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Where Did it Come From

Article taken from YourGolfTravel.comWrtten by “RORY” who is described as the resident golf geek at Your Golf Travel. Have been lucky enough to have travelled far and wide playing golf and if I’m not writing about it at work, you will probably find me hacking it around my local course. Owner of 2 holes in one and some of the most crooked drives you have ever seen! 

Peter Alliss had it right when he said “C’or blimey O’Reilly…it’s a funny old game.” Golf is a bit if a head-scratcher at the best of times and while none of us will ever have the game totally figured out, there are certain aspects that, after a little digging, we can shed some light on.
One of golf’s most obvious quirks is the terms that explain various aspects of the game and while the Mashie, Niblicks, Jigger and Sammys of the golfing world have long been resigned to golf’s history books, there is still plenty of golfing jargon that is probably quite confusing for those on the outside looking in.
In this instance we’re going to focus on the avian theme – think birdie, eagle etc, etc… – that runs through the game in relation to scores on an individual hole and how in America one of these phrases has adapted to make no sense whatsoever!
While there is no cast iron evidence as to where the term birdie came from originally, the vast majority of sources including the Historical Dictionary of Golfing Terms point towards the American slang term “bird” which was commonly used in the 19th century to describe something that was particularly great.
Reportedly during a game at The Country Club in Atlantic City between Ab Smith, William P Smith and George A. Crump, Ab Smith hit his approach shot on the par 4 second hole to within inches of the pin and the shot was described as “a bird of a shot”. After tapping in for a score of one under par on the hole the three of them continued to refer to that single hole score as a birdie and seemingly…the phrase stuck!
The term “Eagle” simply followed, being added to the lexicon to maintain the all things avian theme when referring to scores under par on a single hole. “Albatross” followed suit shortly after and over time all three phrases became common place on the golf course to the point where modern day golfers probably never wonder where they came from.
This brings us on to a variation of one of these phrases that, after being born in the USA following one of the most famous shots in the history of the game has become almost as commonly, if not more commonly used than the original.
“The shot heard ‘round the world” was struck by Gene Sarazen during the 1935 Masters (this was the shot that shoved The Masters forever into the golfing spotlight), a 4-wood from 235 yards that bounded into the hole for a two on the par 5 15th. At the time the shot was one of a kind and is most likely responsible for the puzzling phrase that is “double-eagle”.
In fact, newspaper articles that covered the 1935 event shed some light on where exactly the phrase came from. Grantland Rice, who was the leading American sports writer of his time, wrote the following for the Atlanta Constitution:
“And then as he swung, the double miracle happened. The ball left the face of his spoon like a rifle shot. It never wavered from a direct line to the pin. As it struck the green, a loud shout went up. Then suddenly (it) turned into a deafening, reverberating roar as the ball spun along its way and finally disappeared into the cup for a double eagle 2 — a 2 on a 485-yard hole when even an eagle 3 wouldn’t have helped.”
A beautiful piece of writing no doubt but wait…a double eagle?! I am no maths whizz but surely logic would imply that if an eagle is two under par then a double eagle would be four under par…no?
Let’s let the experts run the rule over this one…
Flabbergasted that anyone would stray from the tried and tested “albatross”, double Open Champion (see what I did there?!) Padraig Harrington said, “It’s an albatross. There’s no such thing in life as a double eagle. Is there? Two eagles side by side are two eagles, not a double eagle. You don’t refer to animals…’Oh, I just saw a double elephant over there.’ There’s no doubting what it is. It’s an albatross.”
Spot on Padraig…spot on!
And the Irishman is not the only pro golfer who’s not sold on “double eagles”…
2005 US Open champ, Geoff Ogilvy also shared his thoughts on the matter. “I didn’t know what a double eagle was until I came to the United States. I might have read the term. That’s weird. I guess they can’t think of a word for something better than eagle so they call it a double eagle. But it’s not really a double eagle. It’s an eagle-and-a-half. I always liked albatross. It’s a good bird, isn’t it? They fly across oceans. It’s grand, which is what describes the shot.”
Whatever you fancy calling it, an ALBATROSS is the second rarest shot in golf (less common than a hole in one due to the length of shots needed to hole out in 2 on a par 5 but less rare than a “condor” which is a hole in one on a par 5) and now that I am content with my lot when it comes to hole in ones – I am currently sitting pretty on two of those – I am eagerly awaiting my first albatross…or is that double eagle? Or triple birdie? Each to their own I guess…

Top 10 Albatrosses on the PGA Tour Published January 2015