The art (or luck) of the hole-in-one

Every golfer hopes for that one perfect shot. And no shot in golf is more perfect than a hole-in-one. "The coolest feeling in the world is writing down a 1 on your scorecard," said Dakota Wesleyan University golf coach Adam Anderson.

Every golfer hopes for that one perfect shot. And no shot in golf is more perfect than a hole-in-one. "The coolest feeling in the world is writing down a 1 on your scorecard," said Dakota Wesleyan University golf coach Adam Anderson.

"You don't master our sport very often, but for that one brief moment, you did master that hole." The odds of hitting a hole-in-one are debatable. Golf Digest, a monthly golf magazine, estimates an amateur's chances at getting an ace to be 12,750 to 1. Even a professional golfer is given only a 1 in 3,756 chance. Ireland's National Hole in One Club estimates the chances to be even more difficult, giving the odds of getting a hole-in-one at 1 in 33,000.

Sports Illustrated has gone even further with the odds, stating a golfer's chances at 45,000 to 1. So far this spring, five holes-in-one have been reported to The Daily Republic. Three players have recorded aces at Lakeview Golf Course in Mitchell, one at Mitchell's Wild Oak Golf Course and one at Wessington Springs Country Club.

DWU golfer Carson Moore aced Wild Oak's 178-yard hole No. 6 with a 7-iron in April.

"I've been playing golf since I was a little kid, so I've played a lot of golf rounds, and that was my first," he said.


Moore, a Murdo native, said the shot was exciting and he wanted to let a few people know what he had done.

"I let my parents know right away," he said. "But I didn't put it on Facebook or anything."

Last week, Dakota Wesleyan had its second golfer knock in a hole-in-one this year when Chelsea Burback knocked in a shot on Lakeview's 122-yard eighth hole.

"The first six years I was here we didn't have any," Anderson said. "I guess we're getting better."

Anderson said he has one hole-in-one in his golfing career, about 18 years ago.

"I remember it like it was yesterday," he said.

Better to be lucky than good

Anderson believes he is a better golfer now, but said holes-in-one are not all about skill.


"Holes-in-one are pretty much luck," he said. "I don't want to say they're all luck, but they're about 98 percent luck and 2 percent skill."

Moore attributed his ace to luck.

"That ball could have landed where it did 20 more times and never gone in," he said.

Dan Sabers, Lakeview's director of golf, said he's heard of bad shots that turned out perfect.

"One hole-in-one hit just over a sand trap, and it kicked left and went in," Sabers said. "That one was luck."

Sabers said Lakeview sees about five to 10 holes-in-one per year, and the course typically has about 30,000 rounds played per year. In a year of 10 holes-in-one, that averages out to only 0.0003 holes-in-one per rounds played, or one ace every 3,000 rounds.

In 2010, 19 aces were reported on the course. Last year, the course finished the season with eight.

Wessington Springs Country Club's clubhouse manager, Craig Fonder, said although luck plays a major factor, a majority of players who record an ace have a good skill set.


"They're the ones that are usually close and are more likely to get them," he said.

Fonder said Wessington Springs usually sees a couple of holes-in-one per year, but he has never recorded one.

"I likely never will unless it's pure luck," he said.

Jevon Hohn, a sophomore on the Wessington Springs High School golf team, hit the course's first hole-in-one of the season last month. The 16-year-old made the shot on the 122-yard fourth hole.

Better shots than an ace

While a hole-in-one is a perfect shot, many golfers admit that an ace may not have been their best shot.

"I think I've hit better shots," Moore said. "I made an eagle from 200 yards out on a par 5 that I think was better."

Dani Bellet, Dakota Wesleyan's four-time Great Plains Athletic Conference women's golfer of the year, has made a career of hitting great shots for the Tigers.


But Bellet has never recorded a hole-in-one.

"Maybe one day it will happen," she said. "Eventually, I hope to get one if I keep hitting it close."

Anderson said the difficulty of getting a hole-in-one is obvious, especially considering this season marked the first time a Tiger golfer made an ace since he's been the coach.

"We've had pretty good teams over the last six or seven years, and you're talking 20 to 25 kids playing a lot of golf each year," he said.

"It takes something special for that ball to actually drop into the cup. The day you get a hole-in-one, you should probably buy a lottery ticket."

Hole-in-one prizes

While some tournaments give prizes away for holes-in-one, many times a golfer is simply given pride for knocking a shot in with just one swing.

Many area courses do make sure newspapers, such as The Daily Republic, get information about holes-in-one to publish. But often that is the only official reward for a golfer.


Wessington Springs Country Club has a board where players' names are engraved for hitting an ace, and Wild Oak has developed a new tradition for celebrating a great shot.

Cody Larson, director of operations at Wild Oak, said last year he started giving a player the flag from the hole after a hole-in-one.

"If you get a hole-in-one, it truly is something special," he said. "It's nice to get something for your hole-in-one."

Larson said he has never recorded an ace but knows if he ever does, he will want something to show off.

Since the start of the flag tradition, Wild Oak has given out three flags to golfers. Two aces were made at the course last year, and Moore is the only player to score one this season.

Wild Oak also has a hole-in-one club. The club was started by members for what Larson calls an "insurance policy."

Wild Oak's hole-in-one club charges $5 for a player to be involved, and if a player in the club hits a hole-in-one, the player wins the pot.

In league play, it is an unwritten rule that a golfer who makes a hole-in-one buys a round of drinks for the other golfers. That's where the "insurance" of winning the pot comes in.


"On a league night, if someone gets a hole-in-one, they could build up quite a tab," Larson said.

Larson said the pot for the hole-in-one club is currently more than $500. The three holes-in-one made in the past two years have been hit by players who were not in the club. The money is credit at Wild Oak, including the bar.

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