Hole Out (Holed Out): What the Term Means, Plus Famous Examples

Philip Cary celebrates holing out for an ace during the 2015 Golfplan Insurance PGA Pro-Captain Challenge
'Hole out' is usually applied to golf shots that unexpectedly go in the hole - which means they often to lead to celebrations like this. Jan Kruger/Getty Images

"Hole out" is a golf term with a couple different, but closely related meanings; in every usage, it refers to a golf ball winding up in the hole. Which, after all, is the object of the game.

"Hole out" can be a noun or a verb. We'll look at both usages.

Hole-Out as a Noun

First, notice that we added a hyphen. We prefer the hyphenated spelling when hole-out is used as a noun, but unhyphenated is acceptable, too.

Hole-out as a noun refers to any shot that results in the ball winding up in the hole. As such, every final stroke on a given golf hole is a hole-out, since your play of a hole isn't over until the ball rests in the cup.

But the way hole-out is most often used as a noun is to refer to shots that unexpectedly result in the ball finding the cup. A stroke played from the fairway, for example, or a blast out of a ​bunker.

In those instances, it's usually a surprise that the ball winds up in the hole, and that surprise can be expressed through the use of "hole-out" to describe the shot.

Usage examples:

  • "Tiger's hole-out on No. 3 was from 80 yards out."
  • "What a hole-out from the bunker by Mickelson!"

Hole Out as a Verb

To "hole out" is to get your ball into the cup, thereby completing your play of the hole. The past tense is "holed out."

Usage examples:

  • "Annika holed out with a putt of 20 feet."
  • "Spieth needs to hole out here to save par."

Are Aces and Double Eagles Hole-Outs?

Yes, of course they are: those are shots that result in the ball going into the hole. But nobody calls them a hole-out, except when describing the play later: "McIlroy holed-out on No. 4 for a double eagle."

After all, why would you say, "Yes, I had a hole-out from the tee on No. 3" when you could say, "I made a hole-in-one on No. 3!"

A Few Famous Hole-Outs

Probably the most famous hole-out in golf history remains Gene Sarazen's "Shot Heard 'Round the World" at the 1935 Masters. Sarazen trailed by three with four holes to play when he struck a 4-wood from 235 yards on the par-5 15th hole at Augusta National Golf Club. And holed out for a double-eagle.

With one swing, Sarazen tied the score. He went on to win in a playoff.

A few other famous hole-outs:

  • Bob Tway's hole-out from a bunker on the final hole to win the 1986 PGA Championship.
  • Robert Gamez's hole-out from the fairway (176 yards with a 7-iron) on the final hole to win the 1990 Nestle Invitational at Bay Hill. (Tway and Gamez both beat hard-luck Greg Norman with their hole-outs.)
  • At the 2002 Players Championship, Craig Perks holed out a chip for eagle on the 16th, made a long birdie putt on the 17th and holed out another chip on 18 to win.

Alternate Terms

When a golfer holes out by flying the ball directly into the hole (as opposed to the ball landing on the green and rolling into the hole), he "jarred it" or "dunked it" or "canned it."