What Is An ‘Eagle’ In Golf?

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Luke is an avid weekend-warrior golfer from the East Coast who plays golf more than he cares to admit.

Widely popular throughout the world, golfing is a sport that has many confusing terms – words that, unless you yourself are a huge fan, would seem strange and unfamiliar to you. 

One such term is ‘eagle’, and is commonly used throughout the game under certain circumstances. But what exactly is an ‘eagle’, and what does it mean? 

what is an eagle in golf

What Is An ‘Eagle’? 

In golfing, an eagle is a term used to describe a golf score that is two strokes under par. An eagle can usually be a 1 score (i.e 1 shot to the hole) on a par three (requiring a max of 3 shots), a 2 on a par 4, or a 3 on a par 5. 

These are extremely rare during golf games, and are usually a cause for celebration – both for the players themselves, the fans, and the officials commentating on the game. 

What Does Par Mean? 

A ‘par’ refers to the type of level that the specific part of the course is. For example, if a particular hole during the game requires a maximum of 4 shots before disqualification, then this would be a ‘par 4’. 

Is An ‘Eagle’ Good In Golf? 

As you have probably guessed by this point, yes, an eagle is a good shot in golf.

This means that the golfer in question has putted the ball before the shot limit, meaning they have a lead in the game and have more room for error later on. 

If the player gets an eagle on a par 3 hole – meaning they get it in one shot – then this is called a ‘hole in one’, a well known term in and outside of golfing

Is An ‘Eagle’ The Same As A ‘Birdie’? 

They might seem like they would be similar, due to both having bird names, but the two terms actually refer to different things.

For example, an eagle is one shot less than a birdie, and represents a much more significant sporting achievement. 

An example of a birdie would be if the hole was a par 4 (4 shots in total), and the golfer putted the ball on the 3rd shot – as opposed an eagle, which would be a put on the 2nd shot. 

Are ‘Eagles’ Rare In Golf?

Eagles are pretty rare in golf (as you might expect). It is far more common for golfers to score a birdie, as this requires more shots to happen.

However, eagles do occur, albeit at a rate that still makes them celebrated and exciting when they do. 

The odds of a golfer achieving a hole in one (for example) sit at around 3000 to 1, making it highly unlikely for them to achieve it.

This might seem like a high number, but when you consider how dependent a good golf shot is on the golfer’s skill, the brightness, the wind, and any adverse weather conditions, it makes a lot more sense. 

The likelihood of an eagle is also determined by the hole in question.

This is because certain holes are different distances from where the player tees off, and a human being only has a specific range within which they have the ability to reach – factoring in basic human strength, and the energy required to project a ball. 

Is There Anything Better Than An ‘Eagle’? 

There is only one shot that is better than an eagle, and this is an ‘albatross’, and a ‘condor’. 

What Is An ‘Albatross’? 

While the eagle is a great and rare shot, an even better one is known as an albatross. This refers to a put that is made in 3 strokes under the par.

For example, on a par 4 this would mean scoring a 1 shot put, and on a par 5 this would mean managing it in 2 shots. 

what is an eagle in golf

What Is A ‘Condor’? 

However, albatrosses aren’t the best shots possible. One shot better than the albatross is a ‘condor’. These are when the golfer gets 4 shots below the par, and these happen very, very rarely in games of golf. 

For example, this would require a golfer to score a 1 shot put on a par 5, or a 2 shot put on a par 6.

Scores like these are uncommon with modern games, as most pars are not sufficiently high enough to make them frequent contributors to the overall scores of the games. 

As such, they are only a risk for the opposing player on pars 5 and 6. 

What Is A ‘Double Eagle’? 

There is also a term known as a ‘double eagle’. This also refers to an ‘albatross’, and is commonly used as another name for such a move – wherein the golfer puts the ball 3 shots under par, for example, 1 in a par 4. 

Where Does The Term ‘Eagle’ Come From? 

The term eagle is an extension of a 19th century term ‘bird’ – which meant ‘anything good or excellent’.

As such, a ‘birdie’ was used to describe the standard good shot of being 1 shot under par, ‘eagle’ was then adopted to mean one better than that (2 under par), followed by an ‘albatross’ or ‘double eagle’ (3 under par), and finally a ‘condor’, meaning 4 under the par of a particular hole. 

This shows how old the game of golf is, and how unchanged it is within modern sport. 

Final Thoughts

And there we have it, everything you need to know about what an eagle is, and its meaning within the game of golf. 

Golf is a popular sport, not to mention a difficult one to master.

There are many players around the world who have achieved international recognition and celebrity from the sport – and as a result it remains one of the most popular sports.  

It is also widely accessible, meaning those with the inclination can lace up their golf shoes and take to swinging!

Luke Griffin

Luke is an avid weekend-warrior golfer from the East Coast who plays golf more than he cares to admit.

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