At the Frys.com Open, Rocco Mediate followed Alex Pugh’s near hole-in-one on a par 4 with a wedge hole-out in route to Rocco’s win. This past week, Jonathan Byrd needed only one last swing to end a three-way playoff at Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospital Open at the TPC Summerlin in Las Vegas.
The playoff rotation included the 17th and 18th holes at Summerlin. As if the hole-in-one wasn’t dramatic enough, Byrd had just made a fortunate par at the second extra playoff hole — the 18th. He and fellow playoff contestants, defending champion Martin Laird and Cameron Percy, quickly proceeded to the 17th. When they arrived, the sun was setting and it looked as though they would have to wait until Monday to continue the playoff. After a short discussion, the three decided to squeeze in one last hole with the provision that anyone of them could discontinue the playoff if they felt they couldn’t read their putts. Only thing is, Byrd didn’t need to read a putt!
As he held honors, Byrd stepped to the tee and promptly launched his 6 iron into the cup. With darkness settling in Byrd wasn’t sure where the ball went and as the crowd went wild he asked his caddie “did that go in?” Needless to say, Byrd was elated, but put on a professional show as he restrained himself, for his fellow competitors still had a shot, literally. Both faltered as they hit their drives into the lake and Byrd was the winner.
Professional tournaments have ended in dramatic fashion before — most memorably for me was Robert Gamez’ walk-off hole-out at Bay Hill in 1990. Other notables were Isao Aoki at the “83 Hawaiian Open and Craig Parry’s playoff win at Doral in 2004. Byrd’s win was the first men’s pro tour event to end in a hole-in-one.
Holes-in-one are dramatic regardless of the consequences. People have made holes-in-one in their first round, their last round, two in a round, two in a row, off car’s, off trees, off cart paths, off other players balls, off other players…. You name it, it’s been done or at least claimed to have been done. Back home in Iowa there was a short par 5 — maybe 450 yards that played very close along a city street. The street had curbs. It wasn’t unusual for a wild drive to hit the curb or a parked car and bound back into the fairway. I remember hearing about a hole-in-one there that seemed to perpetually bounced down the street before hitting the curb opposite the green and rolling into the cup.
The first hole-in-one I witnessed was when I was pretty young — maybe 6 or 7. I was walking around the course with my dad “caddying.” He was playing with a friend. His friend hit a shot on the short par 3 4th and it landed behind the hole and backed up into the cup. Of course there was wild celebration and I was really excited. I ran ahead and picked the ball out of the hole. I learned an important lesson that day about not interfering in someone’s enjoyment of such a rare event.
I’ve only had one ace. It too was memorable, as I was playing Manchester Country Club in Manchester, CT with the Club President, Superintendent and Golf Pro as part of a project interview.
My dad has had at least five holes-in-one — I’ve lost track. I sometimes wonder if they are as special if you make so many. I’ll have to ask him someday.
It always seems a shame to me that some par 3s are blind and a player can’t experience the thrill of seeing their shot go into the hole. Standard practice is to design one uphill and one downhill par 3 in an 18-hole course. It is very challenging if not impossible to design a significantly uphill par 3 that allows the player to see the base of the flagstick at the hole and still keep the slope of the green shallow enough for reasonable putting. This is because the line of sight angle cannot exceed the slope of the green angle.
Holes-in-one are special and rare. Actuaries for companies that insure hole-in-one contests at charity tournaments have calculated the chance of an average player getting an ace at about 12,500 to 1, and for a tour professional at 2,500 to 1. By the way, the odds of a player making a hole-in-one on back to back par 3 holes: 156,250,000 to 1, or about the same as hitting the lottery.
A golf architect in New Hampshire for over 20 years, Armstrong brought her craft to Las Cruces last January. She is the founder of Armstrong Golf Architects, which provides planning, designing, permitting and construction monitoring services for golf course projects. You can comment on her writing and view past articles at her blog: https://roadholeshorts17.wordpress.com/.