in distance, and just one par-5 hole that is further in distance.
As it is harder to maintain accuracy over a greater distance, players are far less likely to complete a long hole in only 2 shots. This is because you would have to hit the second ball over 200 yards from the green and still manage to get it in the hole!
What Is Par In Golf?
To really understand what an albatross entails you must first understand what is meant by ‘par’.
Par is the number of shots that an average golfer is expected to need in order to complete the hole. If you complete a hole ‘on par’ then you have essentially completed that hole error-free.
A par-4 hole takes an average of 4 shots to complete. If you complete the hole in less than 4 shots then you are under par (which is good). If it takes you more than 4 shots then you are over par (which is less good). Ultimately, you want to finish your round of golf having hit as few shots as possible, so that you come in as far below par as you can.
Has Anyone Ever Scored An Albatross In A Professional Tournament?
Very few professional players ever score an albatross during big tournaments, however there have been a few occasions when this mighty feit has been achieved.
The first ever albatross to be officially recorded was achieved by a golfing legend called Gene Sarazen, way back in 1935. Sarazen managed to score an albatross on the15th hole of the Masters tournament that year, which resulted in him entering a tie at the top of the leaderboard.
His opponent was forced into a play-off and Sarazen eventually won – very deservedly so!
Other professional golfers such as Shaun Micheel, Jack Nichlaus and Joey Sindelar have also all managed to score albatrosses in professional tournaments.
Nicholas Thompson achieved an even more incredible feit at the Fry.com Open in 2009, when he scored an albatross AND a hole-in-one in the same round! He initially came in 3 under par on the 11th hole, and then he scored a rare hole-in-one on the 13th hole!
Now that is epic!!
Tiger Woods has never scored an albatross in a professional tournament, but he has managed to score 20 hole-in-ones in his career – the most recent being in 2018.
Has A Player Ever Hit More Than One Albatross At A Major Tournament?
Only one player has ever hit two albatrosses at a Major golf tournament, and his name is Jeff Maggert.
There have only ever been 4 albatrosses hit at a Masters golf tournament, and 3 albatrosses hit at a US Open tournament.
Both the British Open and the PGA Championship have seen 1 albatross each. So, as you can see they are very rare indeed!
What Other Rare Gold Scores Are There?
A Condor is the unofficial name given to a score of 4 under par and it is sometimes referred to as a ‘double albatross’ or a ‘triple eagle’. It is such a rare shot that bookmakers do not even offer odds on it happening in a tournament!
An Ostrich is a near impossible golf score. It has never officially been recorded and is more the stuff of myth and legend than reality. However, for those who want to try, an ostrich is when a golfer completes a hole in 5 below par.
This means it is only possible if you achieve a hole-in-one on a par-6 hole, or manage to sink a par-7 hole in just two shots!
Not only are par-6 and par-7 holes incredibly rare to find (because most golf courses do not have space to accommodate that kind of yardage), but you would also have to hit the ball unbelievably hard and far to achieve it.
Therefore, an ostrich is one score that would have to occur more through luck than judgement!