With over 600 years of history, golf has undergone a wealth of evolution. Yet you may be surprised to hear that this Scottish born sport has plenty of American influence in the golf lingo. We don’t always think about the origins of words like bogey, par, birdie, eagle and albatross, but they all have a story. Gator Golf Cars is here to reveal the history behind our favorite sport’s unique terminology.
Coined in 1890, the term “bogey” came shortly after the implementation of standardizing the number of shots a good golfer should take for each hole. During a competition at Great Yarmouth Club where this standardization was introduced, a gentleman by the name of CA Wellman exclaimed to the Secretary of the Great Yarmouth Club, Dr. Browne, “This player of yours is a regular Bogey man!”
Bogeyman is the British spelling for what Americans now call the boogeyman. Bogey is now the standard term for the ground score.
Technically, the use of the word “par” in golf predates bogey. Its use in the standardized numbering system occurred in 1870. The use of the term in relation to this system was derived from the stock exchange term used to compare figures.
However, it wasn’t until 1911 that the US Golf Association for men laid down the following distances for determining par:
- Par 3: Up to 225 yards
- Par 4: 225 – 425 yards
- Par 5: 426 – 600 yards
- Part 6: Greater than 601 Yards
Atlantic City is the birthplace of the term “birdie.” In the 20th century, the word “bird” was used to describe anything remarkable or amazing, and it came out on the par-four second hole as Ab Smith exclaimed his one under par was a, “bird of a shot.” The quote was published in US Greenkeepers’ Magazine. Since then it was described by Ab, his brother, William Smith, and his friend George Crump as a “birdie” and it stuck.
Rolling with the bird theme, Ab Smith expanded upon his repertoire of fowl references, and what true American wouldn’t one-up a birdie by calling a two under par an “eagle?” As mighty as it is patriotic, Ab Smith and his friends used the term until it was adapted like the first into the terminology for measuring standardized shots.
But the British wouldn’t let the Americans have all the glory. Yes, three under par, or “albatross” is of British origins. Where Ab Smith called it a “double eagle,” the exceptional score was first recorded to be called an “albatross” in 1929 by John G Ridland. Yet its true origins are said to have begun quite some time before then. An albatross is a rare bird which coincides with the rare frequency in which an albatross is achieved.
However, “double eagle” is still a common term used for a three under par in America. Why? Because everyone in the United States knows the only thing that could possibly be better than one eagle is two eagles.