What Is An Eagle In Golf: How Rare Are They And Can You Make One?

Golf can have some funny terms.

For non-golfers, it must seem like a foreign language when talking about birdies, bogeys, and albatrosses; what is it all about?

For golfers, talking about bogeys is a bad thing.

What they would like to talk about is the birdie they made on the 15th or the “up and down” on the 12th that would have had Phil Mickelson expressing his admiration.

Another term that can draw awe and admiration relates to making an eagle.

An eagle in golf is a relatively rare bird, and in this piece, we will celebrate and educate you on what an eagle in golf is and when you can potentially make one.

To do that, we’ll cover the following:

  • What Is An Eagle In Golf?
  • Why Is It Called An Eagle?
  • How To Score An Eagle
  • What Is A Double Eagle In Golf?
  • Golf Eagle Trivia
  • Key Takeaways Of Eagles In Golf

Let’s jump into it!

What is an eagle in golf?

What is an eagle in golf?

An eagle in golf occurs when you play a hole in 2 under par.

Let’s explain this further.

If you are playing a par 5 and you complete the hole in 3 shots, you’ve made an eagle.

If you are playing a par 4 and you are lucky enough to hole your second shot, you have made an eagle.

If you play a par 3 and you hole your tee shot, not only have you made a hole-in-one, but technically, you have also made an eagle.

Why is it called an eagle?

Delving into the history books, the term an eagle in golf has its origins in America.

Eagle was introduced to the golfing vernacular in the late 19th century and was born out of the creation of the word birdie.

A man wearing red and white swings a golf club at a golf ball, with a close up of the contact.

Two brothers – William P Smith and Ab Smith, were playing a four-ball match when Ab Smith hit an approach shot on a par 4 that finished close to the hole.

At the time, to describe something as a “bird” meant you had done some good, so in golfing terms, hitting Smith’s approach shot close to the hole was deemed to be a “bird” of a shot.

The group decided thereafter that if somebody played a hole in 1 under par, it was a “birdie,” and thereafter, if somebody played a hole in 2 under par, it would be an “eagle.”

Eagles are rarer than common bird types, and that reflected the fact that playing a hole in 2 under its par was rarer than playing a hole in 1 under its par.

Whilst the term eagle was widely used in the US, it didn’t appear in the British golfing lexicon until the early 1920s.

The eagle also has nationalistic significance for Americans as well which could represent an additional reason why it was introduced to golfing vocabulary.

How to score an eagle in golf

As mentioned previously, scoring an eagle is playing a hole in 2 under par.

Many professionals look to take advantage of the par 5s they play in tournaments and give themselves eagle opportunities.

A man wearing blue stands on a golfing green about to take a golf swing.

Making an eagle can help their round tremendously and boost them up a leaderboard.

It can also be rewarding as any player that eagles one of Augusta National’s par 5s during the Masters competition will receive a set of crystal glasses to commemorate the feat.

Getting an eagle on par 4 is a little more tricky.

There are two ways this can be achieved:

  • You can hole your second shot from the fairway/rough or from around the green
  • You can drive the green and a hole the subsequent putt.

It’s fashionable now in professional tournaments to feature at least one par 4 that will tempt players into driving the green to create an eagle opportunity.

So all this sounds like eagles are really only obtainable for professionals who have an advantage over most amateurs by how far they hit the golf ball.

But there are opportunities for amateur golfers to make eagles as well even for the higher handicap players.

A lot of golfers will play in handicap competitions or Stableford competitions.

Three woman stand on the golfing green playing golf.

Stableford awards points for how you play each hole, and looks something like this:

  • Par – 1 point
  • Birdie – 2 points
  • Eagle – 3 points

Both forms of competition utilize the player’s handicap, and they will receive a given number of strokes over the round as per their handicap

So, as an example, let’s take an 18-handicap golfer who will get one shot on every hole.

They could play a par 4 in 3 shots which would be a birdie but with the shot they have on the hole reducing the score by one shot, they have made an eagle.

What is a double eagle in golf?

A double eagle in golf is also known as an albatross. 

This is where the second shot is holed on a par 5, or a player gets a hole-in-1 on a par 4.

A golf ball rolls into a hole, with blurred golf balls behind it.

Golf eagle trivia

Let’s take a look at some 3 quick-fire trivia questions connected with eagles:

#1: Who has the Most eagles on the PGA Tour?

Justin Thomas, 122 eagles recorded

#2: What’s rarer than an eagle?

Albatross – also known as a double eagle

Condor – this is a true golf term! A Condor is scored when a player gets a hole-in-1 on a par 5

#3: How rare is an eagle for the average golfer?

It’s pretty rare, unfortunately – the odds are in the region of 1 in 10,000 of making an eagle on any given hole.

Key takeaways of Eagles in golf

Eagles are rare; they represent playing any golf hole exceptionally well at 2 under par for its rating.

But there are opportunities, especially in competitions like Stableford, where your handicap can make a big difference, and you can potentially score an eagle

So now you are fully up to speed on everything associated with an eagle in golf, now is the time to go out and see if you can record your own eagles!

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Golf has been a passion of mine for over 30 years. It has brought me many special moments including being able to turn professional. Helping people learn to play this great game was a real highlight especially when they made solid contact with the ball and they saw it fly far and straight! Injury meant I couldn't continue with my professional training but once fully fit I was able to work on and keep my handicap in low single figures representing my golf club in local and regional events. Being able to combine golf with writing is something I truly enjoy. Helping other people learn more about golf or be inspired to take up the game is something very special.

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