21 times a hole-in-one absolutely doesn’t count

Holes-in-one, whether you’ve had a bunch of them or are still chasing that elusive first (like our resident writer Alan Shipnuck) are great fun. It’s part of the fabric of golf; something we all strive for. So much so that we’ll even bend the rules ever-so-slightly in pursuit of one. But I’m sorry, that stuff won’t fly around these parts.

Holes-in-one are special because they’re so rare. There aren’t any shortcuts. It’s why I’ve put together this handy list outlining all the times making a hole-in-one absolutely doesn’t count.

1. After A Mulligan

Sad, but true. Let’s say you’re playing a par 3, shank one into the water, drop a sneaky mulligan down with the consent of your playing partners, and knock it in the hole. A fun story, no doubt, but it doesn’t count as a hole-in-one. Proper holes-in-one need to have a legitimate, USGA-abiding score attached to them.

2. After A Penalty Shot

Similar to the one above, the only difference is that, technically speaking, you do register a score that would hold muster with the USGA. The only problem is that if you knock one in the water, re-tee then knock it into the hole, it can’t be a hole-in-one because it’s literally not a hole-in-one. It’s a hole-in-three. Just another par, in the black and white on the scorecard.

It also violates another rule of mine…

3. Multiple Attempts On The Same Hole

I love the European Tour’s hole-in-one videos. Love them. But when you have that many attempts with no actual score attached to the end of it, and when you’re standing in front of the golf gods at the pearly gates of golf heaven, this won’t go down as an *actual* hole-in-one.

4. On A Par-3 Course

Yes, technically you are playing an actual course and registering a legitimate score, but there’s something about it that doesn’t feel right. True holes-in-one are registered on golf courses where par 3s are few-and-far between.

5. Temporary Green

This is a little harsh because there’s not really much the player themselves can do about it, but temporary greens present all kinds of problems. The grass almost never actually resembles that of an actual green, and the holes can often be cut incorrectly. The yardage gets thrown off along the way; not exactly the fairest platform for claiming a hole-in-one.

6. In a Golf Simulator

I love golf simulators, and living in New York City, use them all the time to get my golf fix in. I’ve actually made a hole-in-one on a simulator once. Do I go around claiming it as an actual hole-in-one? No, I don’t, because it’s not an actual hole-in-one.

7. Scramble

If there’s a common theme among all these things, it’s that holes in one need to be registered in legitimate, law-abiding rounds that the USGA would approve of counting toward your handicap. A scramble, fun as they are, doesn’t fit that criteria.

8. When You Play An Odd Number Of Holes

Play three holes and make a hole in one on one of them? Then play the final six holes to get your nine-hole score. I’m not sure holes-in-one can exist in isolation; they need to be part of a larger round, either 9 or 18.

9. When Somebody Else Knocks In Your Ball For You

This one should be obvious. You hit your ball on the green, perhaps close to the hole, then your buddy in the group ahead putts your ball into the hole for you. Hilarious! But not an actual hole in one.

10. Signing An Incorrect Card

This one is savage, but if you’re playing in a tournament and make a hole-in-one, only for your playing partner to mark it incorrectly on a scorecard you end up signing. Technically speaking — and heartbreakingly so — that’s no longer an official hole-in-one.

11. When You’re Not Keeping Score

You’re out there, having fun, playing a casual round and taking a few mulligans along the way. Then, you waltz up to a par 3 and knock it in the hole. It violates my rule of a hole-in-one needing to be a part of a legitimate round.

You could go back and count up your score, of course, but that presents a different problem.

12. After a Breakfast Ball

Alright, so you’re on the first tee, blow one out of bounds, take a customary breakfast ball and pipe it down the middle. Let’s say that’s your only mulligan of the day. Fast forward a few holes and you make a hole-in-one. This round wouldn’t hold up in a tournament, so does this hole-in-one count? No comment.

13. Double Green, Wrong Pin

Can’t make a hole-in-one on a hole that isn’t the one you’re playing. Simple.

14. In Front Of Tee Markers

It’s the Rules of Golf. If you tee off from in front of the tee markers, it’s not a legitimate shot. Would take a bold playing partner to call that on you, though.

15. Wrong Tee Markers

See above.


16. Borrowed Club

You grab your buddy’s club and knock it in the hole. Alas, that violates the Rules of Golf. So nice shot! But not a hole in one.

17. Bonus Holes

A fair amount of golf courses have bonus holes to help players settle bets, and they’re usually par 3s. Let’s say you’re all-square in a match after 18, so you play a bonus hole and make an ace. Great job, and even better story. But is that an official hole-in-one? Eh.

18. Using An Illegal Club

This doesn’t just not count, it’s also cheating. For shame!

19. If It’s Embedded Against The Lip

This one’s already been settled. It’s not a hole-in-one, because it’s embedded against the lip.

20. Miniature Golf or Video Game Golf

This one should be so obvious I’m not even going to bother explaining why.

21. Grounds For Any Other DQ

The common theme here is that true holes-in-one count only during legitimate, complete rounds which could count toward your handicap. We’ve tried outlining some of the most common ones, but wanted to include this catch-all for any others we have have missed.

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