Why Does Golf Use Names Of Birds?

Have you ever wondered why golf uses the names of birds? You’re not alone!

This mystery has baffled new golfers as they take up the sport. It turns out that golf’s terms and expressions have origins in some surprising places, with many of them coming from our feathered friends.

From “birdie” to “ostrich,” let’s explore this fascinating link between golf and birds. Who knows – you might even learn something new!

So grab your clubs and let’s go bird-watching – on the golf course!

Why Does Golf Use Names Of Birds

Origin of ‘Birdie’

You may be wondering where the term ‘birdie’ in golf originated from.

There are several claims as to how the phrase birdie came to become a bedrock of golfing language.

The most likely is that in late 19th century America ‘bird’ became synonymous with excellent so a great shot was a “bird of a shot”. Thus a score of one under par on a hole became a birdie because back in the age of hickory shafts such scores were fairly hard to come by.

The Atlantic City Country Club actually claims to be the birthplace of the term and even has a plaque on the golf course to commemorate it. The club records that it began in a match in 1903 involving Abner Smith, George Crump (designer of Pine Valley) and William Smith (brother of Abner). Ab Smith managed to hit his approach on the par 4 2nd to within kick-in distance and one of his partners exclaimed it was a “bird of a shot”. The rest is golf history with the term quickly gaining popularity in the United States before spreading to the rest of the golfing world.

This phrase eventually evolved into the modern term ‘birdie.’ It’s believed that this avian theme of ‘bird’ for success on the golf course started with the birdie and then spread to other terms such as eagle, albatross and even ostrich.

Famed golf writer Bernard Darwin first mentioned the term birdie in 1913.

It might be argued that originally it all stemmed from superstitions surrounding birds. Some beliefs have been around for centuries regarding different types of birds in different cultures.

golf scoring terminology

What Does Eagle Mean In Golf?

An eagle in golf is an impressive score, two strokes under par on a single hole – so you can certainly feel proud if you manage one!

Eagle has become synonymous with excellence in golf because it’s such a difficult feat to accomplish; it takes skill, patience and determination to achieve this level of success and also a little luck.

A hole-in-one is also impressive and is an eagle if it’s a par-3  but doesn’t have its own name – it’s just called a “hole in one”.

Eagle was just a natural progression from the term birdie. If 1 under is a plain birdie then what sort of bird is even better, well how about an eagle? Ab Smith also lays claim to the use of the word eagle for 2-under par but there isn’t a plaque for this one!

The first recorded use of the term in the UK happened in 1919.


What Is An Albatross?

In golf, a score of three under par is known as an albatross or to use American golf slang it is a double eagle. Quite why the Americans went with double eagle I’m not too sure. Logically a double eagle would need to be 4 under would it not? Albatross makes much more sense as that is a bigger bird than an eagle.

The main reason it is known as a double eagle in the USA is probably that the newspapers reporting on Gene Sarazen getting a 2 on a par 5 in the 1935 Masters called it that. To everyone else, it makes sense to follow the avian theme and call 3-under an albatross.

Notable Albatrosses In Golf

Achieving an albatross is a rare and exciting event, making it one of golfing’s most celebrated achievements! Many golfers will never manage an eagle much less an Albatross.

The most famous tournament albatross was scored by Gene Sarazen in the 1935 Masters and was the “shot heard around the world”.

There have been 3 more recorded at the Masters with the most recent being the one by Louis Oosthuizen in 2012. The Open Championship has had 8 with the most recent being Paul Lawrie in 2009. The US Open and PGA Championship have had 3 each.

What Is Condor In Golf?

Attaining a Condor in golf is a remarkable four strokes under par on a single hole.

To put it simply, a Condor is an incredibly rare score since you will need to get hole your tee-shot on a par-5.

This feat has been accomplished only six times. One golfer managed a 2 on a par-6 and the other 5 were holes-in-one on par-5s

The name “Condor” comes from the fact that this score is better than an albatross, which itself is better than an eagle – all of which are better than a birdie.

While achieving a Condor may seem like an impossible task, there’s no doubt it would make for some incredible memories and bragging rights!

What Is Vulture In Golf?

Well, a vulture is a hole-in-one on a par-5 so it is a specific sort of condor. This amazing feat has been managed 5 times!

What Is Ostrich In Golf?

Well, an ostrich is a score of 5-under and no one has managed to achieve one yet and that’s hardly surprising given you would need to be playing a par-6, par-7 or par-8 and there are very few of those holes in the world of golf. Add in that a par-6 would probably be in excess of 600 yards and you can see how unlikely it is there will ever be such a score.

That covers all the nice terms, now for a not-so-nice one!


What Is Buzzard In Golf

Achieving a buzzard in golf requires a score of 2-over par on one hole. Unfortunately, this is much more likely to be achieved than a 2-under eagle!

Sometimes a double bogey is also referred to as a hawk.

I had not come across this term before researching this article. I suppose people are more interested in coming up with great names for under-par scores than they are for scores they would like to forget!

As for the origin of buzzard. Well, it follows the avian terminology used but let’s face it a buzzard is not a nice-looking bird. It was used as far back as the 1920’s in an article by Bobby Jones but most people seem to follow the bogey, double bogey, triple bogey model for scores over par.

Other Golf Terms To Do With Birds

Making a birdie or an eagle is thrilling while sinking a buzzard can be disheartening – and that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to golfing terms related to birds!

Here are a few more bird-related scoring terms that you will want to avoid

BirdStrokes Over Par
Bird terms in golf

All these terms help add personality to the sport and make it more interesting for those involved.

Why Does Golf Use Names Of Birds: Summary

So now you know your condors from your eagles and your grouse from your quail.

Hopefully, you can avoid too many partridges as you play golf!

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