NCG's Golf Glossary: What is an albatross?January 1, 2010 Golf Tips
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Word of the week: Albatross
This is a bird, right? Wasn’t it a Fleetwood Mac song? If you’ve been lucky enough to make an albatross, take a bow. You are in a very special group.
Sightings are rare enough in the professional game but, for us mere amateurs, an albatross is as treasured as a hole-in-one.
So what’s it all about?
Of course, we don’t say that. That would be stupid.” Dictionary definition: A very large, chiefly white oceanic bird with long, narrow wings, found mainly in the southern oceans.
What this actually means: As the Americans say, it’s another term for a double eagle.
Of course, we don’t say that. That would be stupid. Think about it. It doesn’t even add up.
Albatross continues the birdie and eagle theme but, while those two originated in the USA, this is all British-made.
It’s the term used for a score of three under par on any hole. It can be a two on a par 5 or, even more impressively, a hole-in-one on a shorter par 4.
Why do we call it as such? Well, you don’t see an albatross flying around every day do you? It’s a rare term for a rare shot.
Whatever you do, though, DON’T call it a double eagle.
“It’s an albatross,” said the redoubtable Padraig Harrington in an impressive rant to golf writers a few years ago.
“There’s no such thing in life as a double eagle. Is there?
“Two eagles side by side are two eagles, not a double eagle. You don’t refer to animals…’Oh, I just saw a double elephant over there’. There’s no doubting what it is. It’s an albatross.”
Origins: The first known reference was in 1929 in a report of a match between Durham and West Hartlepool.
There wasn’t even an albatross to speak of, either, as Past The Stone Man merely reported he hadn’t heard of any.
What this does show is that the term must have been in common parlance before this date.
The first albatross we can see in newspaper cuttings came in South Africa in 1931 when E E Wooler aced the par 4 18th at Durban Country Club.
One of the most famous came four years later when Gene Sarazen, playing in the second Augusta National Invitation Tournament (which would, of course, become the Masters), got down in two on the 15th in the fourth round.
It was branded “the shot heard around the world”.
His famous 4-wood from 235 yards not only helped him subsequently beat Craig Wood in a play-off, it cemented the reputation of the new tournament at Bobby Jones’ Georgia course.