What is harder than a hole in one?

A hole in one is considered one of the rarest and most difficult feats in golf. The odds of an amateur golfer hitting a hole in one are estimated to be about 12,500 to 1. For professional golfers, the odds improve to around 2,500 to 1. But while a hole in one requires tremendous skill and a bit of luck, there are several other golf accomplishments that are even more difficult and extraordinary. In this article, we’ll explore some of the rarest golf feats that top players strive for throughout their careers.

What are the odds of making a hole in one?

As mentioned, the odds of an amateur golfer making a hole in one are estimated to be around 12,500 to 1. This means that if the average amateur golfer plays once a week for 50 years of their life, they only have a 2.8% chance of ever hitting a hole in one. For professionals, who play and practice much more frequently, the odds increase to about 2,500 to 1 according to the PGA Tour. But these are still very low odds, which is why holes in one are so celebrated in golf. Some other interesting hole in one statistics:

  • Only about 2% of all rounds result in a hole in one
  • The average pro golfer will make around 4 holes in one in their career
  • The majority of holes in one occur on par 3s between 150-180 yards
  • The odds double when attempting a hole in one during a tournament round

While a hole in one is a rare feat, there are several other accomplishments in golf that require even more precision and luck.

Double Eagle

Scoring a double eagle, also known as an albatross, is more difficult than a hole in one. A double eagle occurs when a player holes out with two strokes under par for a single hole. For example, holing out on a par 5 in two shots, or a par 4 in one shot. This requires not only a precise shot, but also substantial length off the tee. Considering most par 4s measure over 350 yards, and par 5s over 450 yards, the amount of power and accuracy needed is extremely rare. The odds of a double eagle are estimated to be around 1 million to 1 on a par 5, and 6 million to 1 on a par 4.

Famous Double Eagles

Some notable double eagles recorded in professional golf tournaments include:

  • Gene Sarazen’s “shot heard round the world” double eagle in the 1935 Augusta National Invitation Tournament, which later became known as The Masters.
  • Bruce Crampton’s albatross in the 1973 Kemper Open on the par 5 17th hole.
  • Paul Azinger’s rare double eagle on the par 4 17th hole during the 2000 Sony Open.

Shooting 59

In professional golf, breaking 60 strokes in a single round is an extremely rare achievement. Referred to as shooting in the “50s”, there have been under 10 sub-60 rounds shot in official PGA Tour events. The magic number that all players dream of is shooting 59 in a tour event. A score this low requires a combination of excellent shots, consistency, and luck across all 18 holes of a round. For perspective, the average PGA Tour scoring average ranges from 70-72 strokes per round. Some of the players who have shot 59 in official PGA Tour events include:

  • Al Geiberger (1977 Memphis Classic – 1st ever 59 on Tour)
  • Chip Beck (1991 Las Vegas Invitational)
  • David Duval (1999 Bob Hope Classic)
  • Jim Furyk (2013 BMW Championship)

Shooting a 59 requires five birdies, one eagle, and twelve pars at a minimum. The odds against such a round are extremely high, which is why only a handful have been recorded in several decades of professional tour events.

Lowest Round Ever

While 59 is golf’s magic number, the lowest round ever shot was actually a 58 by an amateur golfer named Jim Furyk in 2016 at the Travelers Celebrity Pro-Am event. This is the lowest individual round on record, demonstrating that shooting in the 50s is the pinnacle accomplishment in the sport.

Consecutive Birdies

While difficult, it is not impossible for pros to birdie several holes in a row during a round to shoot low scores. However, as the streak of consecutive birdies increases, the probability of continuing the run greatly diminishes. The record for most consecutive birdies made is nine during official PGA Tour events. Only a few remarkable players have reached this milestone:

  • Mark Calcavecchia in 2009 at the RBC Canadian Open
  • Steve Stricker in 2010 at the John Deere Classic

For amateur players, consecutive birdies are much more irregular. Making five or more consecutive birdies would be considered an outstanding accomplishment for everyday golfers. The focus required to birdie that many holes consecutively without any par breaks is extremely rare.

Multiple Holes-in-One

We know that a single hole-in-one is an unlikely achievement. But for a golfer to make multiple holes-in-one within their career – or even within a single round – the odds become astronomical. Some notable records for multiple holes in one include:

  • Single Round – In 1955 amateur golfer Oscar Palm made holes-in-one on two consecutive par 3s (4th and 5th holes) in a single round.
  • Single Tournament – In 1973 professional golfer Bobby Cole made three holes-in-one over a five day tournament at the Hope Classic, with aces on the 5th, 11th, and 16th holes.
  • Career – The Guinness World Record for most career holes-in-one is 51, held by Norman Manley of California, who achieved this feat over a 64 year timespan as an amateur golfer.

For perspective, even the best professionals top out at fewer than 10 holes-in-one over an entire career. Achieving multiple aces demonstrates outrageous luck and consistency at the same time.

Low Career Round

While a single exceptional round in the 50s is rare, having an exceptionally low career round average over many seasons is even more difficult. The benchmark for world class professional golfers is maintaining an average below 70 strokes per round. Some exceptional players have managed to achieve staggering career round averages:

  • Tiger Woods: 68.99 career average
  • Dustin Johnson: 69.49 career average
  • Rory McIlroy: 69.87 career average

These players have maintained a lifetime scoring average below 70 strokes over hundreds of PGA Tour rounds year after year. For perspective, no other player in history has had a sub-69 career scoring average. Theircombination of power, precision, and consistency allowed them to average nearly 3-under par every time they teed it up.

Lowest Lifetime Average Ever

The record for the lowest strokes per round average over an entire career is held by golfer Mike Austin. In 107 official LPGA career rounds, Austin averaged an astonishing 67.18 strokes per round. That’s over 4-under par on average, a superhuman feat he maintained over many years. Austin’s impeccable driving and iron play kept his scores consistently low over his short but illustrious professional career.

Major Championships

Winning major golf championships is the pinnacle achievement in the sport. The four majors – The Masters, U.S. Open, Open Championship (British Open) and PGA Championship – feature the strongest fields and most demanding conditions players face all year. Winning even one major over a career is considered a tremendous accomplishment. The list of golf legends with the most major wins include:

  • Jack Nicklaus – 18 major wins
  • Tiger Woods – 15 major wins
  • Walter Hagen – 11 major wins

Nicklaus’ record of 18 major championships is considered nearly unbeatable, a testament to his longevity and unmatched ability to win under pressure over decades of competition with younger rivals. Players like Bobby Jones, Ben Hogan and Arnold Palmer also dominated their eras with multiple major victories apiece. But for any pro, winning a single major is the definitive highlight of a career.

4 Majors in One Year

The professional Grand Slam – winning all four major titles in a calendar year – is the supreme accomplishment in golf. Only five players have ever achieved the calendar slam:

  • Bobby Jones (1930)
  • Gene Sarazen (1935)
  • Ben Hogan (1953)
  • Jack Nicklaus (1972)
  • Tiger Woods (2000)

Jones, Sarazen, Hogan and Woods also won three of the four majors in different calendar years to nearly achieve multiple slams. But the command of game and mental resolve to win every major in a single year puts a player in rarefied company. Golf historians consider the Grand Slam one of the greatest achievements not just in golf, but all of competitive sports.

Perfect Score

The theoretical lowest possible score in golf is a 59 with two eagles on par 5s and the remaining holes in one stroke under par. However, shooting “60” is essentially perfection over 18 holes. To make par on every single hole and no bogeys is remarkably consistent play under pressure. And to never miss a putt is absolutely unheard of. There has never been a verified perfect score of 60 (with par on every hole) shot in PGA Tour history . A “low round” of 60 has been accomplished by shooting all pars with a couple eagles thrown in the mix. But the true Holy Grail of golf scores remains shooting par on every single hole.


As we’ve explored, while a hole-in-one is a rare feat requiring skill and good fortune, there are several more difficult milestones that the best golfers work towards. Consistently exceptional scoring averages, perfectionism over 18 holes, and career-defining major championships represent the pinnacle of golf achievement. Players like Tiger Woods who set records across all aspects of the game solidify their status as legends. But for any golfer, amateur or pro, the quest to conquer these monumental challenges will continue to drive the pursuit of perfection, one stroke at a time.

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