The holy grail of golf, the hole in one is a shot with incredibly small odds. As the name suggests, a hole in one is when a player gets the ball in the hole directly from their tee shot. Many golfers play for their entire lives and never experience one whilst some have many.
The odds of hitting a hole in one are estimated to be around 1 in 12,500. Given that most courses have 4 par 3 holes, that comes out at around 3,125 rounds. Interestingly, perhaps unsurprisingly, the odds of a tour pro getting a hole in one is significantly lower at 1 in 2,500.
One of the first recorded hole in ones came at the 1868 Open Championship at Prestwick and was recorded by Old Tom Morris. This was the 9th Open, Old Tom would go on to finish 2nd and earn £4 in the process. His son won the event and made a whopping £6 in prize money!
A hole in one on the wrong day can be an expensive shot. It is tradition that you buy your fellow golfers a drink, if you’re playing in a competition then that is a lot of drinks. Nowadays golfers tend to buy a bottle of whisky and put it behind the bar for people to enjoy.
You can even take out “hole in one cover” on your golfer’s insurance to help you cover the unexpected costs of making this shot. For anyone who has ever had to make a claim on their hole in one cover, I’m sure they were delighted to have the help with the bill.
Another common thing, in professional golf at least, is the hole in one car. This is that common site you’ll see at tour events where if players get a hole in one then they win a car, usually a beautiful one too.
A funny story about this was in 2012 at the WGC Cadillac Championship. Paul Casey and his caddy, Craig Connolly, had decided that they would split the hole in one car prize if he aced it. He did. Connolly went mad celebrating only for those cheers to be cut short as they found out the car was for an ace on the 15th, not the 13th where Casey had done it.
For that hole in one, Casey hit an 8-iron which is one of the most common clubs for golfers to use to get an ace. Research suggests that the 7-, 8- and 9-irons are the most frequent clubs for the special shot.
So many have never had a hole in one, as already mentioned, but some out there are prolific “acers”. The world record is currently held by American Norman Manley of California. This magician has apparently bagged 59 aces!
If it makes you feel any better, Tiger Woods has had 3 aces during his time on the PGA Tour. He actually recorded his first hole in one at the age of six! That fact should be more surprising, however we are talking about Tiger Woods here so you knew he’d have his first at a young age.
Speaking of pro golf, one of the most fun pro events on the calendar is the Masters par 3 contest. This event is held on the Wednesday of Masters week and often features plenty of aces. The ground staff actually set the greens and flags up to try and up the count for the patrons to witness.
It’s not just par 3s that have witnessed hole in ones though. An albatross can be had by acing a par 4. This is so rare that it has only happened once on the PGA Tour when Andrew Magee hit the miraculous shot in 2001. There are also a number of reports of it happening in the amateur game.
So, now you’re thinking, “are there any recorded aces on a par 5”? Well, yes, there is, in fact there are a couple. The longest ace on record is a colossal 517-yards and happened in Denver where the air is thinner and the balls go further. Mike Crean was responsible for this one.
These are all impressive enough feats, but there is one more story that may blow your mind. Former North Korean leader, Kim Jong Il played golf only once but during this maiden round he carded 5 hole in ones! This figure comes from official state records so there’s no way that it could have been made up to make the Dear Leader sound better than he was.
Golf is a crazy game and even the worst round of golf can be saved by carding an ace. This is the kind of thing that makes you want to come back again and keep playing just as you were on the cusp of giving up. Every single golfer stands on the tee of par 3s and thinks, “What if”.
If you have never had one, keep plugging away. Remember, you only have to play 3,125 rounds of golf, on average, to bag yourself an ace according to statistics. The most important thing to remember is to retire the ball immediately, never lose your hole in one balls, they are special.