In golfing terms, what have you and Tiger Woods got in common? Neither of you have ever scored an albatross in competition.
One of the rarest and therefore most prized achievements in golf, completing a hole three strokes under par has long fascinated golfers all over the world, whether top professionals or enthusiastic amateurs. Jack Nicklaus is one of a very select group of pros who have hit one in tournament play, and among today’s top stars, only Louis Oosthuizen has hit one in a major (and that was back in 2012).
The chances are that you’ll never manage to hit one, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible – and there are things you can do to stack the odds a little bit more in your favour. This guide takes a closer look at the albatross in golf, and how best to approach the pursuit of one.
What is an albatross in golf and where did the name come from?
The name ‘albatross’ comes from American golfing circles, and can trace its lineage back to the 1800s. Back in those days, ‘bird’ was a slang word meaning something good and many golfers started to call a shot that was one under par ‘bird’ or ‘birdie’. This idea then extended to other shots, hence the use of ‘eagle’ for shots two under, and ‘albatross’ for shots three under. As golf’s popularity grew in the US, to the point that it became the dominant force in the world game, use of the terms became commonplace around the globe.
There are two realistic ways to score an albatross: a hole-in-one on a par 4, or finishing a par 5 hole in two shots. The latter is far more likely.
How likely are you to hit an albatross?
The short answer is: not very. The chances of hitting a hole-in-one are rated somewhere around 13,000 to 1, and that’s helped by the fact that many of them just come down to lucky shots. As albatrosses normally require two shots (unless you manage a miraculous hole-in-one on a par 4), it’s far less likely. The odds of hitting an albatross are around six million to one: that puts you in the same ballpark as winning the lottery, and it’s only slightly more likely than SportsCover Direct’s five-a-side football team winning the FA Cup…
But the chances aren’t absolutely zero, and you should never rule it out. One of the most famous albatrosses ever hit was in the PGA Tour’s Safeway Open in 2002. It was scored by Nicolas Thompson on the par-5 11th hole at the Silverado Golf Club in California, and what made it such an incredible achievement is that he went on to get a hole-in-one just two holes later.
How can you maximise your chances of hitting an albatross?
There are a few things you can do to shorten those astronomical odds and make hitting an albatross a little bit more than just luck. We recommend these four:
Lengthen your drive
There’s no way you’re going to be able to hit an albatross without having a top-quality drive. Most modern par 5s are 450 yards at the very least, so being able to get 250-300 yards off the tee (and land in the middle of the fairway) will give you a fighting chance of driving or chipping into the hole off your second shot.
Know the course
Don’t forget that geography and topography can work in your favour in golf, just as much as it can work against you. If trying to get as far as you can down the course off the tee, then look for a fairway that is mostly downhill. With decent clubhead speed and a favourable bounce, you might be able to gain 50 yards or even more once the ball lands. The closer you can get to the hole to play your second shot, the easier it will be and the more you’ll be able to focus on precision rather than power.
Check the conditions
Just like a hole-in–one, many different things have to come together for an albatross to happen, and the weather has a major part to play. Just as a downhill roll can help you, so can a hefty tailwind that will allow the ball to fly through the air much further than you might normally manage. Every so often, the stars might align so that you have a strong enough wind blowing in exactly the direction you need it to go: if you play the same course regularly, bide your time and wait for your perfect opportunity.
Hope for the best
Even the very best golfers in the world will admit that when it comes to albatrosses, you do need a fair-sized helping of good fortune. It might be a lucky bounce off a tree or a man-made obstacle on the course, but they still count, so take advantage while you can. Alternatively, if you’re lacking the drive speed you need, you could try and share an albatross by getting a partner to hit the drive on your next greensome.
Get golf insurance with SportsCover Direct
Whether setting out to hit an albatross, or just searching for that elusive hole-in-one, you’re bound to make some mistakes in the process. The worst-case scenario is that an errant long drive accidentally hits someone out on the course: not only is this extremely embarrassing, but it could lead to a claim being made against you for compensation.
This is just one of a host of reasons why golf insurance is so important, and why we at SportsCover Direct offer specialist golf cover for players of all abilities and handicaps. As well as protection against any liability, we can also make sure you don’t lose out financially if you get hurt while out on the course, or if your clubs get damaged, lost or stolen.
Flexible payment plans mean our policies are available from just a few pounds a month (or about the same as a new box of golf balls). Find out more about our golf insurance offering here.