What Is An Albatross In Golf?

Let’s be honest, if somebody says the word albatross to us, the first thing that comes to mind is the large seabirds that are capable of flying 10,000 miles at a time without touching land. However, in golf terms, the word albatross means something very different. 

What Is An Albatross In Golf?

Instead of being used to describe a critically endangered bird, the word albatross is just another one of golf’s idiosyncratic terms. There’s a good chance you already know a few of these terms, such as birdie or eagle, both of which are used to name a score, but do you know what albatross means?

The fact you’ve landed on this post would suggest you don’t. If not, don’t worry, If you haven’t been playing golf for very long or don’t take it too seriously, you’re not expected to. 

Anyway, we’re going to tell you everything you need to know about an albatross in golf in this post. We’ll tell you exactly what one is and the chances you have of hitting one.

Let’s get started!

So, What Is An Albatross In Golf?

Let’s get straight to the point by telling you exactly what an albatross in golf is. In golf, albatross is the word used to describe a scoring term per hole equal to three strokes under par. 

Interestingly, there can only be three instances on a golf course where an albatross is possible. Golfers can only achieve an albatross if they score 1 on a par 4, 2 on a par 5, or 3 on a par six. It’s worth noting that par 6s in golf aren’t common.

As you can probably already tell, hitting three strokes under par is no easy feat. In fact, scoring an albatross is so difficult that only several PGA players have ever scored an albatross in professional competition. 

Scoring an albatross not only takes incredible skill but a lot of luck too.

The Double Eagle 

Something well worth knowing is that the word albatross isn’t the only word used to describe a score of three strokes under par. This golf scoring term is also described as the double eagle

Generally speaking, most golfers prefer to use the term albatross, however, there are also a lot of golfers that like to call this incredible feat the double eagle. Don’t get confused if you hear both. 

How Rare Is An Albatross?

It may seem absolutely absurd but it is widely accepted that golfers have more chance of being struck by lightning on the golf course as opposed to scoring an albatross.

To put it into numbers, there’s a 1 in 1,000,000 chance that a golfer could score an albatross. In some circumstances, that figure rises to 1 in 6,000,000.

On the other hand, there is a 1 in 550,000 chance that a golfer could be struck by lightning on the course. We don’t know about you but that seems pretty crazy.

In comparison to other golfing accomplishments, professional PGA golfers have a 2,500 to 1 chance of hitting a hole-in-one. Even amateur golfers have a 12,500 to 1 chance.

That means an ameteur golfer is approximately 500 times more likely to hit a hole-in-one than a professional golfer is to score an albatross.

The reason this achievement is so unlikely is that most golfers can’t hit the green in two shots. Just 10% of pro golfers can hit the green in 2 shots on a par 5. As a result, the other 90% never even have the opportunity to score 3 under par.

Is An Albatross The Best Golfing Achievement?


Unbelievably, scoring an albatross isn’t the most impressive achievement a golfer can make. There is actually another score, also named after a bird that takes the crown. This score is called the condor. 

A condor is achieved when a golfer hits 4 under par on a hole. A condor can only be achieved by hitting a hole-in-one on a par 5 or by scoring 2 on a par 6. 

Incredibly, despite the extremely slim chance golfers have to hit this score, 6 golfers have recorded this score. The latest condor was recorded when amateur golfer Kevin Pon scored 2 on a par 6 at Lake Chabot in Oakland. 

Impressively, Pon managed to complete the 667-yard 18th hole in just 2 strokes. His first stroke traveled more than 500 yards. Whilst we would like to say this is down to Pon’s skill, he was also immensely lucky.

The Most Memorable Albatross In Golf

There have been several memorable albatross scores in professional golf but the most memorable has to be that scored by golf legend Gene Sarazen. During the 1935 Masters, Gene Sarazen became the first golfer to hit an albatross in a major event. 

That’s not all that made his feat special though. Gene scored his albatross at the perfect time. Whilst on the 15th hole, Gene found himself trailing the leader of the event by three strokes.

By scoring an albatross on the par 5, he managed to tie with the lead. Gene later went on to win the playoff, earning himself the master’s title.

Other golfers that have scored an albatross include Nicholas Thompson, Joey Sindelar, Jack Nicklaus, and Shaun Micheel.

Can You Hit An Albatross?

Whilst it may seem completely impossible, it’s not completely out of the question for you to hit an albatross one day. However, there are a lot of things that have to go right. You also need luck on your side. 

Below, we’ve listed some of the things it would take for you to hit an albatross.

  • Powerful Drive – If you’re going to score an albatross, you have to have a powerful drive. You can work on this part of your game by practicing plenty and by working on your physical strength.
  • Higher Elevation – Interestingly, holes that sit above 5,000 feet help the ball travel further. This is because the air is less dense. 
  • Changes In Elevation – Golf courses that vary in elevation will also carry the ball further.
  • Obstacles – Obstacles can actually increase your chances of hitting an albatross. Something simple like a man-made path could give your ball the extra bounce it needs to get up to the hole.
  • Luck – At the end of the day, you’re going to need a lot of luck on your side.
  • Mother Nature – Strong winds can often work in your favor as they will carry the ball further for you. Even favorable bounces off trees can help.

Final Thoughts

There you have it, everything you need to know about an albatross in golf. In this post, we’ve shown you exactly what an albatross is, how rare they can be, examples of memorable albatrosses’, and how you could even get lucky yourself and hit one.

Easily one of the most impressive achievements in golf, an albatross not only takes great skill but also a lot of luck.

Now you know exactly what an albatross is, why don’t you pick up your clubs and head to your local course? Who knows, you might get lucky enough to score your very own albatross.

Garratt Shmidt
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