What To Do If You Get A Hole-In-One

There is an etiquette around what to do when you get a hole-in-one. We explain what this is and how this can vary according to the club.

(Image credit: Gerry Images)

A hole-in-one is an achievement in itself. Everyone understands what it is, even those not into golf. Tell a non golfer that you shot 39 on the back nine, for a net 34 which would have been 33 had a sandy ferret eagle not lipped out on stroke index one and they may well look at you blankly. But tell them you get a hole in one and you should be greeted with a look of recognition, hopefully even one of mild admiration.

It is also an achievement other players tend to celebrate. Even the pros - watch the genuine delight of the other players on the tee when a player makes a hole in one.

But for the club golfer there may be an element of self interest to their happiness at another’s success. They know there should be a drink in it for them.

Golfing tradition dictates that any golfer who makes a hole in one buys the drinks afterwards. Who he buys for can vary upon whatever local tradition exists at the club. The most widespread one is that the golfer buys a drink for his playing partners after the round and a drink for everyone else in the clubhouse or bar when he returns.

Thus a hole in one can become mightily expensive if you happen to hit a busy time in the bar, such an a club competition day. Some people therefore believe it acceptable if player with the hole-in-one only buys for his playing partners, but others look askance at such an attitude.

However some clubs have a local policy such as that the golfer puts some money behind the bar by way of a tab and when that is used up, that is the end of his obligation. Others have a tradition that the player just buys a large bottle of whisky which then sits on the bar counter for anyone to help themselves to a tot from.

Some insurance companies offer hole-in-one insurance whereby the maker of a hole-in-one gets a stated pay out by the company. Often this is bundled in as part of a more general golf accident insurance policy.

Also, to count as a true hole-in-hole a couple of criteria have to apply. The first is that you are not alone; you can be playing alone, but someone has to be there marking your card to testify to your feat. The second is that it is part of a formal round of golf, not just part of a few practice holes.

To count a true hole-in-one the ball is hit from the tee into the cup and stays there. (The last bit might seem a tad pedantic, but I know of one chap who hit the ball into the hole on the full, but it bounced out and rolled into a greenside lake.) A hole-in-one is also known, albeit less commonly, as an ace.

Since you ask – didn’t you? - no, I have never made a hole in one. I have seen one made though – by my brother, who go his hole-on-one with a putter of the tee. He still owes me that drink.

Roderick Easdale

Contributing Writer Golf courses and travel are Roderick’s particular interests and he was contributing editor for the first few years of the Golf Monthly Travel Supplement. He writes travel articles and general features for the magazine, travel supplement and website. He also compiles the magazine's crossword. He is a member of Trevose Golf & Country Club and has played golf in around two dozen countries. Cricket is his other main sporting love. He is the author of five books, four of which are still in print: The Novel Life of PG Wodehouse; The Don: Beyond Boundaries; Wally Hammond: Gentleman & Player and England’s Greatest Post-War All Rounder.