What is an Albatross in Golf? – All You Need to Know!

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If you are new to golf you might be scratching your head many times and getting frustrated with all the weird terminology golfers use. What about the term “Albatross”? Let’s find out what it means…

The Golfing Term Albatross – What Does it Mean?

An albatross in golf is best explained as scoring a three-under-par on an individual hole. This rare shot in golf is also known as a -3 under par and can only be achieved on at least a par 5 hole.

Why is it Called an Albatross?

You have to go back to 1899 to first learn about the origins of the albatross term in golf.

You have may already hear of the term “birdie” – which is one shot under par (-1) for the hole.

Or the other term that uses a bird’s name, an “eagle” in golf. This is where you shoot 2 shots under par for the hole (-2).

The story goes that in Atlantic City there was a foursomes match where one of the players, AB Smith suggested when his ball was only a few inches away from the hole, the quote tells us…

“That was a bird of a shot… I suggest that when one of us plays a hole in one under par he receives double compensation.”

He then went on to propose that if any of the group shot a hole one under par (-1) that the reward should be a double compensation score.

The others agreed and the term “birdie” was used from then on.

In 1800s America, the word “bird” is also slang for something that is good or positive – this ties in perfectly with the AB Smith ideology of naming a shot after a bird.

Soon after, the term “Eagle” was used to describe a better shot than a birdie and yes you guessed it a “Double Eagle” was then used to describe the unlikely event of a golfer shooting a -3 under par shot on a single hole.

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Is it Double Eagle or Albatross?

In the US, a double eagle is still used – but in the UK and Europe as a whole, the term “albatross” is a more widely used term to describe a double eagle.

And this is thought to have originated way back in 1929. A newspaper clipping from this time quotes a match played in the northeast of England where it quotes…

“One certainly didn’t hear of any ‘albatrosses’ or even ‘eagles’ but certainly some ‘birdies’ were achieved.”

It’s not a bonafide answer by any means, but golfers like the fact it adds to the mystery of the game and thus, welcome these quirky old sayings from the past.

Is it Hard to Shoot an Albatross?

Most amateurs will never shoot an albatross in their lives. When you think about what is required to make this shot on a par 5 hole it seems impossible!

For starters, you have to hit a very long drive, and even on short par 5 of sub 500 yards, let’s be generous and say 480 yards that leaves a long iron to the make albatross score which you will need to land in the hole.

The odds of hitting an albatross are thought to be in the millions to one shot so don’t be staking your house on this unlikely event!

If this isn’t bad enough for amateur golfers… there are also many professionals who have never made an albatross.

What Professional Golfers Have Made an Albatross?

Remarkably, there are numerous players that have shot an albatross in golf, such as Jack Nicklaus who in 1996 hit an albatross on the par 5, 18th hole at the Atlantic Beach Country Club.

When you factor in the term “birdie” that originated in Atlantic City, you have to wonder…

Was it written in the stars for a legend like Niclaus to shoot an albatross in the same locality?

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Did you know that there are over 40 other professional players (men and women) that have hit an albatross in golf, including scoring a par 4 hole in one?

Some notable names that have an albatross at a Major Championship include:

  • Gene Sarazan (hole 15) Masters, Augusta in 1935.
  • Shaun Micheel (hole 6) U.S. Open, Pebble Beach in 2010.
  • Jeff Maggert (hole 6)The Open Championship, Royal Lytham in 2001.
  • Nick Watney (hole 17) U.S. Open Olympic Club in 2012.
  • Vikki Laing (hole 17) Women’s British Open, Royal Birkdale Golf Club in 2014.

Surely, Nothing Beats an Albatross?

Is there a shot in golf that is better than an albatross?

Yes, there is, a “condor” is when you hit a par 5 shot and it ends up in the hole from the tee!

This hole in one shot is so rare that there are no official records of it ever happening.

If you shoot a condor you are rewarding yourself with an incredible -4 under par for that hole!

There 4 instances on the web where a condor has been recorded in the local press or online.

Experts agree that the best chance of a long hitter completing a condor is when there is a short dog-leg par 5 hole and the player has to hook the ball over course obstacles like trees or bunkers.

The ball would then need a good “kick” onto the green and then into the hole.

Now You Know What an Albatross is…

Golfers know that the albatross is a rare feat to achieve, and as such its name has become synonymous with any golf shot that comes close.

In this article, we’ve covered everything you need to know about the term “albatross” in golf, from its origin story to how difficult it can be even for professional players to hit an albatross.

We hope you have a better understanding of what is an albatross in golf, who has made one, and why it can be hard to make this difficult golf shot.

Good luck with your next round!