What Is an Eagle in Golf? Meaning and Odds of Happening


An aerial view of a golf course.

In golf, an eagle is something reserved for those good enough to get one through athletic skill and golfing ability or those fortunate enough to be rewarded by lady luck or the golfing gods. In either case, getting an eagle is not something a golfer will soon forget.

So, what is an eagle in golf?

An eagle is a term used to describe a golf score that is two strokes under par. An eagle can be either a score of 1 on a par 3 (also known as a hole in one), a 2 on a par 4, or a 3 on a par 5. Eagles are extremely rare and are a cause for celebration.

Par is the number that represents the number of strokes on a golf hole it should take a golfer to get the ball in the hole from start to finish. For comparison, a birdie is only one stroke under par and a bogey is one stroke over par. Eagles occur less frequently than both birdies and bogeys and are always a cause for celebration.

Is an Eagle Good in Golf?

An eagle in golf is very good. Since they don’t occur all that often, any time a golfer records an eagle it should be a cause for exuberant celebration. So if you get one, especially your first, be sure to go crazy with a leaping chest bump with your playing partner, a triumphant fist pump, an exclamatory yell of ‘wahoo’, or even the classic and timeless high-five.

There is often one drawback to making an eagle, sometimes the golfer has no idea it happened. Since most eagles are made when a long-distance shot goes into the hole, oftentimes the golfer never witnesses it falling into the cup.

So some good advice: if you hit an awesome shot that looked like it was going right at the hole but you can’t seem to find it on or near the green, be sure to check inside the hole because sometimes you might just find the surprise of a lifetime.

Is an Eagle Better than a Birdie in Golf?

On the scorecard, an eagle is better than a birdie by one stroke. But in the case of making memories that last a lifetime, eagles are significantly better than birdies.

How Rare Are Eagles in Golf?

A golfer takes a practice swing in the tee box.

Eagles are far rarer than birdies because they are considerably more difficult to make. One way to score an eagle is to make a hole in one on a par 3 and the odds of that happening vary depending on the golfer’s skill level.

A professional golfer’s hole in one odds sits at about 3,000 to 1. Conversely, the odds of an average golfer, one who shoots an 18-hole score between 90 and 100, is around 12,500 to 1.

Most golfers who record eagles typically hole out from long range. For example, let’s say an average golfer scores an eagle on a par 5 that totals 552 yards. The average male golfer only hits the ball off the tee about 220 yards and the average second shot will typically only travel about 190 to 200 yards.

That means the golfer will have to hole out on their third shot from roughly 130-140 yards, a feat that is often very difficult to do, even for the best golfers in the world.

Following the simple logic that as a golfer gets closer to the hole, the more likely they are to make their next shot into the hole, it becomes obvious that the farther a golfer can hit the ball, the easier it will be for them to make an eagle.

What Is Better than an Eagle in Golf?

There are two scores better than an eagle. The next best score is an albatross, also known as a double eagle, which is a score three strokes under par. An albatross would be a score of 1 on a par 4 or a 2 on a par 5. An albatross can never be scored on a par 3 because there simply isn’t a way to record a negative number of strokes.

The second score better than an eagle is called a condor. A condor is a score of four strokes under par and can either be a score of 1 on a par 5 or a 2 on a par 6. A condor will never be recorded on par 3 or par 4 holes because there aren’t enough strokes in the hole’s par to equate the score.

What Is a Double Eagle in Golf?

A double eagle also called an albatross, is a score of three strokes under par. It is one stroke less than an eagle.

Where Did the Term ‘Eagle’ Come from in Golf?

Bird names and references are used in golf to describe scores that are under par. The first time the word ‘birdie’ was used dates back to the early 20th century when the word ‘bird’ was a common term to describe anything excellent.

Golfing lore holds that three men, Ab Smith, his brother William P. Smith and golf course architect and hotelier George A. Crump, were playing golf at Atlantic City Club when Ab Smith first used the term in such a way to describe a golf shot.

The second hole at Atlantic City Club is a par 4 in which Ab hit his second shot so close to the hole that he exclaimed ‘That was a bird of a shot!’. Upon making the putt, the three men henceforth referred to a score of the type, one stroke under par, as a ‘birdie’.

It wasn’t until several years later in 1913 that ‘birdie’ became a far more commonly used term when English golf writer Bernard Darwin wrote, “It takes a day or two for the English onlooker to understand that… a ‘birdie’ is a hole done in a stroke under par.”

Ab Smith was also credited with coining additional scoring terms ‘eagle’ and ‘double eagle’. However, it was the Brits that later substituted the term ‘albatross’ in place of ‘double eagle’. The logic behind the bird theme in golf follows that as the score gets more below par, the representative bird to describe such a score gets bigger and bigger.

Who Has the Most Eagles in Golf?

A golf ball and a golfer in the background.

The PGA Tour began recording eagles as a statistic in 1980. Since that year, professional golfer Carlos Franco holds the current record for most eagles recorded in a single season on the PGA Tour at 22 eagles made. He achieved the feat during the 2003 season. Only five other professional golfers have recorded 20 or more eagles in a single season.

How Many Eagles Does Tiger Woods Have in his Professional Career?

Through the course of his esteemed career, Tiger Woods has recorded 188 eagles while playing on the PGA Tour. During the 2000 season, Tiger led the PGA Tour with 19 eagles, the most during any one season in his career.

What Are Some Tips to Make an Eagle?

For the average golfer, making an eagle can seem like an impossible feat but there are ways to improve one’s odds of making one. Outside of lady luck and the golfing gods smiling down on you, here are a few tips you can take to the course the next time you tee it up.

All of these tips are based on the idea that the farther you hit the ball, the closer you will be to the hole on your next shot. The closer you are to the hole, the better chance you have of hitting your next shot into the hole.

Play a Shorter Golf Course

The closer you are to the hole, the higher the percentage your next shot will go into the hole. That being said, there is no reason why a golfer cannot play a more forward tee which ultimately shortens the effective length of a golf course.

Just because all the women at your golf club play from the forward tees doesn’t mean the men are excluded from using it. The point of golf is to have fun and you would be hard-pressed to find a golfer upset about shooting lower scores, even if he plays the same tees as his wife, mother, or daughter.

Use Mother Nature to Your Advantage

Golf is designed to be played in nature. Every golfing arena is different and even the same golf course can play differently from one day to the next.

Changes in temperature, changes in elevation and altitude, shifting wind directions, the placement or lack of trees, and even how dry the surrounding terrain is all act as separate factors that golfers can take advantage of to hit the ball farther.

Temperature

Higher temperatures can result in the ball flying further. A golfer can expect an additional extra yard of distance per 10-degree increase in temperature. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TbcW6DtjAl0

Elevation or Altitude Above Sea Level – The higher the altitude the further the golf ball travels. Golfers can expect to receive an additional 2% increase in distance for every 1,000ft above sea level.

Elevation Change on a Golf Hole

A golf hole that plays downhill will effectively shorten the length of the hole making it easier to hit the ball farther.

Wind Direction

Hitting a golf ball downwind (i.e. in the same direction as the wind) will add both carry distance and rollout distance making it easier to add more yards per shot.

Trees

Trees are definitely obstacles that can inhibit a golf ball’s progress down the length of a hole but they can at times provide fortuitous bounces aiding a needy golfer. A substantial lack of trees is often an indicator that a golf ball might be more affected by wind.

Ground Firmness

The firmer the ground, the more likely the ball is to roll longer distances. A golfer that can take advantage of this will see an additional 10 to 50yds of added distance per shot.

Take More Calculated Risks

The old adage to go big or go home applies here. If you are playing a shorter par 5 (i.e. under 500yds for men), pull out all the stops and swing for the fences.

Your probability of pulling off the shot and hitting it exactly as you imagine may be less than 10% but if the hole provides few risks (i.e. no water hazards or out of bounds nearby) for the potential reward of hitting the ball near or on the green in two shots, why not just grip it and rip it?

What have you got to lose besides another golf ball? (Do not try this if you are down to your last golf ball.)

Try to Make a Hole in One On Every Par 3

If a hole in one is an eagle, then why not try to make a hole in one every time you play a par 3?

Improve Your Short Game 100yds and In

Want to know why the guys on the PGA Tour are so good? They spend hours upon hours practicing their short game. The short game generally encompasses any shot taken from just off the putting green to 100 yards away.

Spending time working on your accuracy in these distances will not only improve your overall scoring but will also increase the likelihood that one of them goes in for a nice little eagle.

Use the Design of the Golf Course to Your Advantage

Though some may argue otherwise, golf course architects aren’t evil masterminds plotting to foil the good-natured fun of the casual golfer. Generally speaking, they put a lot of thought and consideration into utilizing the natural terrain of a landscape to create a golf course where golfers can capitalize on fortunate bounces and rolls.

Golfer’s looking to make more eagles should utilize the undulation of putting greens to help funnel the ball towards the hole and take advantage of firm and fast fairways that help the ball roll out gaining much-needed extra yardage.

What Are Other Scores in Golf Called?

The game of golf utilizes a vast vocabulary to describe the many different possible scores. Here they are listed from lowest under par to highest above par:

  • Condor – A condor is a score of 4-under par, occurring as an ace or hole in one on a par 5 or a score of 2 on a par 6.
  • Albatross or Double Eagle – An albatross is a score of 3-under par, occurring as a hole in one on a par 4, a 2 on a par 5 or a 3 on a par 6.
  • Eagle – A score of 2-under par. An example is a score of 3 on a par 5, also known as a hole in one on a par 3.
  • Birdie – A birdie is a score of 1-under par, such as a score of 3 on a par 4.
  • Par – A par is a score equal to the number of strokes designated on the hole, i.e. a score of 3 on par 3.
  • Bogey – A bogey is a score of 1-over par.
  • Double Bogey – A score of 2-over par or a 7 on a par 5, for instance.
  • Triple, Quadruple, or Quintuple Bogey – As the names imply, these are scores of 3, 4 and 5-over par respectively.

Here is a chart that visually correlates scores with their names for each type of hole par.

Scores in relation to PAR in Golf

Steven G.

My name is Steven and I love everything sports! I created this website to share my passion with all of you. Enjoy!

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