Why an albatross is 80 times harder than a hole in one


There’s no question scoring an albatross is harder than a hole in one.

The odds of achieving the unlikely feat of a hole in one are 13,000 to 1. Now the odds for an albatross are considered to be over 1,000,000 to 1. That’s odds 80 times as long.

How can this be the case?

The majority of golfers can reach every par 3 in one. Whether they do or not is another matter, but the potential is there for the average Joe to green it in one. Therefore the potential is there for Joe to have a hole in one – 13,000/1.

The number of golfers who can reach a par 5 in two or a par 4 in one is dramatically chopped. Except in rare weather conditions, this is reserved exclusively for long hitters and pros. So the pool of people you have to choose from is reduced substantially.

Not only do you need to see if you can reach the green but also consider how hard it is to actually hole it.

Let’s look at the percentage error index (PEI).  If you have a 100 yard shot and you hit it to 30 feet (10 yards), you’re PEI is 10%. The average PEI on tour is around 7%. So from 150 yards, the average distance they hit it to is  31.5 feet and  from 250 yards is 52.5 feet.

That’s a pretty big difference. There  is a direct correlation between range (distance of shot) vs proximity (how close you hit it). So on a par 3 you are generally within 220 yards of the hole vs over 220 yards to the hole with your second shot to a par 5. So even if everyone could pump it out there like a pro, you’d still see far fewer albatrosses than hole in ones.

Which feels better – a hole in one or an albatross?

Now, the question is – which one would you rather have? Well you can’t write down anything lower than a “1” on the card. What an amazing feeling it is to mark that down. But in a game as competitive as golf, you must look at it objectively. Having achieved both a hole in one and albatross, I can speak from experience. Forget the novelty and focus on the score to par. An albatross gains you 3 shots against the par vs the 2 of a hole in one on a par 3. It’s a no brainer for me – give me the albatross and let the hole in one-ers buy the drinks in the bar!

What if you could achieve both in one sitting?

I guess the only way to end this debate would be to have a hole in one on a par 4 and achieve both feats in one. Fortunately for me, I witnessed my good buddy Jason Palmer do just that. I’ve quizzed him about it and here’s what he had to say.

Me: Where did you have your hole in one albatross?

JP: It was in The Spring tournament at Willesley Park Golf Club on the 270 yard Par 4 4th.

Me: Talk me through it:

JP: It was a pretty cold day, but I still felt as though I could get there or thereabouts. The flag was one the right, so I was just trying to hit it up the fat side of the green on the left. I hit my driver and pushed it a little and it hopped up between the traps and onto the green. The line looked good, but I couldn’t tell where it had finished. It was a pretty good shot, but extremely lucky to go in.

Me: How did you fare the rest of the way round after that amazing feat?

JP:  Shot 75 that round. Played the same hole in the afternoon and parred it. Ended up shooting 67!

Interesting facts about hole in ones:

  • The great Seve Ballesteros never had a hole in one.
  • Sam Snead holed in one with every club in his bag, bar his putter.
  • Robert Taylor holed in one on 3 consecutive days at the par 3 16th hole at Hunstanton Golf Club in The Eastern County Foursomes.