What Is an Albatross in Golf

Golf is a game of shots that are powerful, spinning, subtle, deft, and measured. There is an ever-growing list of professional golfers and the standard of the game has improved over the past decades.

It's because better quality equipment and more professional assistance are available to golfers in recent years.

However, golf remains a game where some frontiers are still too hard to cross. Albatross which is more popular as a double eagle in American circuits is one of those scores that still remain largely elusive to most golfers. What is an albatross in golf?

When you finish a hole in under 3-par, it is called an albatross. Technically, this is possible only when you are trying to finish a 5-par or 6-par hole.

Why is albatross such a difficult feat in golf?

An albatross is almost an impossible feat to achieve in golf. This is a scoring term that means a player is able to score a particular hole by three strokes under par. This is an extremely difficult accomplishment for any golfer, given the fact that most of the holes in a golf course or driving range are 3-par, 4-par, and 5-par.

Although some professional golfers have accomplished an albatross at different golf tour events, they constitute a very small number compared to all the golfers who have played in LPGA Tour and PGA Tour history.

For you to be able to score an albatross, you need to play on a 5-par hole. If you play at a 4-par hole and you are able to score an albatross, it would be termed a hole-in-one, not an albatross.

On a par-5 hole, you will need to sink the ball into the hole in your second shot for the score to be called an albatross. It would require an extremely high level of precision and generous luck to sink in a hole that lies 200 yards or more from the green.

Who has scored an albatross so far?

In the long and illustrious history of professional golf, there were only a few occasions when an albatross was scored. PGA Tour veteran Gene Sarazen is recognized as the first professional golfer to score an albatross at one of the four major events of modern professional golf.

Sarazen made this extraordinary achievement during the 1935 Masters on 5-par 15th hole. The game went on to become a tie which forced a playoff that Sarazen won. 

Joey Sindelar, Jack Nicklaus, and Shaun Micheel are the other professional golfers who have scored an albatross in their golfing career.

In recent times, Nicholas Thompson has achieved an albatross in 2009 at the Fry.com Open. He scored the albatross on par-5 11th hole. He also made a hole-in-one on the 3-par 13th hole.

An albatross and a hole-in-one in the same game is an extremely rare achievement in the history of golf. In nearly 70 years of LPGA Tour's history, as many as 30 albatrosses have been scored.

Some most remarkable albatross in the history of golf

Making a par-5 in two shots is rare and you need to make some very shots and a great deal of luck to achieve such a rare feat. According to an estimate, only 10% of all the golfers are capable of making 5-par in two shots.

Gene Sarazen

The most famous double eagle was accomplished by Gene Sarazen during the 1935 Masters and we have mentioned this earlier also in this article.

It was the final round, and Craig Wood was finishing the round with a 3-stroke lead. Sarazen was in the 15th fairway and he holed out from 235 yards and it was for a 2. He tied the game with Wood and faced him the next day in a 36-hole playoff that Sarazen eventually won.

Jeff Maggert

 American professional golfer Jeff Maggert achieved a double eagle at Augusta during the 1994 Masters. He achieved this feast on 5-par at the 13th hole.

He is the only golfer to accomplish double eagles in two major tours. He achieved this feat during the 2001 British Open.


T. C. Chen

T. C. Chen is remembered for scoring the first double eagle in the history of the U.S. Open. He hit the ball for a 256-yard shot for the 527-yard second hole in the first round of the tournament.

But is also remembered, perhaps more, for a double-hit chip he made in the final round of the 1985 event at Oakland Hills.

Many golf fans remember Bob Gilder making a double eagle during the third round of Westchester in 1982 at Westchester Country Club.

What are your odds of making an albatross?

The odds of scoring an albatross are 6 million to 1. This estimate was worked out by the National Hole in One Association that tracks and sets odds for holes-in-one.

As per this golf body, hole-in-one is extremely elusive while an albatross is all the less likely. It sets the odds for a golfer to score a hole-in-one at 12,750 to 1. 

Why is scoring an albatross so rare?

Why scoring an albatross is so difficult is because it can be achieved only on 5-par holes whose number on a golf course ranges from 2 to 5.

However, the possibility of scoring a birdie that is 1-under-par or an eagle that is 2-under-par is high because they can be scored on any of the holes on the golf course. But an albatross that can be scored on 5-par and 6-par holes is an extremely rare phenomenon. 

Is it an albatross or double eagle?

Albatross Or Double Eagle

Albatross and double eagle refer to the same thing and have identical meanings. The use of double eagle is more common in the United States.

Albatross is a more frequently used term worldwide than a double eagle. On the same note, an eagle is also referred to as an & ace'. When you are able to finish a hole by 2 strokes under par, it is called an eagle.

When you finish a hole by 3-under par, it is called an albatross. The possibility of scoring an albatross is much lower than scoring an ace. Albatross can be achieved on a 5-par hole where scoring a hole-in-one is virtually impossible though there are some instances.

However, a double eagle is a widely used term in the United States while albatross is commonly used elsewhere. The term double eagle came to be used for the first time in 1935 for a short that still remains as one of the most famous shots in the history of golf. It was a 5-par hole out from a distance of over 200 yards.

The shot was made for the 15th hole and it was a double eagle. For the rest of the world and the history of golf, it was the first albatross scored by Gene Sarazen. The American newspapers called the shot & double eagle' making it more popular than albatross. 

Australian golfer Ogilvy had once famously said that he did not know what a double eagle meant until he came to the United States. 

What is the origin of 'Albatross' in golf?

How and why was the word albatross chosen to describe under 3-under par on a hole? For below par golf scores, avian themes have already been in use.

Albatross is also a bird and it falls in line with the established practice of having an avian theme named for below-par scores.

For 1-under par, we have a birdie, and for 2-under par score, we have an eagle. For 3-under par, the world double eagle is used but this particular scoring is also denoted as an albatross.

Scoring an albatross is very rare, it must have been all the more so in the early 20th century when the golfing equipment was not so advanced and the shots they made covered a relatively short distance.

So, the need for a term to describe 3-under par might not have been felt for a long time. According to some sources, the first reference of & albatross' as a term to denote a 3-under par score was first used by a British newspaper in 1929. 

During the 1930s, albatross' became a commonly used term in the golfing world.  

But why was albatross' used out of so many avian themes available for the purpose?

Albatross is a bird and some of these birds are large with impressive wingspans. According to U.S. Open winner Geoff Ogilvy, an albatross is grand and it describes the shot take make 3-under par possible. 

Truly, making a 3-under par possible you need to make some grand shots on the course.



By the discussion so far, you must be able to see what makes albatross such a difficult feat to accomplish. In the game of stamina and power coupled with deft and subtle stroke play, albatross remains an enigma.

Anyone who scores an albatross is directly transferred to the hall of fame of the golfing world.

But there are some players who have achieved this feat. They haven't got the rare distinction of scoring an albatross by the quirk of things.

All of these professional players have been extraordinary golfers who have many more records and remarkable achievements to their credit.

While golf may look to be an easy game, scoring an under 3-par is something that only a few could achieve and their number can be counted on the fingertips.

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