What Is a Hole-in-One Contest?

Jimmie Johnson with the hole-in-one prize Corvette at his annual charity golf tournament
Make an ace, win a prize (perhaps even a car): That's the gist of a hole-in-one contest. Kent Horner/Getty Images

A "hole-in-one contest" is an add-on to a tournament, or a stand-alone event, in which golfers attempt to make a hole in one, and any golfer doing so wins a prize.

Hole-in-one contests are often used as fund-raisers for charitable causes, and can generate outsized publicity because the prizes offered at hole-in-one contests are sometimes very large. Such prizes have included new cars and large sums of money - tens of thousands of dollars, hundreds of thousands of dollars. Million-dollar prizes at hole-in-one contests are not all that uncommon.

Hole-in-One Contest as Part of Tournament

For a hole-in-one contest that takes place during a golf tournament, the tournament organizers designate one of the par-3 holes as the contest hole. When golfers reach that hole during their rounds, they take aim at the flagstick to try to win the prize.

The golfer might automatically be entered as a result of playing in the tournament; or the golfer might be offered the chance to pay an additional fee in order to have a shot at the hole-in-one prize. Some tournaments might sell multiple chances to golfers on the designated hole-in-one contest hole. So, for example, if you wanted to buy three chances, you could do so and then hit three tee balls trying to make that ace.

Stand-Alone Hole-in-One Contest

Hole-in-one contests are often conducted in conjuction with, but separately from, charity tournaments; and are sometimes conducted as stand-alone events.

In such cases, the typical procedure is for golfers to buy as many golf balls as they want, each ball costing a set amount of money, and each ball representing one shot. If you want to hit 10 tee shots to try to make a hole-in-one and win the prize, then buy 10 golf balls. (There is usually a limit on the number of balls one golfer can buy in order to make sure that everyone who wants to take a shot gets to do so.)

What If You Make that Ace?

If you make a hole in one with your hole-in-one contest ball, then you win the prize. One of the most famous such winners is Jason Bohn, the PGA Tour golfer, who, when he was in college, won $1 million by making an ace during a hole-in-one contest.

You might be wondering how a charitable organization, trying to raise money for its cause, can afford to risk such huge payouts. If someone wins the prize, doesn't that defeat the purpose of trying to raise money? Won't the charity lose money, perhaps even be bankrupted by a huge prize?

That possibility is the reason that many insurance companies offer hole-in-one insurance. Hole-in-one contests are so common that an entire segment of the insurance industry has sprung up to serve them; some companies exist solely as insurers for hole-in-one contests.