Oct 03, 2022
POSTED BY: Nicholas Venditti

What Is an Albatross in Golf?

Every golfer dreams of hitting a perfect drive down the middle of the fairway, then sinking a long putt for an eagle. But what if you could do even better? What if you could make an albatross?

If you're new to golf, you might wonder how this bird's name got roped into the game. And if you're a seasoned player, you're likely hoping that one day you can join the ranks of the masters who have hit an albatross in their time. Few people can claim this impressive feat, and those who do won't let anyone soon forget it.

But what is an albatross, and how can you get one in golf? Let's explore this further.

How Do You Get an Albatross in Golf?

In golf, an albatross is when a player scores three strokes under par on a single hole. It is an incredibly rare feat and one only a handful of professional golfers have ever accomplished in the sport's history.

Due to the logic of the shot, it's most commonly achieved on a par-5, with just two shots taken to get the ball in the hole. However, some impressive players can achieve an albatross by shooting a hole-in-one on a par-4 hole. Understandably, making an albatross on a par-3 hole or lower is impossible.

So how do you make an albatross? It all starts with an incredible drive. If you can hit the ball long and straight off the tee, you'll have a better chance of setting up a shot that could turn into 3-under-par.

From there, it's all about making a great approach shot and sinking a long putt. If you can do all of that, you'll find yourself with an albatross on your scorecard.

Considering that a regulation golf course's par-4 holes are between 240 and 490 yards, and a par-5 is typically between 450 and 710 yards, it's incredibly difficult to score an albatross. Very few golfers ever reach this accomplishment, and most who do are famous golf pros. Still, it doesn't mean that you can't try!

What Are the Odds of Making an Albatross?

Albatrosses are so rare that there is no accurate record of how often they occur. But according to one estimate, the odds of making one is estimated to be about 6 million to 1. And that may be a high estimate—other golf experts say the chances may be lower.

If you want to put that into perspective, your odds of being struck by lightning are 1 in 1.2 million.

It doesn't mean you should give up the dream, however. While your odds may be slim, it's still possible to shoot an albatross—you just have to combine incredibly fine-tuned skill with a bit of luck.

How a Bird Became Part of Golf

The term has many disputed origins in golf, but potentially the most common explanation dates back to the term's first known reference in 1929. A Scottish newspaper used the term while reporting on a match between West Hartlepool and Durham. Although the mention doesn't refer to anyone shooting an albatross in the game, it does refer to it as an established term.

The first reported albatross score was published just a few years later, in 1931, in a press piece in South Africa. Golfer E.E. Wooler scored a hole-in-one on a par-4, which would qualify as an albatross. The Western Daily Press Bristol and the Straits Times Singapore reported it in August 1931.

The word itself may seem odd. However, many bird terms have worked their way into golf scoring, such as a birdie (1 under par) or an eagle (2 under par). Naming a shot that is three under par after an albatross makes sense.

In 1962, John G Ridland wrote in Golf Monthly (March) that he scored a two on a par-5 hole in Western India. He suggested the name 'albatross' describe this feat since the birds have the fascinating ability to shadow ships for hundreds of miles across expansive oceans. Like these birds, albatross golf shots can travel long distances to the hole.

Notable Albatrosses

A few famous golf players have successfully hit albatrosses in their careers. Some of the most notable include:

Gene Sarazen

Sarazen was the first pro golfer on record to hit an albatross in a major event. He did so on the 15th hole of the 1935 Masters, which ended in a tie and a playoff to follow—which he won.

Nicholas Thompson

Pro golfer Nicholas Thompson impressively hit an albatross recently, just in 2009. It happened at the Fry.com Open on the 11th hole, hitting two albatrosses in one match. He first scored two on a par-5 hole, then hit a hole-in-one just two holes later on a par-3. Thompson’s feat is extremely rare.

Frequently Asked Questions

Has Tiger Woods Hit an Albatross?

Tiger Woods has not hit an albatross, but he's come extremely close. In 2015 at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, he played on a par-5 hole, and his first shot was a 329-yard drive. He got the ball just 7 inches away from the pin with his second shot. If his last shot had made it that extra 7 inches, he would have reached albatross status.

Is Albatross Better Than Hole-in-One?

No, an albatross and a hole-in-one are both fantastic accomplishments on the golf course. But they are not equal in terms of scoring. An albatross is three under par, while a hole-in-one can vary depending on the hole's par. 

Albatrosses are technically harder to shoot because they are done on much longer holes, whereas a hole-in-one is feasible on a par-2, a much shorter hole.

Is a Double Eagle the Same as an Albatross?

Yes, technically, an albatross is the same as a double eagle, with the way the terms are used interchangeably in golf. However, logically, a double-eagle would mean four under par, which would have to be a hole-in-one on a par 5, which has never happened. So the term "albatross" makes more sense.

Final Thoughts

Hitting an albatross in golf is a pretty amazing thing. It's scored when you hit a 3-under shot on any hole, which is no easy task. As we've seen, only a few of the best golfers in history have accomplished this feat, and it's always something to celebrate. Whether you're a pro or just playing for fun, hitting an albatross is something to boast!

While you’re honing your skills on the course, you want to look your best. Shop STITCH Golf today for high-quality apparel that makes you look and feel good. That way, if you do hit an albatross, you’re ready for the press.