New to golf and trying to figure out what all the golf scoring terms mean?
Let's talk about one of the most common golf scoring terms—the "eagle".
Definition of an "eagle" in golf
An eagle in golf is a golf term to describe a score made on a golf hole where the golfer takes two strokes less than the designated par for the hole. This is often expressed as "two strokes under par" or more commonly, just "two under".
Here's how you'd hear this on a golf course:
I made an eagle on that short par 5!
I was two under on that hole
Here is how many shots it takes to make an eagle on each type of golf hole.
Par 5 hole - On a par 5, an eagle is equal to three strokes.
Par 4 hole - On a par 4, an eagle is equal to two strokes.
Par 3 hole - On a par 3, a birdie is equal to one stroke (i.e. a "hole-in-one")
Origin of the term "eagle"
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.
While I'm not so sure how true the Atlantic city country club story is, that's what we'll have to go with!
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 eagle on a golf scorecard?
On a golf scorecard, if you make an eagle, you will put a double circle around it to easily identify it.
A real example of an eagle in golf
I don't have any examples of me making an eagle on camera, but here's a compilation of PGA Tour players making eagles when it matters most!
Most of these examples are tour pros reaching a par 5 in two shots and then making the putt for eagle.
An eagle can also be made by holing out your second shot on a par 4, or making a hole-in-one on a par 3.
Here are some "hole-out eagles" on par 4s:
How common is an eagle for average golfers?
For the average golfer, an eagle is very rare.
Most golfers shoot between 85-110. In this scoring range, you'll generally not be making any eagles.
As you improve your score to the range of 75-85, you might make 1-2 eagles every 15-20 rounds of golf.
And as you start shooting between 65-75, you will generally make several eagles per year, but certainly not every round!
How common is an eagle for a professional golfer?
Professional golfers will generally make 0-2 eagles per four-round tournament. Generally, the winner of each tour event walks away with 1-4 eagles throughout their four days of play, but that's not always the case.
What is an eagle streak?
While "birdie streaks" are much more common than eagle streaks, in very rare circumstances, you might see an expert golfer make two eagles in a row. Three in a row is extremely rare. I'm sure it has happened, but I can't find any occurrences of it!
For example, Bryson accomplished this at the 2021 BMW Championship:
What is the easiest type of golf hole to make an eagle on?
By far, a par 5 hole is the easiest (but not easy) type of hole to make an eagle on.
When we say a "textbook eagle", that refers to a player reaching a par 5 green in two shots and then making the putt for eagle.
Are different golf courses harder to make eagles on?
Yes, golf courses will use all of the following techniques to make it harder for golfers to make an eagle.
Longer holes - the longer the hole, the harder it is to make an eagle
Hazards - Water hazards, bunkers, and other challenging course features make it harder to make eagles because in order to make an eagle, you generally need to reach par 5s in two. So if you're in trouble off the tee, that makes it harder.
Related golf terms to "eagle"
Below are other golf scoring terms related to an eagle 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.
Albatross - Also called a "double eagle", an albatross is when you shoot 3 shots under the designated "par" for the hole. On a par 3, this is impossible to make. On a par 4, this is equivalent to a hole-in-one. On a par 5, this is when you hit your second shot in the hole.
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.