What is a Double Eagle in Golf? Golfing Terms Explained for Everyone

Ambiguous terminology is frequently used in golf, such as a grip that is either a component of the golf club or the way you hold your club.

The use of synonyms in golf terminology is frequent and in this article, we will discuss what a double is in golf and why the use thereof is so controversial.

The History of The Double Eagle

To score a par in golf means that you get the ball from the tee into the hole in the same number of shots that were predetermined by the golf club. This is normally the number of shots that a good golfer should require to complete the hole.

In the early days of golf, scores below par were referred to by the number of shots under par, 1-under par, 2-under par, and so forth.  A double eagle refers to a score of 3-under par.

Scoring for shots under par became much simpler in the 1900s when the term “birdie” was initiated as this frequently used American slang word referred to any excellent accomplishment. By the 1910s the “birdie” became accepted worldwide and commonly used to describe the 1-under par score on a hole.

As scores of 2-under par became more common, a larger and grander bird was introduced to stay in line with the avian species

Similarly, another avian term had to be selected for scores of 3-under par although this rarely happened. Initially the British named this an albatross after a large bird with an impressive wingspan. Like the bird, scoring an albatross is an extremely rare find.

Rounding out the terms used for a score below par on a hole in the extremely rare term “condor” for 4- under par scores. This is so rare that only 4 condors have ever been recorded.

Although the origin of the term albatross in unclear the origin of the term “double-eagle’ is written in history. The first albatross reported in the press was scored by the South African golfer E. E. Wooler when he hit a hole-in-one on the par 4, 18th hole at Durban Country Club in1931.

As with many other areas in life, the Americans decided to change the term from albatross to double eagle after Gene Sarazen won the Masters golf tournament in 1935. During the final round of the tournament, Gene Sarazen scored an albatross on the par 5, 15th hole to force a playoff. He eventually won the playoff and became the champion.

The day after his win some American newspaper articles referred to this feat as a “double eagle” and not as an albatross.

Irrespective of what it is called, achieving this feat is extremely rare and has only been achieved 18 times in major tournaments,

Scoring a Double-Eagle

No-one can score a double-eagle on a par 3 since you have to score 3 less than par, which is equal to 0 on a par 3.

On a par 4 hole, you will have to score an ace, also known as a hole-in-one. Initially, this was an extremely rare feat but thanks to the advances in the equipment being used today, more golfers are able to reach par 4s with one shot. Organizers at golf tournaments have realized that it adds to the excitement for spectators and golfers alike and introduced shorter, risk-and-reward drivable par 4s.

Most double-eagles are recorded on par 5 holes where you have to hole out your approach shot.

17 of the 18 double eagles scored in major tournaments have been on par 5s and 1 on a rare par 6. Never has this feat been achieved on a par 4 in major history.

The average golfer does not have the strength and length to reach a par 5 in 2 shots. Studies have shown that only 10% of golfers have the ability to reach a par 5 in 2 shots thus 90% of golfers will never have the opportunity to share in this dream.

Statistically, according to the National Hole in One Association, the odds of an amateur golfer scoring an ace are 12,000 to 1. Professional golfers have a better chance to score an ace at 3,700 to 1.

The odds of scoring a double-eagle is approximately 6,000,000 to 1.

Frequency of Double Eagles Major in Golf

In the history of major tournaments, only 18 double eagles have been recorded and only 1 golfer has been able to repeat this feat.

Jeff Maggert scored a double eagle in the 4th round on the Masters on the par 5, 13th hole in 1994, and repeated this on the par 5, 6th hole of the Open Championship in 2001.

Some stats on albatrosses in major tournaments

Only 18 Albatrosses in men’s’ Major history and 4 in women’s major tournaments

  • 4 in the Masters
  • 3 in the U.S. Open
  • 18 in the oldest major in the modern era, The Open Championship
  • 3 in the PGA Championship
  • 3 in Women’s Open championship

Double Eagle vs Albatross

Depending on which side of the Atlantic you find yourself, the terminology used for scores of 3-under par on a hole varies. Traditionalists on the British and European side insist on calling it an albatross and claim that they have never seen a bird called a double eagle. Furthermore, they claim that an eagle is equal to 2-under par on a hole therefore a double eagle should equal 4 under par on a hole.

In Conclusion

The debate on whether it should be called an albatross, or a double eagle, has raged since 1935 and will not be concluded anytime soon.

Commentators on the various golf channels use the 2 terms intermittently and often have comments to make about the use thereof.

Whatever which term you decide on will suffice but the odds of scoring one are only available to around 10% of golfers.  You are more likely to be struck by lightning than scoring this elusive dream.

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Nick is the founder of GolfSpan and an avid golfer. He's not quite a pro but has over 15 years of experience playing and coaching golfers worldwide. His mission is to bring the golfing community a better experience when it comes to choosing the right golf gear and finding the right setup for your game.

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