Originally created 06/14/06

Sport's rarity finally gets its day



It's about time double eagles got their proper due.

Holes-in-one receive more attention than double eagles, mainly because there are so many more of the former made than the latter.

For that reason, when aces from area courses are compiled and printed every three months or so in this column, double eagles are included, but buried at the bottom of the list.

In terms of news value, the double eagles really should be at the top because they are so rare.

Today, double eagles won't have to share space and be relegated to the basement. This is an "all double eagles" column.

A double eagle happens when a golfer holes out a second shot on a par-5 hole, which means the golfer played the hole in 3-under-par fashion. It is sometimes called an albatross, especially in the United Kingdom.

Some consider it a double eagle when a golfer holes out a tee shot on a par-4 (it is 3-under par on the hole, after all) but that is really a hole-in-one.

How rare is a double eagle? Just take a look at the history of the Masters Tournament, where the best golfers in the world have been competing since 1934.

Only three double eagles have been recorded in tournament play at Augusta National Golf Club. Gene Sarazen had his famous one on No. 15 in 1935, Bruce Devlin did it on No. 8 in 1967 and Jeff Maggert made double eagle on No. 13 in 1994.

According to the National Hole-in-One Association, the odds on an average golfer making a hole-in-one are 12,700-to-1. The odds on an average golfer making a double eagle is 1,000,000-to-1.

To break it down, Golf World reports that in an average year, there are about 40,000 aces and a "couple hundred" double eagles.

Leaderboard.com, a Web site that surveys scorecards, reports that the ratio of aces to double eagles is 20 to 1.

The numbers from area courses bear that out. From Feb. 1 through June 1, there were 81 holes-in-one reported and five double eagles.

"Double eagles are definitely special," said Mount Vintage Plantation head pro Jay Rusch, who has yet to make one.

"It's harder to make one (a double eagle, than an ace)," local golfer Chris Butler said.

Butler should know. He's made both.

The Augusta resident's ace came in 1986 at Vista Hills Country Club in El Paso, Texas.

He made his double eagle recently at Jones Creek Golf Club in Evans. It came on the par-5 13th hole, where he holed out a 3-wood second shot from 235 yards out.

"We saw it go in from the fairway," said Butler, who was playing with Jake Headrick, Doug Little and Ward Bugher that day.

Butler, a 2.5 handicapper who shot 76 that day, had never played the 13th hole particularly well at his home course.

"Up until then, it had kind of been a pain in my butt," Butler said. "Since then, it's been a pretty good hole."

Indeed, Butler almost made another double eagle on No. 13 the day after his first one. His second shot ended up 6 feet behind the pin, which had not been moved from the previous day.

"It was awful close to being the exact same shot," Butler said.

There are several reasons why a double eagle is more difficult to make than a hole-in-one:

- To make an ace, the golfer is allowed to tee the ball up on level ground. Such is not the case for a double eagle, where the golfer must hit the second shot from the fairway, and often off an uneven lie.

- It is twice as difficult to make a double eagle because it requires two shots, instead of the one for an ace. The second shot is normally longer than the shot struck to make an ace.

- More skill and less luck is involved in making a double eagle, since few golfers can hit a par-5 green in two shots. It takes length and ability to make a double eagle; that is not always the case for an ace.

For these reasons, some middle- to high handicappers make aces. You'll find that only low handicappers make double eagles.

Augusta Country Club

- Stan Martin, No. 5, driver-driver. Witnesses: David Harrison, Hank Garrett, Chuck Baldwin and John Crowell.

- Jim Norvell, No. 5, driver-5-wood. Witnesses: Gary McMahan, William Blake and David Whitfield.

Mount Vintage

- In Ho Choi, No. 16. Witnesses: Gi Chur Han, Wan Chur Choi and Young Kim.

Gordon Lakes

- Steve Moody, No. 7, PineView, 525 yards, driver-7-iron. Witnesses: Joseph Shiver II, Joey Shiver and Josh Keep.

Bartram Trail

- Gary Dawkins, No. 17, 244 yards.

Reach David Westin at (706) 724-0851 or david.westin@augustachronicle.com.