Albatross in Golf: Rarer than a hole-in-one?

Last updated Aug 08, 2023

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Written by Zach

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New to golf and trying to figure out what all the golf scoring terms mean?

Let's talk about a rare golf scoring term‚ÄĒthe "albatross".

Definition of an "albatross" in golf

Albatross in golf

An albatross in golf, also known as a "double eagle" is a golf term to describe a score made on a golf hole where the golfer takes three strokes less than the designated par for the hole. This is often expressed as "three strokes under par" or more commonly, just "three under".

Here is how many shots it takes to make an albatross on each type of golf hole.

  • Par 5 hole - On a par 5, an albatross is equal to two strokes.

  • Par 4 hole - On a par 4, an albatross is equal to one stroke, which would be the equivalent of a hole-in-one.

  • Par 3 hole - On a par 3, an albatross is not possible. The best you can do on a par 3 is an eagle, or hole-in-one.

Origin of the term "albatross"

According to the USGA (United States Golf Association), back in 1899, there was a golf match played at Atlantic City Country Club in New Jersey where one of the players, Ab Smith remarked:

That was a bird of a shot!

Back in that day, "bird" referred to anything great or excellent, so he was essentially remarking, "What an excellent shot".

Following this logic, an eagle was a more esteemed term than "birdie" while an albatross (double eagle) was even more esteemed than an eagle.

Whether this is the true origin of bird names in golf, I don't know. But it sure makes for a good story!

What is "the par" for a golf hole?

In golf, each individual golf hole has a designated "par" based on the hole's distance. This number assumes that a golfer will take two putts on the green, so in general...

  • If the green can be reached on your first shot, it will be a par 3 (1 stroke + 2 putts = 3)

  • If the green can be reached in 2 strokes, it is a par 4 (2 strokes + 2 putts = 4)

  • If the green can be reached in 3 strokes, it is a par 5 (3 strokes + 2 putts = 5).

These distances are different depending on what tee box you are playing from. Players who hit the golf ball shorter will play from the "forward tees" so they can reach the green in the designated number of strokes.

From the championship tees ("back tees"), here are some general distance estimates for each type of hole.

  • Par 3 - Generally, a par 3 is 100-180 yards from the championship tees.

  • Par 4 - Generally, a par 4 is 360-410 yards from the championship tees.

  • Par 5 - Generally, a par 5 is between 450-575 yards from the championship tees.

A golf course will add up all the "pars" for the holes to get the total course par. Generally, this will be either 70, 71, or 72. A golf course with a par of less than 70 are referred to as "Executive Course".

How do you write an albatross on a golf scorecard?

Scorecard annotations

On a golf scorecard, if you make an albatross, you probably won't be whipping out the scorecard to write it down. Instead, you'll likely be jumping, yelling, and running around the course in excitement.

I've never had this experience myself, nor do I think I ever will.

You'll notice in the image above, there is no marking for an albatross. Technically, you'd use a double-circle to indicate it, but like I said, that's the least of your worries if you can achieve this rare feat in golf!

Real examples of an albatross

Here's a compilation of PGA Tour players making albatrosses. You'll notice that in almost all cases, this happens on a par 5.

How common is an albatross for average golfers?

If we're being honest, the likelihood of an average golfer making an albatross is near-zero. You're more likely to get struck by lightning twice in the same day than make an albatross.

But we can dream... Right?

How common is an albatross for a professional golfer?

An expert golfer may never make an albatross in their lifetime. I've played for nearly two decades competitively and I've never had one myself.

That said, I had a teammate in college get one, so that was fun!

Despite the highlight reel of PGA Tour players making albatrosses in the prior section, it is extremely rare, even for the pros.

What is the easiest type of golf hole to make an albatross on?

It's impossible to make an albatross on a par 3, and very unlikely to make one on a par 4 (would be a hole-in-one).

Therefore, a par 5 is your best bet here. If you hit the ball a long way, you may find yourself inside 150 yards for your second shot on a par 5, which is within striking range. Many golfers have gotten hole-in-ones from that distance, so an albatross would essentially be a "hole-in-one approach shot".

Are different golf courses harder to make albatrosses on?

Yes, in general, longer golf courses will be significantly harder to make an albatross on, because your approach shots that you have to hole out will be longer.

Golf scoring terms

Below are other golf scoring terms related to an albatross in golf:

  • Hole-in-one - Also called an "ace", this is when you hit your tee shot in the hole and is most common on par 3s. On a par 3, a hole-in-one is also an "eagle". On a par 4, it is considered an "albatross" or "double eagle".

  • Condor - Also called a "triple eagle", this is the rarest golf score in golf because it requires you to get a hole-in-one on a par 5 hole. This has only happened a handful of times in history, and has never been caught on camera.

  • Eagle - An eagle is when you shoot two shots under the designated "par" for the hole. On a par 3, this is equivalent to a hole-in-one. On a par 4, this is when you make a 2. On a par 5, this is when you make a 3.

  • Birdie - A birdie is when you shoot one shot under the designated "par" for the hole. On a par 3, this is equivalent to a 2. On a par 4, this is when you make a 3. On a par 5, this is when you make a 4.

  • Par - A par is when you take an equal number of strokes as designated by the "par" for the hole. On a par 3 this is a 3, par 4 a 4, and as you guessed, a par 5, this is a 5. This is often referred to as "even par", hence why you'll often see the symbol "E" as in the graphic above.

  • Bogey - A bogey is when you shoot 1 stroke over par. For example, on a par 5, this would be a score of 6.

  • Double bogey - A double bogey is when you shoot 2 strokes over par for the hole. For example, on a par 3, this would be a score of 5.

  • Triple bogey (and worse) - A triple bogey (and worse) is when you take 3 strokes over par or more. For example, on a par 4, a score of 7 is a triple bogey, a score of 8 is a quadruple bogey, a score of 9 is a quintuple bogey, and so on.

Curious about other golf terms? Here is my Ultimate List of Golf Terms page that breaks down every golf term, slang, phrase, and lingo.

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About me

Zach Gollwitzer
Zach Gollwitzer

Hey, I‚Äėm Zach, the founder of The DIY Golfer! I created this site while playing D1 collegiate golf with a simple mission‚ÄĒI wanted to learn the golf swing and get better at golf myself.

Fast forward a few years, and my “journal“, The DIY Golfer, has been viewed by millions of golfers worldwide looking to do the same with their games. my mission is to make golfers more consistent in just a few hours a week through advanced practice strategies and timeless, first-principle golf instruction.