Albatross in Golf: A Top Player Explains Its Meaning, Significance, and the 1 in a Million Odds
An albatross in golf is one of the rarest achievements, revered by all. But just what is an albatross, and how can you score one?
Golf is a beloved game that has been played for centuries and enjoyed by people of all ages and all skill levels. Whether you’re a professional golf player or just a weekend warrior, whether you like golfing for fun or competition, there is something special and rewarding about the game.
One part of the game that has kept its hold on players’ interests since the creation of golf is striving for specific “achievements” in golf. For example, many people (who play and don’t play golf) know about the significance of a hole-in-one. A hole-in-one is when a golf player manages to get the ball into the hole with a single strike (and often occurs on a shorter golf hole called a par three).
However, only a few people know about the revered albatross in golf, which is arguably more challenging to achieve than a hole-in-one. A top player explains an albatross in golf is, the odds of getting an albatross, how to get an albatross in golf, and whether there is anything better than an albatross in golf.
Are you ready to learn about one of the rarest yet most remarkable occurrences in golf? Let’s dive right in.
What is an Albatross in Golf?
An albatross is one of the most impressive shots, and it’s the golf term used when a golfer manages to shoot three-under-par in a single hole. Usually, this occurs when a golfer makes a two on a par 5 (thereby scoring -3 on the hole in terms of par). An albatross can also happen when a player makes three strokes on a par 6. It’s a rare feat that golfers worldwide celebrate, and it’s one of the most challenging shots to make in the game.
The term comes from the expression ‘an albatross around one’s neck,’ which means something difficult to overcome. When it comes to difficulty in golf, an albatross undoubtedly takes one of the top spots. For a player to make an albatross in golf, they need to hit it long enough to get the ball to the green in two shots (on a par 5) and have the accuracy to make the second shot.
Though a hole-in-one is more well-known, an albatross is rarer because hole-in-ones usually occur on par threes where the player can tee up the ball and has a short shot into the green. On the other hand, an albatross usually occurs when an extremely lengthy approach shot gets lucky and winds up in the hole. To make an albatross, the golfer must hit a tee shot from the tee box of the golf course, navigate the fairway, and then hit a long iron (or even wood) with eagle-eyed precision and hole out.
Notable Albatrosses in Golf
During the final round of the 2023 PGA Tour’s American Express tournament, Xander Schauffele makes one from 226 yards out. Who else has scored an albatross in golf?
One famous albatross was scored by Gene Sarazen, who achieved his “shot heard round the world” at the 1935 Masters Tournament. Sarazen had already won the U.S. Open, PGA Championship, and British Open, but was still searching for the elusive Masters’ title.
On the 15th hole, Sarazen pulled out his 4-wood and hit a 235-yard shot that sailed over the water hazard, onto the green, and into the cup for an albatross. This shot was instrumental in securing Sarazen’s victory and is still remembered as one of the greatest moments in golf history. Sarazen is also carded as one of the first professional golf players ever made on albatross in a major tournament.
Here are lists of all the players who have made albatrosses at major golf tournaments:
- Gene Sarazen (1935)
- Bruce Devlin (1967)
- Jeff Maggert (1994)
- Louis Oosthuizen (2012)
The U.S. Open:
- Chen Tze-Chung (1985)
- Shaun Micheel (2010)
- Nick Watney (2012)
The PGA Tour Championship:
- Darrell Kestner (1993)
- Per-Ulrick Johansson (1995)
- Joey Sindelar (2006)
The British Open (The Open):
- Young Tom Morris (1870)
- Johnny Miller (1972)
- Bill Rogers (1983
- Manny Zerman (2000)
- Jeff Maggert (2001)
- Greg Owen (2001)
- Gary Evans (2004)
- Paul Lawrie (2009)
What Are the Odds of Getting an Albatross in Golf?
As exciting as an albatross is, there’s a reason it’s one of the most elusive achievements in the game of golf: it’s almost impossible to get.
The odds of getting an albatross in golf are extremely low. According to the Professional Golf Association, the odds of an albatross are about 1 in 6,000,000. This fact means that an average golfer must play six million golf rounds to score one albatross statistically.
If a golfer starts playing the game at ten years old, and consistently plays a round of golf every day, they will have played around twenty-five thousand rounds of golf by the time they are eighty. Twenty-five thousand rounds is a lot, but it’s nowhere near six million. Couple this with the fact that very few players can play every single day from the age of ten to eighty, and the truth is that most golfers won’t achieve an albatross in their lifetime.
The impossibility of the albatross makes it one of the rarest golf shots and is the reason why people celebrate albatrosses so heavily. This shot is more occasional than both sinking a 100-yard putt and getting a hole-in-one. It is even more difficult for amateur golfers, who may have a higher handicap and may not have access to the same equipment as professional golfers, such as Titleist and TaylorMade golf clubs.
How to Get an Albatross in Golf
Getting an albatross in golf is extremely difficult but not impossible. It requires playing on suitable golf courses enough times and setting yourself up for success every step of the way.
The first step is to hit the ball as far as possible on a par five. The golfer should aim to have the ball end up at a distance where they will be able to reach the green in the second shot. While length is significant, it’s crucial to make sure the ball lands in the fairway. Accuracy is essential because having a golf shot from the fairway into the green ensures that the ball will have enough speed and accuracy to reach the hole.
Once the ball is in the fairway and close enough that the player can reach the green, the next step is to ensure that the approach shot is accurate and on target. The golfer should aim to land the ball within a few feet of the hole for the best shot at scoring an albatross.
Ideally, the playing conditions lie in the ground, and the distance remaining is such that the golfer is confident in their attempt and that they can make the shot. Confidence in a golfer’s swing will ensure the best chance that the ball finds its way to the hole on the second swing.
For a golfer to achieve an albatross, it can be helpful for them to practice at the driving range and take some golf lessons.
Is There Anything Better Than an Albatross in Golf?
An albatross is one of the most challenging golf shots, but some shots are even more impressive. One of these shots is a condor, which is four-under-par in one hole (compared to an albatross which is three-under-par in a single golf hole).
To achieve a condor, a golfer must get a hole-in-one on a par five! As you can imagine, this is virtually impossible for most golfers and is arguably the rarest occurrence in golf. To date, there have only been five condors recorded in the history of golf:
- In 1962, Larry Bruce made a remarkable drive over a stand of trees on the 480-yard dogleg right par-5 fifth hole at Hope Country Club in Arkansas, USA, marking the first condor in golf.
- In 1995, Shaun Lynch attempted a risky shot at the 496-yard 17th dogleg par-5 at Teign Valley Golf Club in Christow, England, almost 30 years after Larry Bruce’s condor. Lynch hit a 3-iron straight at the green, clearing a 20-foot-high hedge, and his ball landed on the downslope on the other side and rolled down to the green before finally going into the hole.
- In 2002, Mike Crean scored a condor at the 517-yard par-5 9th at Green Valley Ranch Golf Club in Denver, Colorado, without cutting over the dogleg, the longest hole-in-one on record.
- On November 3, 2007, 16-year-old Jack Bartlett achieved another condor on the 467-yard par-5 17th at Royal Wentworth Falls Country Club in Australia.
- On December 20, 2020, Kevin Pon made the most recent recorded condor on the 667-yard par-6 18th hole at Lake Chabot Golf Course in Oakland, CA, the only known condor to have occurred on a par-6.
Will You Try for One in 2023?
An albatross is one of the most impressive shots in golf and is the term used when a golfer scores three-under-par in one hole. It’s a rare feat that golfers worldwide celebrate, and it’s one of the most challenging shots to make in the game. You’ll also score a lifetime of bragging right with your friends.
Remember that there is more to golf than just achieving specific scores (like chipping around greens, hitting incredible bunker shots, and sinking putts on your golf outing).
Whether you’re a professional or an amateur, playing golf is a rewarding experience, and striving for an albatross can make it even more enjoyable. With the proper practice and a little precision, you could be the next to score an albatross!