Odds of a hole in one, albatross, condor and golf's other unlikely shots

Justin Rose
USA Today Sports Images
In 2016, Justin Rose recorded what was believed to be the first player in Olympic history to record a hole in one.
By T.J. Auclair
PGA.com
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Series: Golf Buzz

Published: Wednesday, September 13, 2017 | 12:53 p.m.

When it comes to a hole-in-one, an albatross or, even a condor -- more on that coming , if you don't know what it is -- us golfers know they're all extra special.

But just how special are they? Like, what are the odds?

Let's take a look at the three most coveted scores in golf and try to explain...

1. A hole-in-one or ace

According to the National Hole-in-One Registry, the odds of the average golfer making a hole-in-one are 12,000 to 1.

The National Hole-in-One Registry also has a boatload of other great facts regarding an ace...

- The odds of a Tour player making an ace: 3,000 to 1
- The odds of a low-handicapper making an ace: 5,000 to 1
- The odds of two players from the same foursome acing the same hole: 17 million to 1
- The odds of one player making two holes-in-one in the same round: 67 million to 1

The National Hole-in-One Registry also says that there are roughly 450 million rounds of golf played each year in the U.S., or approximately 25,000-30,000 per course. Each of those courses reports between 10-15 aces per year. That means a hole-in-one is scored once in every 3,500 rounds. Only 1-2 percent of golfers score an ace in a year. The average years of playing golf for a player before making an ace is 24. Can you believe that?

RELATED: Take a closer look at the PGA Tour's 30 aces in the 2016-17 season

Further, the average handicap of a golfer making a hole-in-one is 14. That should prove encouraging for a lot of folks. You clearly don't have to be the best player on the course... you just have to be the luckiest, once.

The age group that makes the most holes in one? That would be golfers between 50-59, which account for 25 percent of aces each year. The next highest percentage age group consists of players between 40-49, who account for 24 percent of annual aces.

Sixteen percent of holes in one are made by women, according to the National Hole-in-One Registry. The average age of a female golfer making an ace is 55, with an average of 15 years playing the game. And the average length of hole for a woman making an ace is 111 yards.

2. An albatross or double eagle 

An albatross is achieved when a player either aces a par 4, or scores a "2" on a par 5.

The Double Eagle Club, which touts itself as, "the worldwide registry for double eagles scored," features a story from former longtime Golf World writer Bill Fields, that states the odds of an albatross are an estimated 6 million to 1.

RELATED: Nine times an albatross was caught on video

But, Fields writes:

Dean Knuth, who was senior director of the handicap department at the USGA from 1981 to 1997 and now a Golf Digest contributing editor, says they're lower than that but still great, about a million-to-one shot.

That makes your chances of becoming one of the couple of hundred golfers a year to make a double eagle (as opposed to 40,000 aces) better than being killed by a shark (1 in 350 million) or dying from a dog bite (one in 18 million) but worse than being struck by lightning (one in 555,000) or, for a woman, having quadruplets without the aid of fertility drugs (one in 729,000).

"They're definitely far more rare than aces," Knuth says. "Someone has to hit two great shots. You have to have length and ability. Only a small percentage of golfers, less then 10 percent, ever reach a par 5 in two. That means 90 percent of golfers don't have a chance of making one."

Imagine that. You have a better chance to be struck by lightning than you do of making an albatross.

3. A condor

First of all, have you ever even heard of a condor? We're not talking about the bird -- a vulture -- but the absolute rarest shot in golf. It's a "1" on a par 5, which believe it or not, has actually been done.

RELATED: 9 golf mysteries, including where the mulligan came from, explained

According to www.golf.co.uk, there have been four condors recorded -- all ones on par 5s, but never a "2" on a rare par 6.

From www.golf.co.uk:

The first occurred in 1962, when Larry Bruce drove into the hole over a stand of trees on the 480-yard dogleg right par-5 fifth hole at Hope Country Club in Arkansas, USA.

Another condor was achieved by "cutting the corner" of a dogleg par-5 by Shaun Lynch at Teign Valley Golf Club in Christow, England, in 1995, on the 496-yard 17th. Lynch aimed straight at the green with a 3-iron, clearing a 20-foot-high hedge and hitting a downslope on the other side, which allowed his ball to roll down to the green and into the hole.

A condor was scored without cutting over a dogleg by Mike Crean at Green Valley Ranch Golf Club in Denver, Colorado, in 2002, when he holed his drive at the 517 yard par-5 9th. This is longest hole in one on record, although it was of course aided by the altitude and thin air of 'mile-high' Denver.

The most recent condor was achieved in Australia by 16-year-old Jack Bartlett on the 467 metre par-5 17th at Royal Wentworth Falls Country Club, NSW, Australia, on November 3, 2007.

A condor is so uncommon in golf that bookmakers don't even offer odds on such a feat.

So how did "condor" become a part of golf lingo? It's believed that the only explanation is a continuation of the 'bird' theme for under-par scores with the size of the bird getting bigger as the score gets lower, hence "birdie," "eagle," "albatross," "condor."

 

T.J. Auclair is a Senior Interactive Producer for PGA.com and has covered professional golf since 1998, traveling to over 60 major championships. You can follow him on Twitter, @tjauclair.