Essential Golf: A passion for the Game

The Science Behind a Hole-in-One: Probability, Luck, or Skill?

The Science Behind a Hole-in-One: Probability, Luck, or Skill?

The wow factor that hitting a hole-in-one in golf comes with is extremely blissful. It’s one of those moments a golfer cherishes for the rest of their life. Nonetheless, making a hole in one is easier said than done. The odds of an amateur player achieving this feat is 12,500 to 1, while those of a pro golfer are relatively better at 2500 to 1. Scoring more than one hole-in-one in a round of golf becomes even closer to impossible. It therefore begs the question, what’s the secret recipe and science behind making a hole-in-one? Is it a matter of probability, luck, or skill?

What is a Hole-in-One?

A Hole in One, also known as an Ace, occurs when your first hit from the tee lands the golf ball straight into the cup. Making a hole-in-one is more common on shorter-distance par 3 holes, with the likelihood dwindling by increasing the distance. The first recorded hole-in-one was in the 1869 British Open by Tom Morris. 


Although making a hole-in-one sounds like simply landing your first hit into the cup, the shot must meet specific requirements to be valid. 

These include:

  • There must be a credible witness to verify the shot.
  • A hole-in-one recorded during a ‘scramble’ competition, such as Captain’s Choice, is still considered valid.
  • When a player who uses one ball makes a hole-in-one during a practice round using two or more balls, the shot is invalid.
  • When a player hits a hole-in-one from a temporary tee not defined explicitly by the Committee, any registered certificate should still record the length of the hole.

Some cases where the shot is invalid include:

  • If there have been multiple attempts on the same hole.
  • If the shot occurred after a penalty shot.
  • If the player scored the hole-in-one in a golfing simulator.
  • If the shot occurred after a mulligan.