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Most of us will know the albatross as one of the most critically endangered seabirds, capable of flying 10,000 miles without touching land, but in golf, the word albatross has a completely different meaning.
Golf has a wide range of interesting idiosyncratic terms. One of those fascinating oddities includes a number of references to birds when naming scores.
If you’re not an experienced golfer you might not have a great understanding of what an albatross is.
If this is the case, don’t worry, in this blog, you’ll learn everything you need to know about this golf term. We’ll even give you some tips on how you can attempt to do it, but we must say just like in the natural world, an albatross on the golf course is also very rare.
What Is An Albatross?
In golf, the word albatross is the name given to a scoring term per hole equal to three strokes under par. On the golf course, there can only be three different instances for when an albatross can be achieved.
You can achieve an albatross by scoring 1 on a par 4, 2 on a hole that’s a par 5, and a 3 on a par 6 (not a common par on a golf course).
As you can imagine scoring three strokes under par isn’t an easy feat, so much so there are only several professional PGA players who have scored an albatross in tournament events.
Achieving an albatross takes an incredible amount of skill and technique, but luck also has to play its part.
Albatross Vs The Double Eagle
The word albatross isn’t the only term used to describe a score three strokes under par on a hole. This score term is also known as the double eagle.
While most golfers prefer the term albatross to describe this incredibly rare feat, some do enjoy using the other term within the golfing industry so don’t get too confused if you hear it.
What Are The Odds?
We’ve already mentioned how rare an albatross is, but you might be surprised when you hear just how rare we’re talking about.
Unbelievably golfers have better odds of being struck down by lightning on the course rather than scoring an albatross.
Golfers have a 1 in 555,000 chance of being struck by lightning. When it comes to scoring an albatross, they have odds of 1,000,000 to 1. In some instances, this figure even rises to 6,000,000 to 1 which if you ask us is absolutely crazy.
To give you context in relation to other achievements on the golf course, professional golfers have a 2,500 to 1 chance of recording a hole in one. Amateur golfers have a 12,500 to 1 chance.
This means it can be almost 500 times more likely for an amateur golfer to score a hole in one than a seasoned professional scoring three under par.
The main reason for these extremely large odds is a result of how many golfers can land on the green in two shots. Only 10% of golfers manage to hit the green after two shots on a par 5. This means the other 90% of golfers will never have the chance to make an albatross.
Is There A Better Achievement Than An Albatross?
Believe it or not, there is a score in golf that is even more impressive than the albatross, and it’s also named after a type of bird. This score term is called a condor. To record a condor, golfers must score 4 under par on a hole.
There are two instances in which this score can be recorded. One is a hole in one on a par 5. The other is a score of 2 on a par 6.
Amazingly, there have actually been six condor scores recorded with the latest one being recorded by amateur golfer Kevin Pon in 2020.
While playing on the 18th hole at Lake Chabot in Oakland, Kevin managed to finish the 667-yard par 6 holes in just two strokes.
We would like to say this was down to Kevin’s ability, but he himself knows how lucky he got. The ball took huge bounces off the cart paths, ending up just 100 yards from the hole.
On his second shot, he managed to put the ball in the hole with his wedge.
Notable Albatrosses In Golf
By far the most notable albatross in golf history is the one golf legend Gene Sarazen recorded in the 1935 Masters. Gene was the first person in history to score an albatross in a major event, and he did it at the perfect time.
On the 15th hole, Gene trailed the leader of the tournament by three strokes. By hitting an albatross on the par 5 hole he tied with the lead. He later went on to win a playoff, giving him the Masters title.
Other professional golfers to have hit an albatross during their careers include Joey Sindelar, Jack Nicklaus, Shaun Micheel, and Nicholas Thompson.
Nicholas Thompson’s albatross is also pretty special. This is because he scored his albatross on the 11th hole before incredibly hitting a hole-in-one on the 13th.
How To Improve Your Chances
It may seem pretty impossible to hit an albatross but as you can see from other stories, we can all dream. Therefore if we are all going to do our best to hit an albatross we have to understand exactly what it will take.
Here are some things that will improve your chances of hitting an albatross, but by no means is this a guarantee, you will still need a crazy amount of luck.
- Mother Nature – Favorable bounces off large trees or firm surfaces could give you that extra distance you need. Strong winds in your favor can also help.
- Powerful Drive – In order to record an albatross you have to be capable of hitting the ball incredibly far. You can improve this aspect of your game with practice and physical strength development.
- Higher Elevation – Holes above 5,000ft will help the ball travel further because the air isn’t as dense. You can expect more than 6% extra yardage on these holes.
- Elevation Changes – Courses that feature drops in elevation will carry the ball further, reducing the distance to the hole by bouncing and rolling downhill.
- Man-Made Obstacles – Man-made paths can give your ball that extra boost it needs.
- LUCK – You’re going to need so much luck to hit the perfect shot.
There you have it! You should now clearly understand what an albatross is in golf. An albatross is one of the most impressive achievements you can make as a golfer, but sadly most of us will never have the chance to record one.
Having said that, there are a few things we can do in an attempt to give ourselves a better chance. With only seven albatrosses ever being recorded by professional golfers in competition your odds may be very slim, but we can all dare to dream and try our best.
Now you know what an albatross is and what it takes to score one, why not get out on that course and see how close you can get.
Who knows luck might just be on your side!