How Many Albatross in Golf?

Golf is a sport that has been around for centuries, with the earliest written record of golf being played dating back to 1457 in Scotland. Over the many years of evolution, golf has developed its own unique terminology and scoring system. One of the rarest accomplishments in golf is the albatross, also known as a double eagle. But just how uncommon is it to score an albatross? Let’s take an in-depth look at what exactly an albatross is and analyze the frequency of albatrosses in golf.

What is an Albatross in Golf?

An albatross, also known as a double eagle, is a score of three strokes under par on a single hole. For example, on a par 5 hole, scoring a 2 would be considered an albatross. It is the best score possible on a given hole besides a hole-in-one. A hole-in-one is only possible on par 3 holes, while an albatross can only be scored on par 4 or par 5 holes.

The origin of the term albatross comes from the large seabird – scoring an albatross is considered so rare that spotting an actual albatross is more common. The first recorded use of the term in golf literature was in 1914 by golf writer Bernard Darwin, grandson of the famous scientist Charles Darwin.

How it Works

As mentioned previously, an albatross can only be scored on par 4 or par 5 holes. Here is a breakdown:

Par 4 Holes

  • Par for the hole: 4 strokes
  • Hole-in-One: 1 stroke
  • Albatross: 2 strokes

For example, on a standard par 4 hole with a par of 4, scoring a 2 would be an albatross. This requires the player to hole out (sink the ball into the cup) with their tee shot.

Par 5 Holes

  • Par for the hole: 5 strokes
  • Hole-in-One: 1 stroke
  • Albatross: 3 strokes

On a par 5 hole, scoring a 3 would be an albatross. The player would need to reach the green in two shots and sink their third shot for the albatross.

As you can see, an albatross requires an exceptionally skilled and accurate shot, as well as some luck. Next we’ll analyze the rarity of albatrosses in professional and recreational play.

Key Points on Albatross Frequency

Some key facts on the frequency of albatrosses:

  • They are extremely rare, even for professional golfers. The odds have been estimated between 1 in 1,000 to 1 in 1 million, depending on the player’s skill level.
  • There have been 5 albatrosses in Masters Tournament history since 1939. The last one occurred in 1994.
  • There have been 8 double eagles in U.S. Open history. The last one was in 2013.
  • There have been only 4 albatrosses in British Open history, with the last one in 2009.
  • On the PGA Tour, there are a handful of albatrosses recorded each year. In 2021, there were 7, shared among 5 players.
  • For amateur recreational golfers, a lifetime albatross is exceptionally uncommon. Less than 3% of golfers score one.

As you can see from the data, an albatross is a very rare accomplishment, even among elite professional golfers. Next, we’ll go over why they are so uncommon.

Why Albatrosses Are Rare

There are a few key reasons why albatrosses remain so infrequent during golf rounds:

Difficulty of the Shot

The shots required for an albatross need to be precise in both distance and direction. On a par 4, the tee shot needs to land on the green, which requires driving the ball 250+ yards in most cases. For a par 5 albatross, the second shot must travel 200+ yards to reach the green in regulation. The margin for error is very small.

Influence of Luck

There is always an element of luck involved. The wind conditions, bounces and roll of the ball need to be favorable for an albatross. A mishit or unlucky bounce can ruin a potential albatross.

Low Number of Par 4s and 5s

The par 5s and reachable par 4s suitable for an albatross are scarce during a round. Most courses have only 2-4 par 5s and 1-3 short par 4 holes. This limits the chances.

Penalty Strokes

A tee shot that finds a hazard or lands out of bounds eliminates any chance at an albatross and leads to penalty strokes. This occurs frequently, even among professionals.

Difficulty of the Putt

After reaching the green in the requisite number of shots, the player still needs to hole a lengthy putt for albatross. Making a long putt has low odds, adding to the difficulty.

Given these challenges, everything must align perfectly for an albatross to occur. Next, we’ll go over some tips to increase your chances.

Increasing Your Albatross Odds

While albatrosses will always be rare, here are some ways to boost your odds of scoring one:

Improve Driving Distance

Work on maximizing your driving distance, through physical strength and optimizing technique. The farther you can drive the ball, the greater chance you have of reaching those par 4s and 5s in two or three shots.

Dial In Your Iron Play

Practice hitting accurate, consistent approach shots into greens. Work on distances from 200-250 yards for par 5s and tight, aggressive shots to tuck it close on par 4s.

Read the Bounces

Study how balls react on the course you play frequently. Understand speed, contours and fairway conditions to optimize bounces and rollouts.

Play Strategically

On courses you know well, go for aggressive lines on short par 4s and reachable par 5s. Be willing to take a risk.

Attempt Long Lag Putts

When facing a 90+ foot eagle putt, try to get it close and give yourself a look. You can’t make a long putt if you don’t try.

Stay Positive After a Great Drive

When you crush a 250 yard drive on a par 4 or 5, don’t get nervous – stay confident and go for the albatross.

Following these tips will give you the best possible chance at achieving the rare albatross. But keep expectations realistic – they will still be very uncommon. Enjoy the process of going for it when the opportunities arise.

Notable Albatrosses in Golf History

While albatrosses remain a rare feat, there have been some incredibly memorable ones over the years:

  • Gene Sarazen, 1935 Masters – This “shot heard round the world” albatross propelled Sarazen to victory and put the Masters tournament on the map. It remains one of the most famous shots in golf history.
  • Louis Oosthuizen, 2012 Masters – Oosthuizen holed a 4 iron from 253 yards on the par 5 2nd hole during the final round. It sparked dreams of the first Masters albatross in history, but Oosthuizen ended up settling for an eventual 2nd place.
  • Shaun Micheel, 2003 PGA Championship – On the par 4 7th hole, journeyman Micheel struck a 175 yard 7 iron approach that found the hole for a shocking albatross. It helped him capture his lone major win.
  • Joey Sindelar, 2004 PGA Championship – Sindelar scored an albatross on the final day on the par 5 5th hole, holing a 6 iron from 183 yards out. His celebratory fist pump was a classic reaction to the ultra rare feat.
  • Brian Harman, 2012 Wells Fargo Championship – During a steady rain, Harman holed his 2nd shot on the par 5 10th hole from 255 yards using a 4 iron. The ball landed on the front of the green and funneled perfectly into the cup.

As you can see, some of golf’s biggest stages have witnessed memorable albatrosses. While rare, they create monumental highlights.

Conclusion

An albatross, or double eagle, remains one of golf’s most coveted accomplishments. The precision and luck required to score 3 under par on one hole makes them extremely uncommon. Even on the professional tours, only a handful occur each year. For recreational golfers, the chances are remote, but remain possible with the right combination of skill, strategy, and fortune. Albatrosses will always be special moments to cherish for those gifted enough to experience one during their golfing journeys. The pursuit of golf’s most elusive feat will continue driving players to take aggressive strategy and swing for the fences.

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