If you find yourself on the golf course and see a bunch of guys hooting and hollering, one of two things probably happened: they saw an alligator or one of them just made an ace. If you don’t live in Florida, then it’s safe to assume someone made an ace.
So, what is an ace in golf?
An ace is when a golfer puts the ball in the hole with one swing when starting the play of a hole. Aces are also known as ‘hole-in-ones’ and are exceedingly rare in the game of golf. Aces are far more likely to occur on Par 3s, where players have a higher chance of reaching the hole in one swing.
While you need some luck to make an ace, skill still plays a dominant role. Sinking a hole-in-one is a dream of many that can one day come to fruition with lots of practice and a bit of luck.
To learn how to increase your chances of making an ace and how often they occur, we encourage you to read on!
What Is an Ace in Golf?
An ace in golf happens when the golfer puts the ball in the hole with one swing from the teeing ground. Golf is a difficult game to master and it often takes years of practice to develop a consistent, repeatable swing.
This makes scoring an ace in golf one of the hardest things to accomplish as a golfer.
To score an ace in golf, golfers need to be precise with their swings, as it takes a lot of skill hitting the ball far enough and accurately.
Aces often require a little bit of luck whether it be a fortunate deflection towards the hole or hitting the flagstick squarely and going in the hole.
How Rare Are Aces in Golf?
Aces in golf are pretty rare but the probability of any golfer making an ace depends on their skill level. An ace occurs about once every 3,500 rounds of golf played and only 1-2% of golfers record an ace every year.
The probability of an ace for the average amateur golfer is 12,000 to 1. However, the odds of an ace for a professional golfer increase significantly to 3,000 to 1.
This is due in part to their ability to judge certain conditions that increase the likelihood that they will make an ace.
The single largest factor that affects a golfer’s ability to make an ace is the ball’s distance from the hole. The closer you are to the hole, the easier it is to make an ace.
Additionally, better golfers hit the ball farther than less skilled golfers so the chances of making an ace increase significantly.
What Factors Affect a Golfer’s Ability to Ace a Hole?
As mentioned earlier, skill plays a huge part in acing a hole, with luck also being a factor. To go along with these elements, there are also several other variables you must consider:
- Distance Control – The closer you are to hitting the ball the exact distance, the better the chance you have of making the shot.
- Direction of the Shot – The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. While the golf ball rarely travels in a straight line, a golfer’s ability to keep a ball on target with the hole increases the likelihood it will go in the hole.
- Type of Golf Club Used – The type of golf club determines the trajectory of the golf ball when hit. A ball that rolls into the hole is more likely to go in than a ball that bounces or lands directly in the hole. Lower lofted clubs like drivers, woods and low numbered irons (2, 3, 4 or 5 irons) are designed to travel further at a lower trajectory so the ball will roll more when it lands. Higher lofted clubs like mid to higher number irons (6, 7, 8, and 9 irons) and wedges (pitching, gap, sand, and lob) are designed for higher ball flight meaning the ball will land softer with less roll.
- Environmental Influences – Wind greatly affects the flight of the golf ball and judging how the wind will affect the ball takes practice. Downwind shots travel further and tend to roll more while upwind shots do not travel as far and land softer with less roll.
- Elevation Above Sea Level – The higher the elevation above sea level, the farther the golf ball will travel. At 5,000 feet above sea level, the average distance for any club will travel about 6% more than at sea level.
- Shot Elevation Change – Golf courses are usually not flat and you can expect many shots to be hit up or downhill. Uphill shots add distance to the hole and typically land harder and roll further. Downhill shots decrease the distance to the hole and typically land softer and roll less.
- Position of the Hole on the Green – Where the hole is located on the green is a big factor in whether an ace can be made. Holes located towards the center of the green are easier to score an ace than holes located along the edges or behind obstacles like bunkers, trees or thick grass.
Has Anyone Ever Aced a Par 5?
There have been five recorded aces on par 5’s in the history of golf. The biggest factors affecting whether the ball went in the hole were elevation above sea level and firmness of the ground, which causes the ball to roll significant distances after landing.
An ace on a par five is commonly referred to as a ‘Condor’.
Aces on Par 4’s are just as rare. Only six professional golfers have made an ace on a Par 4, most of them occurring since the year 2000. One of the most famous Par 4 aces was by professional golfer Andrew Magee in 2001.
On the 332 yards, 17th hole at TPC Scottsdale in Scottsdale, Arizona, Magee’s drive rolled on to the putting green, bounced off the putter of a player in the group in front of him and went directly into the hole.
What Are Other Golf Scoring Terms?
Now that you know what an ace in golf is, here are some other scoring terms to learn.
But before we get into them, it’s important to mention for all the beginners out there that the goal of golf is to put the ball in the hole with as few strokes as possible.
- Par – Par is the number of strokes for any given hole it should take the golfer to hole the ball from start to finish. Golf holes are either Par 3’s, Par 4’s or Par 5’s.
- Birdie – A birdie is a score that is one stroke under par. An example of a birdie is a score of 3 on a Par 4 or a score of 2 on a Par 3.
- Eagle – An eagle is a score that is two strokes under par. Examples of an eagle include a 1 on a Par 3 (otherwise known as an ace!) or a 3 on a Par 5.
- Double Eagle or Albatross – A double eagle is a score that is three strokes under par. There are only two ways to score a double eagle, an ace on a Par 4 or a score of 2 on a Par 5.
- Bogey – A bogey is a score of 1 stroke over par. An example is a score of 5 on a Par 4 or a score of 6 on a Par 5.
- Double, Triple, Quadruple-Bogey – A double-bogey is a score of 2 strokes over par, so a triple-bogey would be 3 strokes over par and a quadruple-bogey 4 strokes over par. An example of a double-bogey is a score of 5 on a Par 3.
- You can score higher than a quadruple-bogey and in fact, many professional golfers have recorded double-digit scores in professional tournaments.
Why Are Aces More Likely to Occur on Par 3s?
The yardage from the teeing ground, or tee box, to the putting green on Par 3 holes typically ranges from 80-220 yards. Each hole has multiple tee boxes where golfers of differing skill levels play from.
It is customary for better golfers to play from longer yardages while less skilled golfers play tee boxes that are closer to the hole.
The par score of a hole is predetermined and is calculated as the number of shots it will take to get on the green from the tee box, plus two additional strokes.
A Par 3 assumes a golfer hits one shot onto the green and then needs two putts to hole the ball. This reasoning is why an overwhelmingly large percentage of aces in golf occur on Par 3’s.
The typical distance for a Par 4 ranges from 225 yards to over 500 yards, once again depending on the golfer’s skill level and the teeing ground they choose to play from.
A Par 4 assumes the golfer will need two swings to get the ball on the green and two putts to hole the ball. Many golf courses and golf tournaments will set up shorter Par 4’s at distances of 330 yards or less to entice golfers to go for the green in one shot.
The typical distance for a Par 5 ranges from 400 yards to over 600 yards. Here par assumes the golfer will take three shots to get on the green from the teeing ground with two putts to hole the ball.
Aces are so rare on Par 5’s because they are typically not straight and have many obstacles like bunkers, water hazards and trees that make the hole more difficult.