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  • Alistair Tait

The Search For The Perfect Golf Shot

Updated: Nov 8, 2021

What are the odds on making a hole in one? Why do so many golfers go their entire lives without making the perfect shot despite playing thousands of rounds? Why have others made multiple aces?

These thoughts ran through my mind as friend and playing companion Martin fished his ball out of the eighth hole of Woburn’s Marquess course yesterday. His 8-iron shot from 155 yards landed about a foot past the pin and spun back into the hole. Initially we weren’t sure if it had actually gone in the hole, or was just hiding behind the flagstick.

Cue celebrations when we arrived at the hole to find Martin’s ball nestling in the cup like a bird’s egg siting in a nest. That round of drinks Martin treated his playing companions to was most welcome, but watching him strike the perfect shot was more rewarding.

Fellow playing companion Mike counts seven experiences of hitting the perfect shot. The fourth in our group, Dave, is still waiting to buy drinks in the clubhouse.

I count one hole in one in nearly 30 years of playing this game. It came on the 16th hole at Clovelly Golf Club in Cape Town, South Africa, the only decent shot I hit all day. Thankfully the South African Rand was about 15 to the pound at the time, so the celebration later that evening in a bar at Cape Town’s Victoria & Albert Dock didn’t cost me as much it might have.

That’s the only time I’ve hit the perfect golf shot. My mother still reminds me she joined the hole-in-one club before me, an ace on the first hole of Merry Hill Golf Club’s White course, which I witnessed.

Like Fred Couples, I once made a hole in three on the 3rd hole of Woburn’s Dukes Course, a candidate for best short par-3 in inland golf (yes I’m biased – get over it). I duffed my first pitching wedge shot into the rhododendron bushes in front of the tee. I then hit my next shot about five feet past the flag, and watched as it spun back into the hole. Couples recorded the same feat on the 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass in the first round of the 1999 Players Championship.

What are the odds on that?

Three-time Open champion Sir Henry Cotton once played a round at Temple Golf Club with senior Lloyds executives. When they arrived at the 150-yard, par-3, 13th hole, they asked for Cotton’s advice on the odds for making a perfect shot. As Cotton writes in Thanks For The Game: The Best of Golf With Henry Cotton:

“They had often covered this risk at golf tournaments and even at some exhibition games…I guessed the odds must be about ten thousand to one against on one selected hole, but if the bet was for an ace anywhere on the course, then say six thousand to one.”

You’ve probably guessed what happened next.

“It was my honour and we were still discussing this business of odds,” Cotton adds. “I hit the ball straight into the hole before their very eyes! In a long golfing career I have hit eighteen aces but never one so perfectly timed.”

The Hole in One Gang got their timing perfect back in 1991 when they took British bookmakers for £500,000 betting on holes in one at European Tour events. It is arguably the greatest gambling coup in golf history. Masterminds John Carter and Paul Simons wrote a book on their exploits, Hole-in-One Gang, which made for entertaining reading, but here’s an excellent account of how they went about persuading bookmakers into giving them generous odds.

Proof the perfect shot can be extremely rewarding even for those who don’t hit it.

#JustSaying: “I’m trying to get the iron in the hole, that’s what I’m aimed at. I’m hole orientated, not green orientated.” Moe Norman

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