What is an Eagle in Golf?

What Is an Eagle In Golf?

If you’re like a lot of new golfers I’m sure you’ve asked yourself, “What is an eagle in golf?”

With so many terms – bogey, shank, skull, etc. – and rules, golf vocabulary can get a little overwhelming. But an eagle is definitely a term you want to know about as it’s one of the greatest achievements for amateur golfers.

Today we’ll cover what is an eagle and give you strategies to hopefully make more in your golf career. 

What is an Eagle in Golf?

An eagle refers to a score that is two under par on a given hole. 

The golf term is a spin-off on the common term – birdie. This term was the equivalent of being “cool” in the early 1900s. Somehow a spinoff was made for eagle to represent an even better golf shot

The most common eagle in golf happens on par 5s – which means you would make a three on the hole. This tends to happen from hitting a drive, a good approach shot, and making a putt to score two under on the hole.

But it can happen in different ways too. I’ve seen players hit okay drives, okay second shots, and then make a long putt or chip for an eagle.

The other type of hole to see an eagle on is a short par 4 that are short and often driveable. These holes tend to be 250–300 yards and usually have some sort of “risk-reward” factor. 

If you go for the green and hit a great drive you might have a chance at eagle (or at least hopefully an easy birdie). But if you miss the shot you might get into serious trouble which can make it hard to save par. 

If an eagle happens on a par 3, this is known as a hole in one more so than an eagle. The coveted ace in golf is very rare and a bucket list item for most golfers. 

Facts About Eagles

Now that you know about what an eagle in golf is, let’s go over some other facts about one of the most sought after scores.

  • Scorecard marking: If you (or someone in your group) is lucky enough to make an eagle, notate it on the scorecard properly. An eagle gets two circles around the score while a birdie only gets one. Don’t confuse it with a double bogey – which gets two squares around the score. 
  • Average eagles on the PGA Tour: Despite being the best golfers in the world, they don’t make as many eagles as you might think with only two per year! This is likely because of the tucked pin locations, penalizing rough, and extremely long holes. 
  • Most eagles in a PGA Tour round: Dustin Johnson did the impossible in the 2015 Masters and made three eagles in round (hole 2, 8, and 15). While he didn’t win that year – he did shoot an impressive 67 to finish in the top 10. He went on to win the Masters in 2020. 
  • Most eagles in a PGA Tour season. During the 2021-2022 PGA Tour wrap around season Patrick Rodgers had an impressive 21 eagles – three more than Sungjae Im and Maverick MCNealy. The tour average was only two eagles according to the PGA Tour’s website. 
  • Hawaii has the easiest hole. The par 5th hole on the Plantation Course at Kapalua is the easiest hole on the PGA Tour. If you want to see an eagle (and a lot of birdies) make sure to watch the Tournament of Champions in January each year. 

How to Make More Eagles (and Birdies) in Golf 

Making an eagle in golf is one of the most rewarding feelings in the game. 

Unfortunately, it doesn’t often happen (even for scratch golfers) or sometimes ever depending on your handicap. While you have a better chance than making a hole in one (which is about 12,500 to 1), it’s still not very common. 

Use these tips below to give yourself more eagle chances (and hopefully make more birdies). 

Increase Your Driving Average

The first strategy to give yourself more eagle opportunities is to increase your driving distance. According to Trackman Golf, “The AMA (average male golfer) has an average club speed of 93.4 mph and an average total distance of 214 yards.” 

While a PGA Tour player averages more than 110 mph and more than 280 yards off the tee. The same Trackman study also found that the average golfer is giving up 30 yards off the tee. This is due to the wrong equipment and swing issues. 

With the average par 5 being between 520-540, it’s going to be nearly impossible to hit the green in two shots. This is why it’s so important to not only improve your swing mechanics but also your speed. 

Mechanics can differ from every golfer and why we suggest finding a golf instructor to help fix major issues. They can help with the grip or takeaway, which are two of the most common issues. Or, use training aids to improve your mechanics on your own.

As you improve your fundamentals, we also suggest increasing clubhead speed. Studies have found that for every 1mph you add to your driver swing speed equals about five yards of extra distance. If you can add 3-5 mph to your total speed, that can have a big impact on total distance and make it easier to go after par 5s in two shots. 

Aim for the Middle of the Green More Often 

When you find yourself in position to go for a par 5 in two (or a short par 4), don’t play so aggressively. Instead, aim for the widest part of the green – which is typically the middle of the green. 

Since you’re likely hitting a fairway wood or hybrid into the green, your shot dispersion is much bigger than with a short iron. To plan for bigger misses, give yourself the best chance possible by aiming at the biggest part of the green… even if it’s not near the pin.

The goal is to get on the green in two shots on par 5s (or one on par 4s) to simply give yourself more eagle putts. Even if they’re 50 or 60 feet, at least you have a chance vs. short siding yourself from trying to attack the pin with a long club. 

Replace Long Irons

If you want to have better chances of making an eagle, get rid of those hard to hit long irons. These clubs are hard to hit even for seasoned players and very unforgiving. 

The everyday golfer would benefit much more from high lofted fairway woods, easy to hit hybrids, or more forgiving driving irons. These clubs have lighter shafts, higher launch characteristics, and a lot more forgiving. 

These clubs will give you a lot more confidence standing over those tough second shots into par 5s. Plus, they’re very helpful for long par 3s and challenging par 4s. 

Focus on Your Process 

Another tip to make more eagles is to stop trying to make more eagles! You might be thinking… What is this guy talking about?

In the book, The Tournament Golfer’s Playbook, the author said the best advice he got was “Never try to make a putt.” This piece of wisdom came from Jackie Burke – who won two majors

The author clarified by saying, “This advice was pure wisdom. Without coming out and saying it, Mr. Burke was introducing me to process, not result… worrying about making the putt (result) just complicates your stroke and you won’t make anything.” 

While the goal is to make every birdie or eagle putt – sometimes trying too hard makes it nearly impossible to do. Instead of focusing on the result, focus on the process. 

This means:

  • Getting clear about the break of the putt.
  • Picking your apex and start line for the right speed.
  • Going through your pre-shot putting routine on every stroke.
  • Not lingering over the ball too long thinking about wanting to make it.

By focusing on the process, not the result you should have a better chance of making more clutch putts. 

Reset Your Expectations

While we encourage you to try and make as many eagles or birdies as possible, it’s important to always reset your expectations before the round. If you think you have to make an eagle or a ton of birdies to score well, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Shooting lower scores and becoming a scratch golfer is more about avoiding bogeys than it is making more birdies. 

Sure, making birdies and an occasional eagle are great, the odds are against you. Instead, use better course management skills during the round to avoid blowup holes and limit your bogeys. Making fewer mistakes and bogeys is the fastest way to break 80 and even break par. 

Don’t forget, even the pros only make two eagles per year on average! 

Top Questions 

If you have more questions about eagles and other low scores in golf, keep scrolling through our top questions and answers. 

What is a birdie in golf?

A birdie in golf is when you have a score that is one less than par on the hole. For example, if you’re playing a par 3 hole, you make a two. Or, if you’re playing a par 4, card a three on the hole.

Birdies are much more common than eagles in golf and most common on par 5s. While par 3s are statistically the hardest type of hole in golf. 

What is an eagle on a par 5? 

An eagle on a par five is when a golfer only takes three shots to hole out. This normally happens from a good drive, good second shot (oftentimes with a fairway wood/hybrid), and a lengthy putt. 

What is an albatross in golf? 

An albatross is scoring three under on a hole. It is one of the most unlikely shots to happen in golf and most common when the second shot on a par 5 goes in the hole. 

It’s much more unlikely than a hole in one and closer to 6,000,000 to 1 odds. Needless to say, they’re not very common so if you are lucky enough to get one, save that ball forever! 

What is a double eagle in golf?

A double eagle is referred to as an albatross which is -3 on a hole.  

Do hole in ones count as an eagle?

A hole in one always counts but how you define it is up to you. Most golfers prefer to say they got a hole in one vs. an eagle as it’s much more of an illusive shot in golf. 

What is a turkey in golf? 

A turkey in golf is when you make three birdies in a row – similar to bowling when you hit three strikes in a row. This is an impressive feat as you’ll most likely need to play par 3s, 4s, and 5s well. 

What is a condor in golf? What is an ostrich in golf?

A condor is a very rare shot where you score four under on a hole. This would be a hole in one on a par 5  – which is beyond rare. Or, it could be a two on a par 6. 

An ostrich is an even more rare accomplishment that is known as five under on a hole. This is only possible on a par 6 of which there are very few in the world. 

Wrapping Up 

Eagles are an amazing accomplishment for the everyday golfer as they don’t happen often. 

Heck, they’re not that common even among elite players on the PGA Tour as they only average two per season! But that doesn’t mean they’re impossible. 

Use the tips above to start giving yourself more eagle and birdie opportunities. 

Picture of Michael Leonard

Michael Leonard

Michael Leonard is a full-time writer, author, creator of Wicked Smart Golf and +1 handicap amateur golfer. He left his corporate career in 2017 to pursue entrepreneurship and professional golf; since then, he’s competed in 160+ tournament days and went to Q-school in 2019.

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