The Eagle in Golf - Definition, Origin, and Example Scores

An eagle swooping down painted on white background
The golf  term eagle was coined by a group of Americans at Atlantic Club 

The Eagle in Golf

Eagle in golf means scoring 2-under par on a single golf hole (one stroke better than a birdie). It’s one of the more elusive scores in the game of golf, which makes it extremely rare. We’ve covered all the common golf terms everyone should know and now it’s time to take a deep dive into why we use the term eagle in golf. Here is everything you need to know about the golf term "eagle."

What is an Eagle in Golf?

An eagle is a score of 2-under par, denoted as (-2). This means that a player completed a golf hole with 2 fewer strokes than is required for par. As a reminder, par is the number of strokes it should take an expert golfer, or scratch golfer, to complete a particular hole on the golf course. Par, on a regulation golf course can range from 3 to 7 so there are quite a few ways a player can make an eagle on a golf course.

What Scores Result in an Eagle?

With the varying par ratings on golf holes ranging from par 3’s to par 7’s, there are tons of creative ways a player can card an eagle on the golf course. If you are on the course and find yourself in one of the following situations, remember that there’s still a chance of securing an eagle. Here are the different scores that result in an eagle:
  • A score of 1 on a par 3 – Often overlooked as an eagle because it’s more commonly called a “hole-in-one” or an “Ace” 
  • A score of 2 on a par 4 – Can be accomplished by either holing out on your second shot or driving the green and making your first putt
  • A score of 3 on a par 5 – Can be accomplished by one of the following
    • Reaching the green in 2 and making you first putt
    • Holing out your third shot from anywhere on the hole
    • Driving the green and making your second putt
  • A score of 4 on a par 6
  • A score of 5 on a par 7


We’ve touched on the origin of the term “birdie,” where AB Smith is said to have coined the term in a match with his friends. This was at a time when the term “bird” was used to describe something cool. The same group of originators are also credited with coining the term “eagle.” AB Smith said that his group would often refer to a 2-under score as an “eagle.” This means that according to Scottish Golf History, the term originated in the United States. The term is fitting since the national bird for the United States is the Bald Eagle.

How to Mark an Eagle on Your Scorecard

Marking an eagle on your golf scorecard can be done in one of 2 ways. The first is to mark the number of strokes it took to complete the hole and draw double circle around the number. The circles signify the number of strokes short of par you are. The second way is to write the number of strokes it took to complete the hole and draw a shaded circle around the number. You’ll see this notation on television coverage of professional golf.


When it comes to eagles on the golf course, remember that they are rare. If you are lucky enough to be staring at an eagle putt, treat it with care and at least get it to the hole. Now that you know how the term was coined, how to score an eagle, and how to mark that score on your scorecard, you are now ready to cease the opportunity, should it present itself. 


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