Here’s why an albatross is the rarest achievement in golf

Only 18 albatrosses achieved, in history, at major tournaments

Harry Higgs hits an approach shot on the 6th hole during round three of the Safeway Open at Silverado Resort on September 12, 2020 in Napa, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey). (Getty Images)

Professional golfer Harry Higgs gained some attention last week when he collected an albatross during the second round of the Safeway Open, a feat that may have led to some curious questions for casual golf fans.

First and foremost, what is an albatross? While a birdie is 1-under par on a hole and an eagle is 2-under par, a step better than that is an albatross, which is 3-under par on a hole.

While it’s possible to get an albatross and a hole-in-one at the same time, if there’s a par-4 green that’s drivable from the tees, and that tee shot happens to go in the hole, most albatrosses happen when someone hits their second shot on a par-5 onto the green and into the hole.

That in itself is such a rarity that it makes a hole-in-one -- which are also rare -- as frequently as successful as 5-foot par putts, in comparison.

Just how rare is an albatross, even for professional golfers?

In the four major tournaments, it has only happened 18 times since 1870, according to GolfLink.

In comparison, there were 36 holes-in-one total at PGA Tour events during the 2018-19 season alone.

An albatross has happened the most times at golf’s oldest major, the British Open, which has seen an albatross occur eight times in its history.

The last one came in 2009 from Paul Lawrie.

The Masters has had four albatrosses -- the last one came from Louis Oostuizen in 2012. The U.S. Open and PGA Championship were the last to see three, by Nick Watney in 2012 and Joey Sindelar in 2006, respectively.

So, does there happen to be a grand champion when it comes to albatrosses?

Yes. His name is Jeff Maggert, a professional golfer who won three times on the PGA Tour and was a member of the 1995 Ryder Cup team during the heyday of his career.

Maggert has two of the 18 albatrosses at major tournaments, collecting one at the 1994 Masters and one during the 2001 British Open.

Maggert never won a major in his career, but possessing 11% of the albatrosses earned in major tournament history is a nice claim to fame.

We’ll see if anyone can make it No. 19 at this week’s U.S. Open.

About the Author:

Keith is a member of Graham Media Group's Digital Content Team, which produces content for all the company's news websites.