It’s one of the most rare achievements in golf – yet there are two different terms for it.
Three-under-par on any given hole has been described as both an ‘albatross’ and a ‘double-eagle’.
But are the two really the same thing?
In a purely literal sense, the answer is a categorical NO.
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The term ‘eagle’ is used to describe playing a hole in two-under-par. For example, playing a par-4 in two shots or a par-5 in three shots.
Therefore, a ‘double-eagle’ would presumably be twice the value.
Consequently, using the term double-eagle to describe the act of playing a hole in three-under-par is, mathematically, wrong.
In any event, four-under-par on a hole – essentially, a hole-in-one on a par-5 – is called a ‘Condor’. This is almost impossible to achieve. Indeed, there are only four reported instances of a golfer having had a condor in the long and illustrious history of the game.
Some courses have par-6 holes, where a condor would be playing the hole in just two shots. However, no such feat has ever been recorded.
How did the term ‘double-eagle’ come to be used? Its history is a little hazy. However, it is thought to have originated at Augusta National in 1935 where Gene Sarazen recorded the first albatross in Masters history.
The American holed his second shot on the par-5 15th with ‘the shot heard ‘round the world’, making up a three-shot deficit on the leaders with just one swing.
Reporting on the remarkable shot for the Atlanta Constitution, the great US sports-writer Grantland Rice wrote: “As he swung, the double miracle happened. The ball left the face of his spoon like a rifle shot. It never wavered from a direct line to the pin. As it struck the green, a loud shout went up.
“Then suddenly (it) turned into a deafening, reverberating roar as the ball spun along its way and finally disappeared into the cup for a double eagle 2 — a 2 on a 485-yard hole when even an eagle 3 wouldn't have helped.”
‘Double-eagle’ has become popularised in American golf parlance ever since.
However, Europe’s Ryder Cup captain Padraig Harrington is in no doubt as to whether or not it’s correct.
“There's no such thing in life as a double eagle, is there?” the Irishman has said previously. “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."
Former US Open champion Geoff Ogilvy agrees.
“I guess they can't think of a word for something better than eagle so they call it a double eagle. But it's not really a double eagle. It's an eagle-and-a-half. I always liked albatross. It's a good bird, isn't it? They fly across oceans. It's grand, which is what describes the shot.”