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What Are the Odds of Making a Hole-In-One?

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Question: What Are the Odds of Making a Hole-In-One?
Some people seem to make aces left and right. Other golfers go their whole golfing careers without one. Just how hard is it to make a hole-in-one? Exactly what are the odds? The odds vary, it turns out, depending on who you ask, but we're willing to bet that the odds aren't as long as you might expect.
Answer: The odds of making a hole-in-one do vary somewhat, depending on the source and the numbers used for calculating the odds. One problem is that nobody knows the true number of aces made every year. There are numerous organizations that track holes-in-one, but not every ace that is made is reported. And, as we all know, not every ace that is reported was actually made!

In 1999, Golf Digest reported, "One insurance company puts a PGA Tour pro's chances at 1 in 3,756 and an amateur's at 1 in 12,750."

That same issue reported that the "odds of an amateur making two holes-in-one in a round are 9,222,500 to 1."

Ireland's National Hole in One Club puts the odds a little longer for one ace: "The estimated odds of acing a hole with any given swing are one in 33,000."

And an article in the magazine Navy Newsstand, citing Sports Illustrated as its source, put the odds at 45,000 to 1 for "scoring a hole-in-one on a typical par-3 golf hole."

What about the insurance companies that sell "hole-in-one insurance" to tournament promoters? They must know the odds, right? One such company, SCA Promotions, says the odds of a golfer holing out from 150 yards is somewhere from 10,000 to 15,000 to 1.

But as close to an official source as exists on this topic is Golf Digest. That publication has provided "acer odds" since the 1950s, and in the year 2000 hired Francis Scheid, Ph.D., the retired chairman of the math department at Boston University, to calculate the odds using the latest and best information available at that time.

The odds Scheid came up with were lower than any others cited above: 5,000 to 1 for a "low-handicapper," 12,000 to 1 for an "average player." If you are a low-handicapper and play 1,000 rounds in your life, according to Scheid, you have a 20-percent chance of recording an ace. If you play 5,000 rounds, your odds are 1:1.

The Golf Digest study provided many great nuggets of information, even breaking the odds down by quality of play:

  • Tour player making an ace: 3,000 to 1

  • Low-handicapper making an ace: 5,000 to 1

  • Average player making an ace: 12,000 to 1
Some other highlights from Scheid's calculations:
  • Average player acing a 200-yard hole: 150,000 to 1

  • Two players from the same foursome acing the same hole: 17 million to 1

  • One player making two holes-in-one in the same round: 67 million to 1
Source: Primary source is Golf Digest; more info on acer odds and holes-in-one can be found in the Sept. 2005 issue.

See also: Double eagle odds

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