An albatross in golf is when you manage to land the ball in the cup with three strokes fewer than the par. Each official under-par stroke score takes the name of a bird, including the birdie, eagle, and albatross. Each bird is larger than the last.
What Is The History Of An Albatross In Golf?
An albatross can grow to a massive wingspan of twelve feet, symbolizing how noteworthy scoring one is.
The reason under-par strokes are named after birds has to do with American culture in the 19th century. “Bird” used to be slang for a good thing. Golf grew in popularity through the turn of the century into the 1900s. The trend of calling good shots “birds” grew too.
This trend eventually changed to “birdie,” and then “eagle” and “albatross” followed suit. Some players even call an albatross a “double eagle.”
The “albatross” definition in golf is not a bird, however. It is a difficult shot where a player manages a score of three or more under the course’s par. An albatross is also commonly a hole in one since most short holes on golf courses have a par of four.
Scoring an albatross isn’t an easy thing to do. In fact, despite the growing popularity of golf leading into the 20th century, the first famous albatross wasn’t scored until 1935. That was when Gene Sarazen tied for first in the 1935 Masters Tournament before winning the tiebreaker the next day.
It was such a momentous feat that sportswriters nicknamed it the “shot heard ‘round the world,” an unmistakable reference to the monumental gunshot that started the American Revolution.
Are Albatrosses Hard To Get In Golf?
Even as golf continues to grow, albatross shots in professional play are few. The Professional Golfers’ Association (PGA) recorded only 84 albatross shots between 1970 and 2003. That’s an average of 2.5 per year, making three-under-par one of the most challenging and rare maneuvers in golf.
Athletes have scored a few albatrosses in recent history as well. During the PGA Championship of 2006, Joey Sindelar landed one over 241 yards on a par-five course. It was the third double eagle in the competition’s lifetime and the first since 1995.
Miguel Ángel Jiménez holed a 206-yard albatross at the 2009 BMW PGA Championship while defending his title. It was the second double eagle of his professional career following the same feat at the 1994 Volvo Masters. Even the most talented pro players like Jiménez can play for 15 years or more without scoring a single albatross.
This year on June 26th, 2021, Vincent Norrman scored the world’s most recent professional albatross. He did this by scoring a hole-in-one on a par-four course at the BMW International Open. Following Norrman’s feat, there is yet to be another albatross scored in a professional tournament.
Tips for Scoring an Albatross
Scoring an albatross is something that even professional players can’t regularly do. There is a little bit of luck involved and a lot more skill. Even still, there are a few tricks and skills you can implement to improve your chances of scoring one.
First and foremost, no golfer has any hope of scoring an albatross if they don’t have adequate control of the golf ball. A professional knows how to assess distance, wind direction, and terrain.
Professionals play at certain country clubs and other venues multiple times, so they get to know the courses they’re playing on. Doing so drastically improves their chances of scoring well. If you have a favorite venue for playing golf, study the holes and practice often.
Pros also know which club they need for the shot they’re trying to make. Most albatrosses are scored with irons of various sizes. The reason is likely because irons are great middle-ground clubs for your second shot, which is the easiest for scoring a double eagle on a par-five course.
On par-four courses, your driver is the club you need to be most confident with. You’ll only get one shot to land an albatross on par-fours, so practicing your tee-offs on a driving range would make for great practice.
Scoring an albatross seldom involves a putter. Most par-five courses are too long for you to land a ball on the putting green after your first stroke. If you want to score one, practice with your irons, drivers, and wedges, if needed. You’ll need consistently strong and far-flying shots to beat the par by three strokes or more.
It’s not impossible, but scoring a two-shot albatross from a sand trap or bunker is very difficult. The sand in bunkers applies a lot of friction which lessens the distance of your strokes. The same is true of the rough on courses. Staying on the fairway improves your chances of scoring well under par.
When it comes to practice, I suggest picking sunny, low-wind days to hit the green. The weather is unpredictable, but scoring an albatross takes a lot of luck, so minimize any other factors that could get in the way.
Lastly, the most critical tip for scoring an albatross is to keep trying. Be patient with yourself and remember that even the past and present pros don’t score double eagles that often. The more you practice, the more likely you are to score one. Your swinging muscles will get stronger, too, allowing you to send golf balls flying farther and farther. Don’t give up!
Now you know what an albatross is in golf, where the term comes from, and a few anecdotes of its historical usage. You learned about some recent notable albatrosses in tournaments that turned the tides of games. Finally, you learned some general tips for improving your chances of scoring a double eagle of your own.