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What is an Albatross in Golf? All you Need To Know

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What is an Albatross in Golf

In this article, Golf Components cover the question What is an Albatross in Golf? Golf has some strange, idiosyncratic terms and rules. One of those oddities includes references to birds in the name of scores. In the natural world, the Albatross can fly for years without ever touching land and are among the most endangered birds on Earth. Equally as rare are the albatrosses on the golf course. So, what is an albatross in golf?

An albatross in golf is another name for a score on a hole equal to three strokes under par. There are only three instances in which an albatross can be scored: 1 on a par 4, a two on a par 5, or a three on a par 6 (a par rarely seen in golf). In golf, albatrosses are exceedingly rare. Rare in the natural world, albatrosses are equally rare on the golf course. Scoring an albatross requires not only skill but some measure of luck as well. If you’ve ever seen someone score an albatross on a golf course, chances are you won’t forget it, and it will probably be a story you tell for years to come.

Albatross vs. Double Eagle

Albatross is not the only name for a score of three under par on a hole, and an albatross is also known as a double eagle. Some people may argue that Albatross is a better name to describe the rare feat in golf, but the more popular term used within the golf industry is a double eagle.

How Rare Is an Albatross in Golf?

We just discussed the probability of making an ace for an amateur golfer at 12,500 to 1 and a professional golfer at 2,500 to 1. The odds for an albatross are astronomically larger at approximately 1,000,000 to 1.

Golfers have better odds of being struck by lightning (1 in 555,000) than recording an albatross on their scorecard. Additionally, only 10% of golfers can hit the green in two shots on a par 5, meaning 90% of golfers won’t have the opportunity to make one.

 

HOW TO GET AN ALBATROSS IN GOLF

Many factors affect a golfer’s ability to hold a ball from a very long distance away. Here are some of those factors that increase one’s chance to make an albatross:

  • Mother Nature – This encompasses several factors.
  • Wind – hitting a ball downwind will help the ball both fly and roll farther.
  • Ground firmness – playing in firm desert-like conditions will add bounce and roll to the ball.
  • Trees – favorable bounces of these monarchs of the forest are gladly welcomed, but results are random and not always good.

 

Man-Made Obstacles:

Cart paths, artificial or natural, will gladly give balls an extra boost at the expense of a little scuff mark.

Hole Elevation Change:

Courses built among foothills or in the mountains can feature drastic elevation changes. Downhill shots decrease the distance to the hole and cause the ball to bounce and roll farther.

Elevation Above Sea Level:

A higher elevation will cause the ball to travel further because the air is less dense. Expect at least 6% more yardage when playing golf at 5,000 ft.

The Direction of the Shot:

The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. A strategy sometimes calls for cutting corners, including doglegs (bends left or right on a golf hole that forces a golfer to navigate the hole by hitting consecutive shots that create a 45-90 degree angle). Many professional golfers will take angles that go through and sometimes over trees, lakes, valleys, and hills, effectively decreasing the length of the hole.

An example could be playing a 350-yd dogleg as the hole was designed versus aiming straight for the hole and only needing to hit the ball a total of 300 yds to get to the hole.

Ability to Hit the Ball Far:

You need some or all of the above-listed factors to make a ball in the hole from a long way away. But more than anything, you need to be able to hit the ball far on a consistent and regular basis. This takes practice and lots of mental and physical strength to repeat the same efficient swing each time and generate enough clubhead speed to hit the ball the necessary distance.

 

IS IT WORTH TRYING TO MAKE AN ALBATROSS?

The point of golf is to get the ball into the hole in as few strokes as possible, so the answer to this should be yes. But is it the smart answer? Maybe not…

1st Shot:

The driver hit down the right side, bouncing off the cart path and bouncing an extra 30 yds. The ball travels a total of 300 yds but ends up in very thick rough.

2nd Shot

185 yds to the pin – The ball is sitting down in 3” rough, and the golfer hits their three hybrid 200 yds at this elevation. A creek about 15 yards wide runs across the whole 40 yds short of the green.

Question: Is it smarter to try to hole out from here or consider another option?

If the creek wasn’t there, then chances are it is safe to go for it. You never know, so why not try, right? However, the creek brings in an interesting dilemma: do you go for it, or do you lay up short of the water?

Here is a case for laying up:

The uneven thickness will decrease club head speed when the ball is hit and may reduce the total distance by 15-20%, leaving little margin for error to carry the water hazard. Just because you are downwind doesn’t mean it is going to help. If the ball does not get above the wind, it will be pushed down, limiting the distance it travels and making it tougher to carry the water hazard.

Golf is about playing good percentages based on the dispersion patterns of your golf shot. Dispersion refers to the total area where errant shots may land, including bunkers, the putting green, water hazards, and heavy rough. At 150 yds, the dispersion pattern for the average golfer (someone whose 18-hole average score is about 90-100) could be as wide as 50-75 ft. The further back you go, the larger the dispersion pattern gets. Conversely, the closer you are, the smaller the dispersion pattern gets.

For perspective, PGA TOUR professionals aim for the flag on just about every approach Shot from 150 yds, yet despite their skill and ability still miss their target (i.e., the flag) by almost 28 ft. Taking these considerations into account, the golfer in the example may have a higher percentage of success by hitting their 2nd Shot 100 yds into the fairway short of the creek and then hitting their 3rd Shot the final 85 yds to the hole rather than going for it and bringing the water hazard and the subsequent penalty strokes into play.