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Golf is a hugely popular sport. And it is one that can be played and enjoyed by people of all ages and abilities — not just the old, white men with bad dress sense often seen waltzing up and down the fairways.
More than 377-million rounds of golf are estimated to be played annually, on more than 160,000 golf courses worldwide. The numbers are staggering.
With so many rounds of golf recorded, the weirdest things can and do happen on the course. And not just to the low handicappers, mind you. Any time you think, “The odds of that happening must be astronomical,” you can be sure the incident has occurred before.
It’s a little easier to understand in professional golf, where the skill levels of the world’s top golfers befit their rare golfing achievements. For example, just last year South African Dean Burmester became the first player to score four consecutive twos in one round of professional golf.
Big-hitting Burmy made two birdies on par threes and two hole-out eagles on par fours — ironically using the same club, his seven-iron — in the Scottish Open at North Berwick.
Keith Horne once aced the same hole twice in the same tournament — on consecutive days — but sadly not on the final day when a shiny new BMW was up for grabs for the first hole-in-one. The luxury-car sponsors saw the PR value in presenting Horne with a set of car keys for his remarkable efforts.
But James Kingston drove home in a brand-new Audi TT Coupe when his tee shot on the par-3 15th at Houghton ricocheted off a tree trunk and found the hole during the 2002 Alfred Dunhill Championship.
And there is one shot that is even rarer than an albatross; a shot so uncommon that there have only ever been five recorded instances of it happening
The odds of an amateur golfer getting a hole in one range between about 5,000-1 for a low handicapper to 15,000-1 for a high handicapper. Yet these things do happen regularly, as honours boards at every golf club attest.
Stranger things happen, albeit more rarely. Statisticians have calculated that the odds of two players from the same four-ball making a hole in one on the same hole are about 17-million-1, yet this is exactly what happened in 2021 when Americans John Kobara and Richard Kievman both holed their tee shots on the par-3 12th hole of the Players Course at Indian Wells Golf Resort.
Stretching the odds even further, the odds of making two holes in one in one round are astronomically high — about 67-million-1. Still, this stunning feat happens occasionally, including three instances on the PGA Tour. The last time it happened was in the final round of the 2015 Barclays Championship, when lefty Brian Harman aced both the third and the 14th holes.
For amateur golfers, the odds of this feat occurring are even higher. So imagine the surprise of nine-time Major champion Gary Player, himself no stranger to holes in one, when he phoned his wife Vivienne from overseas to find out that she had aced both the 15th and the third holes in one round at the Wanderers in 1978. Vivienne very nearly made it three aces that fateful day, with another approach stopping just centimetres short of the cup.
An albatross, achieved when golfers make a hole in one on a par four or a two on a par five, is a particularly rare achievement. Given that 90% of golfers can’t even reach par fives in two shots, the odds of making one are listed at about 6-million-1.
And there is one shot that is even rarer than an albatross — a shot so uncommon that there have only ever been five recorded instances of it happening. I’m talking, of course, of the condor. Invariably involving players cutting the corner of a large dog-leg to shorten the length of the hole, the odds of making a hole-in-one on a par five are so astronomical that bookmakers don’t even list it. And yet, they happen, albeit once in a blue moon.
Arguably the most outrageous achievement of modern times was achieved Down Under in 2021. Irishman Rowan McCarthy, a 20-handicapper, made both a hole in one and an albatross in a five-hole stretch at Wembley Golf Course in Perth. Despite the two flukes, he still carded a score of 14-over-par and missed out on winning first prize by a number of shots.
“Statistically, the chances of a hole in 1 are 12,000-to-1 and an albatross is 6-million-to-1,” he said. “The odds of one of each in the same round … who knows? Some say it is 72-billion-to-one. It is a day I will never forget.”
McCarthy’s achievement will take some beating, but there is little doubt that it will happen at some point.
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Published by Arena Holdings and distributed with the Financial Mail on the last Thursday of every month except December and January.