Every disc golfer dreams of throwing a perfect disc off the teepad, then sinking an impossible approach shot for an eagle (or 2 under par). But what if you could do even better than that and make an albatross?!
If you’re a newer disc golfer, just like with your standard “birdie,” you might wonder how this bird’s name got roped into the game. And if you’re a veteran disc golfer, you’re likely hoping that you can one day join the ranks of other disc golfers who have actually gotten an albatross while playing.
So in order to start working toward getting an albatross, you have to know exactly what it is and how to get one. So what is an albatross and how can you actually get one while playing disc golf?
What is an albatross in disc golf?
First off, I just want to say that getting an albatross is an amazing feat. And not to be a downer, but a feat that most disc golfers will never get because it takes both skill AND luck – so what is an albatross in disc golf?
A disc golfer can get an albatross by scoring three strokes under par on any single hole. This is insanely difficult and can only be done in two ways – First, getting a score of 2 on a par-5 hole and second, by getting a score of 1 (or an ace) on a par-4 hole.
Again, getting an albatross is an insanely difficult and rare feat that only a handful of disc golfers have actually completed. So let’s look at how exactly the feat can be pulled off. There are only two ways to complete an albatross. Here are both ways:
- The most common version of an albatross can be achieved on a par-5 hole. The goal of par is to get the disc into the basket in 5 shots or throws. So 5 throws is a par. 4 throws is a birdie. 3 throws is an eagle. And getting your disc into the basket in 2 throws is an albatross.
- The other way to get an albatross is to throw a hole in 1, or an ace, on a par-4 hole. The goal of par is to get the disc into the basket in 4 shots or throws. 4 throws is par. 3 throws is a birdie. 2 throws is an eagle. And 1 throw would be an albatross. But you’d probably call this an ACE if it were a hole in 1!
Obviously, making an albatross on a par-3 hole or lower is impossible. You can’t score a 0 on a hole – that means you would’ve taken 0 throws! You should want to play well on all holes, but you can only get an albatross on par-4s and par-5s. Now let’s look at how to actually get an albatross on the disc golf course.
How to (actually) get an albatross during play
Like I’ve already said, you can only get an albatross in two ways – by getting a score of 2 on a par-5 hole or by getting a score of 1 on a par-4 hole. So let’s play this out in two scenarios:
Scenario 1: Par-5 hole. You need to complete the hole in 2 throws. You initial drive is either perfect or very close. Your second throw needs to be a perfect approach shot into the basket or a perfect long-range putt into the basket. If you can do that, then boom! You just got an albatross! Congrats because that’s quite a feat.
Scenario 2: Par-4 hole. You need to complete the hole in 1 throw. So your initial drive needs to be perfect and on the money. You don’t have a second chance at an albatross on a par-4 because your throw needs to be a hole in 1. If you’ve just hit an ace on a par-4, you’ve just gotten an albatross. Congratulations!
Odds of getting an Albatross
We already know that albatrosses are rare…but how rare? Well, there are no current odds numbers for disc golf, but let’s use a ball golf odds statistic (probably the closest I can get to real odds).
According to this post here on the Professional [ball] Golf Association website, the overall odds of getting an albatross are pretty crazy – approximately 6 million to 1! That means that out of 6 million shots, the odds of an albatross occurring may only happen one time! But let’s scale this down just a little bit.
Disc golf is much smaller than ball golf – in both the amount of total players and the size of course – respectively. As of the end of 2023, there are 4 million estimated disc golfers compared to 80 million ball golfers.
That means disc golf is 20 times smaller and the courses are about 1/2 the size. So let’s say that because of the course, we’ll cut the actual odds of getting an albatross in half – 3 million to 1. That would mean for every 3 million throws, there should only be one single albatross. Pretty steep odds if you ask me!
Philo Brathwaite – “The Philobatross”
“The Philobatross” is probably one of the craziest shots in all of disc golf. It’s by far the most popular albatross and stands alone as one of the first ever recorded albatrosses by a professional disc golfer. In the 2016 Beaver State Fling, Philo throws a sweeping flex shot around trees to nail a ludicrous second shot. Incredible throw and hailed by most as the “absolute best shot ever made in disc golf history.” Seriously awesome.
Nikko Locastro – “The Running Man”
Nikko’s albatross, at the U.S. Disc Golf Championship in 2019, is probably the funniest and most wholesome disc golf shot reaction of all time. Nikko flips out after making his shot, runs toward the basket, runs up the side of a tree, grabs his disc out of the basket, then keeps on running. Truly an amazing shot AND reaction to an insanely rare albatross.
Holyn Handley – “The Bombatross”
Holyn Handley’s albatross, at the Ledgestone Open in 2022, was an absolute bomb of a second shot to crush hole 6 of the tournament. After an almost perfect drive to start the hole, she ripped her second shot 333 feet to DROP it in the basket. Awesome shot to add this rare feat to her list of disc golf accomplishments!
Paul Ulibarri – “The Ulibatross”
While Paul is a very popular professional disc golfer, his albatross is probably the least popular of the group above. But you’ll understand once you see it. It was an amazing shot and putt after, but doesn’t appear to be utterly spectacular series of shots. It was also a 399 foot par-5. So probably could’ve been a par-4 hole to begin with. Nonetheless, his albatross was an amazing feat!
What about amateurs?
Those are probably the 4 most popular albatrosses made by the pros. But the r/discgolf Reddit forum here has had a few other mentions of albatrosses by everyday players, but there aren’t many, because the albatross is a very rare and elusive achievement.
How a bird became part of disc golf
So how did a strangely-named bird become part of disc golf? Well, the origins, like most other disc golf terminology, goes back to ball golf.
In 1929, the first reported reference to albatross was in a Scottish newspaper that used the term to state that no “albatrosses” or “eagles” were made in the recent golf match. The first reported ball golf albatross was in 1934, scored by John G. Ridland, but not written about until 1962!
So seeing as professional disc golf didn’t officially start until 1975-1976, albatrosses were nonexistent until after those years. And with disc golf borrowing many other terms from ball golf, adding albatross to the terminology only made sense.
As for the first albatross in disc golf, I couldn’t find the answer for you. There is absolutely nothing online that indicates who actually had the first disc golf albatross. As for the pros, the first recorded albatross points to Philo Brathwaite and his epic flex shot. There may have been others before, but records for those shots probably have been lost in time.
3 tips to improve your disc golf game (and actually have a chance at getting an Albatross)!
1. Daily practice: if you truly want to try and get an albatross one day, you’re going to have to practice up. Because you want get any better if you’re just playing a single round every weekend. But it’s not just a little bit of practice that will get you there…it’s DAILY practice.
I want you to develop a routine for yourself that you can do just about every day. Have that routine include putting and approach practice, distance field work, learning of the rules of disc golf, and at least weekly rounds on the course. You should also include strength training, weightlifting, or cardio workouts to your weekly routine, as well as at least a day or two to rest and recover. Because all of that is important.
If you can practice disc golf daily, you’ll be an elite player in no time and your odds of getting an albatross will improve dramatically!
For more, check out this post – The Complete Disc Golf Practice Guide: Driving, Approaching, & Putting!
2. Distance work: you won’t ever get an albatross unless you become someone who can throw your discs really far. An albatross on a 1 is gonna’ require a 350-400 foot throw. And you’ll need at least 250-300 feet on your par-5 throws to even have a chance at scoring in 2 shots.
Even if you never score an albatross, distance is still super important. So check out my distance tips post here if you want to improve your distance out on the course – The 27 Best Disc Golf Distance Tips for Beginners.
3. Slim down your bag: one of the more highly underrated tips in disc golf is to slim down the amount of discs that you’re currently playing with. Most newer disc golfers think that you need 20+ discs for every single unique situation on the course. False. You only need a small number of discs to actually get the job done on the course.
Professional disc golfers might carry 20+ discs, but they carry multiples of some of their main discs just in case they need them. Pros master their discs. They don’t just become decent with a bunch of discs. It’s like the old adage, “Jack of all trades, master of none.” Instead, pick a small selection of discs, say 10-12 discs, and master them. Become a skilled disc golfer with those select few and you’ll be on the path of one day getting an albatross.
For more advanced disc golf tips, check out this post – 7 Disc Golf Tips for Advanced Disc Golfers (That Actually Work)!
Final thoughts on the infamous albatross
If you’re lucky enough to sink an albatross in your disc golf career, you’ll experience something that only a handful of disc golfers will ever accomplish – the thrill of completing a hole 3 under par. Getting an albatross is considered by many to be the rarest feat in all of disc golf. And if you ever get one, celebrate it. Because you’ve done something truly special.
To get to the albatross, though, takes both skill and luck. So practice up, get your disc golf game on point, and cross your fingers next time you throw toward the basket. You might just be lucky enough to add, “albatross,” to your list of awesome disc golf accomplishments!
Check out the book!
If you’re looking for more tips and tricks on how to play disc golf, check out my book, “The Disc Golf Player’s Manual.” This ultimate beginner’s guide is loaded with over 200 pages of content, helping you to improve your game AND lower score on the disc golf course. Check it out here on my site.