Double Eagle in Golf: The Rare Feat That Defines Legacies and Makes History

Colin McCarthy

double eagle in golf

Golf enthusiasts often debate the terminology surrounding one of the sport’s rarest feats: scoring three under par on a single hole.

Known universally outside the U.S. as an “albatross,” this remarkable achievement is referred to as a “double eagle” in American golf vernacular. The term “double eagle” puzzles many, as it doesn’t logically fit the pattern of golf scoring terms.

Statistically, the odds of making a double eagle are incredibly slim, estimated at around a million to one.

To put this into perspective, you’re more likely to be struck by lightning than to score this elusive shot. Despite the rarity, the debate over its name continues to spark lively discussions among golfers worldwide.

Understanding the Double Eagle in Golf

What Is a Double Eagle?

A double eagle, also known as an albatross, occurs when a golfer scores three under par on a single hole.

For instance, if a golfer makes a 2 on a par-5 hole or a 1 on a par-4 hole, they’ve achieved a double eagle. This rare feat stands as one of the most impressive accomplishments in golf due to its difficulty and improbability.

Historical Overview of Double Eagles

Significant double eagles have occurred throughout golf history, cementing their place in the sport’s lore. Gene Sarazen made the most famous double eagle at the 1935 Masters.

In the final round, Sarazen holed out his 4-wood from 235 yards on the 15th hole, tying Craig Wood to force a playoff, which he won. Jeff Maggert also made history by achieving double eagles in two different major championships.

He recorded one at the 1994 Masters and another at the 2001 British Open. T.C. Chen made the first double eagle in U.S. Open history in 1985 on the 527-yard second hole at Oakland Hills.

The rarity of these shots makes them memorable. Bob Gilder’s double eagle at the 1982 Westchester Classic and John Senden’s at the Deutsche Bank Championship are other notable examples. Despite differing terminologies, double eagles are celebrated worldwide, highlighting their place in golf’s rich history.

Famous Double Eagles in Major Championships

Gene Sarazen – 1935 Masters

  • Hole: Par-5 15th
  • Club: 4-wood
  • Distance: 235 yards
  • Significance: Sarazen’s double eagle, often referred to as the “shot heard ’round the world,” tied him with Craig Wood, who had a three-stroke lead. Sarazen went on to win in a 36-hole playoff the following day, securing his place in golf history.

Jeff Maggert – 1994 Masters

  • Hole: Par-5 13th at Augusta
  • Achievement: Maggert’s double eagle is one of the notable double eagles recorded at the Masters.

Jeff Maggert – 2001 British Open

  • Hole: Par-5 6th at Royal Lytham & St Annes
  • Significance: Maggert is the only golfer to achieve double eagles in two different major championships, showcasing his exceptional skill and placing him in a unique position in golf history.

T.C. Chen – 1985 U.S. Open

  • Hole: Par-5 2nd at Oakland Hills
  • Club: 3-wood
  • Distance: 256 yards
  • Significance: Chen made history with the first double eagle in U.S. Open history. This incredible shot contrasted with his infamous double-hit chip in the final round, making his performance a memorable and bittersweet moment in golf lore.

Bruce Devlin – 1967 Masters

  • Hole: Par-5 8th
  • Club: 3-wood
  • Distance: 248 yards
  • Significance: Devlin’s double eagle is notable not only for the exceptional shot itself but also because it set a precedent within his family. His son Kel followed in his footsteps with a double eagle at the 1991 Dakota Dunes Open on the PGA Hogan Tour, making them a remarkable father-son duo in golf history.

Scoring a Double Eagle: A Player’s Perspective

Requirements and Strategies

Achieving a double eagle necessitates exceptional precision and power. The golfer usually faces a long hole, often a par-5, requiring accurate long-distance shots.

Their first shot must place the ball in an optimal position for the second shot to potentially reach the green.

Using high-caliber clubs like a 3-wood or a 4-wood, the second shot needs to cover significant yardage accurately.

Gene Sarazen, for example, holed out a 4-wood from 235 yards to score a double eagle at the 1935 Masters. Players often rely on meticulous yardage calculations and favorable course conditions to execute these shots perfectly.

The Role of Luck and Skill

While skill is paramount, luck also plays a significant role in scoring a double eagle. A golfer must harness both elements to achieve this rare feat. Precise shot-making, coupled with the right wind conditions and course layout, contributes to the success.

Jeff Maggert’s double eagles in the 1994 Masters and the 2001 British Open demonstrate this balance between skill and fortuitous circumstances.

Despite their best efforts, even the top golfers need a touch of luck to align their shot trajectory perfectly with the hole from daunting distances.

The Significance of Double Eagles in Golf Culture

Double eagles, known as albatrosses, hold a unique place in golf culture due to their extreme rarity and the extraordinary skill they require. Achieving a double eagle often becomes a defining moment in a golfer’s career and significantly impacts their legacy.

Impact on a Golfer’s Career

A double eagle can significantly elevate a golfer’s status, often defining their career. Gene Sarazen’s 235-yard 4-wood shot in the 1935 Masters led to a playoff and eventual victory, becoming a key part of his legacy.

Similarly, Jeff Maggert’s double eagles at the 1994 Masters and the 2001 British Open distinguish him as the only golfer to achieve this in two major tournaments.

These rare feats can lead to invitations to prestigious events, sponsorship opportunities, and increased fan following.

Media and Fan Reactions to Double Eagles

The media and fan reactions significantly amplify the significance of double eagles in golf. Even when not witnessed live, as with Bob Gilder’s 1982 shot during a commercial break, such feats quickly make headlines and boost the golfer’s fame.

For instance, T.C. Chen’s historic double eagle in the 1985 U.S. Open garnered widespread attention despite a later mistake.

Additionally, the story of Bruce Devlin and his son Kel both achieving double eagles adds an emotional and familial dimension, enhancing the prestige of this rare accomplishment.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who are some notable golfers who have scored double eagles in major championships?

Some notable golfers include Gene Sarazen, Jeff Maggert, T.C. Chen, and Bruce Devlin. These players have achieved this rare feat in major tournaments, showcasing their extraordinary talent.

How does achieving a double eagle impact a golfer’s career?

Achieving a double eagle can elevate a golfer’s status and define their legacy. These rare moments often lead to increased opportunities, greater media exposure, and a larger fan following.

How do fans and the media react to double eagles?

Double eagles generate significant excitement among fans and media. They often become major headlines and add to the prestige of the golfer who achieves them, contributing to the overall allure of the sport.

What are the odds of scoring a double eagle?

The odds of scoring a double eagle are extremely low, typically quoted between 1,000,000/1 and 6,000,000/1. According to PGA Tour data, there have been roughly 32 double eagles in the last 10 years, averaging about three per year.

Conclusion

A double eagle in golf stands as one of the sport’s most elusive and celebrated achievements. Its rarity and the skill required to execute such a shot make it a defining moment in any golfer’s career.

The stories of Gene Sarazen, Jeff Maggert, and others serve as lasting testaments to the extraordinary nature of this accomplishment.

Whether it’s the immediate fanfare or the long-term impact on a golfer’s legacy, a double eagle transcends the game, capturing the imagination of fans and cementing its place in golf history.

Achieving a double eagle, also known as an albatross, requires not only precision but also a strategic mind. This rare feat typically involves holing out from significant distance, often on a par-5 hole.

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Colin McCarthy

Golf is about mastering your misses and learning from them. I seek answers on the how and why of the golf swing, gaining experience even when answers elude me. With over 11,000 hours of teaching and a hunger for learning, I welcome any questions. My goal is to introduce golf to as many as possible, simplifying the game for all to enjoy. Passionate, eager, and ambitious, I'm here to teach, listen, and learn. LinkedIn

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