What Is An Albatross In Golf?

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No matter how much of a golf fanatic you may be, you must admit that the terms and jargon used within the sport are a little bizarre, to say the least. Birdie, eagle.. And albatross? You’d be forgiven for getting a little confused.

In this article, we’ll guide you through the term albatross in golf, as well as where the term came from, why we still use it, and what it means when you score one. 

So, what’s an albatross?

In the natural world, the Albatross can soar for years without landing and is one of the most endangered birds on the planet. The albatrosses on the golf course are just as uncommon.

In golf, an albatross (or double eagle) is a score on a hole that is three strokes under par. An albatross can only be scored in three situations: a 1 on a par 4, a 2 on a par 5, or a 3 on a par 6 (a par rarely seen on a golf course). 

Albatrosses are scarce in the natural world, and they are much rarer on the golf course.

Scoring an albatross takes not only talent but also a certain amount of luck. If you’ve ever witnessed someone score an albatross on a golf course, you’ll never forget it, and it’ll most likely be a tale you tell for years to come.

Why is it called an albatross?

Prior to the 1900s, golf was scored by the number of shots that were under or below par. A 3 under par score would be called an albatross. This began to change in the early 1900s when the term “Birdie” was coined after the American slang term “Bird”, which referred to almost anything good. 

During the 1910s, this word was widely accepted and used all over the world. It was eventually expanded to include the name “Eagle” for scores that were two under par for the hole. The term “eagle” was coined because it was larger, grander, and more majestic than a small bird.

Other words for a score below par on a hole include “albatross” for three under par and “condor” for four under par.
Only four condors have ever been documented. An albatross is a big, extremely rare bird with a massive wingspan.

Its name is a suitable one for such a rare performance in golf. An ace (hole-in-one) is more likely to be scored than an albatross.

The precise origin of the term albatross is unknown. The term was first used in 1929, but it could have been used before then. Prior to the introduction of steel-shafted clubs in the 1920s, there were far too few golfers who executed this accomplishment to warrant a word.

How rare is scoring an albatross in golf?

According to the National Hole in One Association, which keeps track of holes-in-one and assigns odds for the event, an albatross is less likely than an elusive hole-in-one.

The odds of a golfer making a hole-in-one are set at 12,700 to 1 or 3,700 to 1 for a professional, whilst the odds of making an albatross are set at 1 million to 1.

One reason that makes scoring an albatross even more difficult is that most golf courses only give golfers two to five chances per round to accomplish the milestone.

To put the odds into perspective, the odds of being struck by lightning are 1 in 555,000, making it more likely that you’ll be hit by lightning than that you will score an albatross!

Has anyone scored an albatross in golf?

Gene Sarazen, a PGA Tour great, was the first professional golfer to record an albatross in one of golf’s four modern major championships, and he did so when the stakes were high. Sarazen’s unusual score on the par-5 15th hole of the 1935 Masters caused a tie for the championship and a playoff, which he won.

Other professional golfers with albatrosses include Jack Nicklaus, Shaun Micheel, and Joey Sindelar. Nicholas Thompson, who accomplished the feat at the 2009 Fry.com Open, is a notable albatross. He made a hole-in-one on the par-3 13th hole after making an albatross on the par-5 11th hole. Back-to-back albatross and hole-in-one are a very rare phenomenon.

Is an albatross the same as a double eagle?

The word albatross has been around for many decades all over the world, however, you may hear the term “Double Eagle” used regularly both in the United Kingdom and the United States. Both words relate to the same amount of strokes below par on a given hole.

The word “double eagle” first appeared in American newspaper articles the day following Gene Sarazen’s albatross,  in the 1935 Masters, which he ended up winning.

How can I score an albatross?

To make an albatross, you’re going to need to hole a shot from distance. A number of elements influence a golfer’s ability to hole a shot from a great distance. Here are a few of the factors that boost one’s chances of scoring an albatross:

Natural elements

This encompasses a few different factors. For example, the wind can pose an advantage as a lucky downwind will help your ball fly further. Also, the more firm the ground, the better your ball will bounce and roll.

Man-made obstacles

Pathways, whether man-made or natural, will gladly offer balls an additional boost in exchange for a few scuff marks.

Elevation changes

Elevation shifts can be dramatic on courses located among the foothills or in the highlands. Downhill strokes shorten the distance to the hole while causing the ball to bounce and roll further. 


Because the air is less dense at higher elevations, the ball will go further. When playing golf at 5,000 feet, you may expect to gain at least 6% additional distance.


A straight line is the shortest distance between two places. This strategy sometimes necessitates cutting corners.  Many professional golfers would take angles through and occasionally over woods, lakes, valleys, and hills, effectively shortening the hole.

Playing a 350-yard dogleg as the hole was planned versus aiming straight for the hole and only needing to hit the ball a total of 300 yards to get to the hole is one example.


Some or all of the above-mentioned elements are required to hole out from a long distance.

Above all, you must be able to hit the ball far on a steady and regular basis. It takes a lot of practice and mental and physical strength to not only perform the same effective swing every time but also to generate enough clubhead speed to hit the ball at the desired distance.