How Long Must A Hole-In-One Be To Count?

Is there a minimum length? Are there circumstances where you might have to accept that your ace wasn’t the real deal?

how long must a hole-in-one be
Take it easy Tony....
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Standing on the tee on any given hole, the very best you can do is to hole your first shot. If you manage that rare feat, you have completed the hole perfectly – nobody on earth could have beaten you on that hole. If Jon Rahm had just joined you and challenged you to a scratch match, you’d almost certainly be one-up.

To score an ace in a competition stirs a feeling that’s untouchable in golf. You can celebrate a truly tangible achievement – playing partners will slap your back in congratulation, people you barely know will chat about it in the clubhouse, you’ll be a legend in your own start time for at least a few days (particularly if you’ve put a bottle on the bar.)

If you’re playing in competition then there will no question of your ace: It will be marked on a card signed by a fellow competitor, entered into a computer, if your club uses howdidido or similar, it will be there on the internet for all to see, you’ll possibly even be able to apply for a prize to recognise your success.

How long?


I don't care what the yardage was!

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There’s no defined length a hole has to be for a hole-in-one to count. If you’re playing from a recognised teeing ground on a correctly measured hole with a definite yardage, it doesn’t matter if the hole is 430 or 65 yards. Obviously a hole-in-one at the former might impress your pals to a greater extent but still, a one will go down on the card either way.

A personal thing


Paul Casey at the 2006 Ryder Cup - that one definitely counted!

(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you’re not playing in a competition, then a hole-in-one becomes a more personal thing. Only you, and those you’re playing with, will know for sure you’ve done it. And, in terms of hole length, it will be totally up to you whether you count it or not.

If you’re playing off a temporary tee from just 40 yards short of a winter green with an oversized hole, you might not feel it worthy of inclusion in your list of top golfing achievements; it might come as a footnote. “I’ve had two holes in one, and one on a shortened hole.” However, if you feel that the shot deserves credit – perhaps the green was viciously sloped, or you landed the ball straight into the cup, then you might opt to recognise it; it’s your choice.

Golf is an individual sport and many elements of the game are personal. Deep down each of us knows our true golfing limitations and potential. We also have a personal and internal list of achievements – for instance we know the fewest putts we’ve had in a round, the longest drive we’ve ever hit, our best ever score, and there’s no point being dishonest about these. It’s the same with a hole-in-one – if you truly feel you’ve had one, no matter what the hole length or playing surfaces, then you have had one. If you find yourself announcing your ace with hesitation or qualification, then perhaps you haven’t.

Fergus Bisset
Contributing Editor

Fergus is Golf Monthly's resident expert on the history of the game and has written extensively on that subject. He is a golf obsessive and 1-handicapper. Growing up in the North East of Scotland, golf runs through his veins and his passion for the sport was bolstered during his time at St Andrews university studying history. He went on to earn a post graduate diploma from the London School of Journalism. Fergus has worked for Golf Monthly since 2004 and has written two books on the game; "Great Golf Debates" together with Jezz Ellwood of Golf Monthly and the history section of "The Ultimate Golf Book" together with Neil Tappin , also of Golf Monthly. 

Fergus once shanked a ball from just over Granny Clark's Wynd on the 18th of the Old Course that struck the St Andrews Golf Club and rebounded into the Valley of Sin, from where he saved par. Who says there's no golfing god?