What is an Albatross in golf? appeared as a first public reference to a golf score in a South African newspaper in 1931.
According to this news sheet, the event occurred on the 18th hole which is a par 4, at The Durban Country Club by a Mr. E. Wooler.
As the story goes, Mr. Wooler was not having a particularly good round and when he got to the 18th he teed the ball up and just swished it away high along the fairway.
To everyone’s amazement, the ball scooted across the green hit the flagpole, and dropped in the hole.
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What is an Albatross in Golf?
As can be seen from the story above, an Albatross, or more commonly referred to in the USA as a double Eagle is a reference to a score of three shots under par.
The above example of a ‘hole in one’ on a par 4 is extremely rare with the occurrence more likely to happen on a par 5 in two strokes, because of the length of the hole.
There has been a lot of conjecture over the years as to why different golf terminology is related to bird names.
One suggestion is based on it being a 1930’s American slang term of ‘Bird’ when a player was heard to announce ‘That was a bird of a shot’ when his playing partner hit his ball onto the green very close to the hole and converted at one-under-par.
It is now standard golf terminology that a birdie is one under par, an eagle two under and an Albatross or double eagle is three under par. For more tips on getting started in golf click here.
Maybe the term Albatross evolved from Birdie?
The birth of the term birdie has been claimed by Atlantic City Country Club in New Jersey where they claim a golfer by the name of Abner Smith was playing a round of golf in 1903.
Abner evidently hit his ball to within six inches of the cup on the par-three 12th hole when his playing partner excitedly shouted ‘ That was a bird of a shot Abner’.
The country club has commemorated and claimed this historic event by placing a granite rock inset with a plaque near the 12th hole. If you would like to know what a bogie is in golf click here.
There does not seem to be much evidence as to why birds’ names have been adopted for golf scores other than this.
The inference is that birdie being a good shot, it naturally follows that an Eagle being rarer would represent two shots saved.
The very rarely seen Albatross could have easily been adopted as a sequence to a very rare event in golf.
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Although an Albatross is rare for club golfers, they are now much more common in major tournaments by the world-class pros.
Bear in mind this is an even greater achievement, playing off the back tees when the course is at its longest and with the pressure of all the accolades of winning a major or world championship title.
Some memorable players who have shot an Albatross
The great Gene Sarazen back in 1935 playing in the Masters fourth round at Augusta holed his second shot on the par-five fifteenth.
In the same major tournament in 1967 Bruce Devlin holed with his second shot on the eighth to claim his Albatross during the first round.
The standard of play over the years has improved and in most of the championship formats, there are names that stand out for achieving the three-under-par score.
For a list of names, and professional tournaments, click here.
An Albatross is not the exclusive domain for male players.
There have been several female professionals who have achieved the honor including Dawn Coe-Jones in 1993 playing in the du Maurier.
Ms. Coe-Jones sunk her second shot in the first round on the par-five fourth.
Karen Stupples playing in the British Open at Sunningdale in 2004 had an Albatross on the second in the final round.