What Is the Golf Score Called a Dodo?

"Dodo" is — make that was — a term used for a score of 3-under-par on a given golf hole. But just like the flightless bird the score is named after, the golf usage of "dodo" eventually went extinct.

As we noted in our definition and history of the term "double eagle," "(t)he word 'dodo' was also once used as a synonym for double eagle, mostly in America. In fact, Gene Sarazen called his famous double eagle in the 1935 Masters a dodo. 'Dodo' still shows up from time to time, but mostly in articles like this one about the double eagle, rather than in organic usages."

Scoring a dodo meant making a score of 2 on a par-5 hole or a score of 1 on a par-4 hole. So dodo was (and is, in the rare cases the term is used today) a synonym of double eagle and albatross.

The term seems to have come into usage in the late 1920s, early 1930s. At that time, "double eagle" was a recent addition to the golf lexicon, and "albatross" was starting to show up in the U.K. Those terms became the standard words golfers use for a score of 3-under-par on a hole.

But there were golfers, and writers about golf, in the era who were trying to make "dodo" happen.

In 1934, a book was published for physical education instructors called Group Golf Instruction. It mentioned a competition format the authors called a Point Tournament, recognizable to us today as a kind of modified Stableford. The authors explained the point values:

"One-over-par counts one, a par counts two, a birdie counts three, an eagle counts five, a dodo counts 15 ..."
In 1935, the year of Sarazen's famous double eagle in The Masters, we also ran across such newspaper headlines as "Penalty spoils Al Espinosa's dodo," and "Jimmy Hines makes dodo at Oakmont." So while dodo was never the preferred term for 3-under on a hole, it certainly was a term that was in circulation in the golf and golf journalism worlds.

But after Sarazen's "shot heard 'round the world," which most golfers and media called a "double eagle," that term, not dodo, was far down the path to becoming the standard Americanism for 3-under on a hole.

A reference book, The Champions' Book of Sports, was published in 1949 and included a golf glossary. The glossary defined dodo as 3-under par on a hole, while leaving out both "double eagle" and "albatross." Perhaps we can think of that as the last gasp of the dodo in golf — double eagle and albatross were well-established by then, while dodo was disappearing from the golf lingo. The author of this particular book just hadn't heard the news.

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