Golf & Hole-in-One Etiquette

Man playing golf

Making a hole-in-one is the dream every golfer chases from the first time he picks up a club. The odds are against any golfer accomplishing this goal, because pulling off the feat takes a combination of both skill and luck. Sure, the most skilled golfers have a better chance of making a hole-in-one, but anyone with a club in hand at least has a glimmer of hope. If it does happen, there are traditions and etiquette that should be followed.

Hole-in-One Defined

High angle view of golf ball Images

In golf, a hole-in-one is a simple concept. The player hits the ball into the hole with just one shot. A hole-in-one can only happen on a par-3 hole, meaning the golfer should be able to have the ball end in the cup in one shot. The chance of doing this varies depending on the skill level of the golfer. Factoring in all golfers, from unskilled amateurs to touring professionals, the odds are roughly 1 in 12,500. The more you play, the better your chances are.

Have a Witness

A hole-in-one cannot be documented by the U.S. Golf Association or any local governing body without a witness. One or two playing partners can serve as the witnesses to the event. Making a hole-in-one without a witness is known as the golfers worst nightmare because the incredible shot cannot be proven and the story might come across to friends as unbelievable. If a golfer makes a hole-in-one and has witnesses, it is reported to course officials who will document the event. Also, for it to count, the golfer must hit the shot from the regulation tee box during a round of nine or 18 holes.

The Celebration

You won't find it written anywhere in the Rules of Golf, but there is one sacred tradition for any golfer who makes a hole-in-one. Proper etiquette requires the lucky golfer to buy drinks in the clubhouse after the round for anyone playing in the same group and anyone else who witnessed the hole-in-one. One round of drinks is required, and anything beyond that is up to the player. Some more generous golfers will buy several rounds of drinks, or even a round for everyone in the clubhouse after making a hole-in-one.

Hole-in-One Insurance

There are two types of hole-in-one insurance that cover the cost of drinks or prizes if you make one. The first type is paid in the form of small dues where the golfer is a member. Anyone who pays the dues is covered for the price of drinks for anyone in the clubhouse after a hole-in-one is made. The second type is offered by actual insurance companies for charity and other golf outings. Typically, a major prize is offered if a golfer makes a hole-in-one during one of these events, for example a free set of golf clubs or a cash prize. The event organizers can buy insurance that will cover the cost in case it happens. The insurance companies insist on witnesses before paying out.