Renslow: The most difficult act in sports |

Renslow: The most difficult act in sports

Editor’s note: This classic Renslow column originally ran June 28, 2012

The odds are 12,000 to 1 … for the average person.

If you’re really, really good, the odds go to about 4,000 to 1. It has been called the most difficult single act in sports. It is so rare, when it does happen, everyone heads for the restaurant and a free drink. We’re talking about a hole-in-one” Also called an ace, it is when the golfer stands on the tee and their first swing sends the ball into the hole. No putts, no chips, no mas. The hole is over and a “1” is placed on the scorecard.

Now some would argue that there are more difficult individual things to do in sports — hitting a baseball, bowling a perfect game or driving a 200 mph race car top the list (according to USA Today).

Yet, honestly, let’s consider this for a moment. Hitting a baseball is difficult. I get it. It’s a round ball and a round bat with the ball moving toward you at speeds of up to 100 mph. But the best players hit the ball fair well over half the time and get “base hits” more than 3 out of 10 times. The odds are not 4,000 to 1.

Perhaps a home run would be getting into the odds ballpark (pardon the pun). But realistically, can you see Tiger and Phil at this year’s hole-in-one derby? Or sitting around the driving range … “Hey, Phil, I’m up to 40 aces this year. How about you?”

Bowling? Okay, it’s not easy, but bowling a 300 game is more a rite of passage. On balance, they happen almost every day at bowling alleys across the country. Nice job, but not 4,000 to 1 for the best players.

The boys and girls of NASCAR and Formula One, have my respect. But the truth is that nearly all of them accomplish a primary goal — they finish the race. Alright, sometimes the car has problems or they make a mistake or some other driver makes a mistake. And it may feel like a 300-pound lineman driving you into your seat for a few, long hours. But generally, odds are good they finish the race, and there may not be a specific act in racing equivalent to a hole-in-one.

Of course, there is a certain amount of luck in any individual shot, and a strange thing is that some people seem to make multiple aces, while others go their entire golfing lives without one. There are average players who have recorded an ace on each of the par-3s on their home course, while Ben Hogan, perhaps the game’s best ball striker, never had a hole-in one-in competitive golf.

We now know the long odds on the game’s (if not sports’) most challenging feat. But what about two aces on the same course on the same day? What about two aces on the same hole? What about two players making a hole-in-one in successive shots.

Well, that’s exactly what happened last year at the Alta Sierra Country Club in Grass Valley. Jodi Gillespie and Patti Rose knocked the ball in the hole on the par-3, 12th hole back to back.

The National Hole-in-One Registry declares the odds of two people in the same foursome acing the same hole are 1 in 17 million. Yes, million. The odds of being struck once by lightning are about 1 in 280,000. Being struck twice in your lifetime is 1 in 9 million. You have a better chance of that, and we’re talking about two players in the same group, not necessarily in succession.

The chances of two players making back to back aces is so remote, the odds aren’t even listed. The most remote chance listed (Scheid’s Calculations) is one player making two aces in the same round at 1 in 67 million.

With much appreciation as you bear with this pile of numbers, it is simply to put this wonderful day and these two great shots into perspective. In the end, we feel lucky to be playing the greatest game and pleased to congratulate Jodi and Patty on the good fortune to have this memory of a lifetime.

John Renslow is general manager and director of golf at Alta Sierra Country Club. Please contact John with your questions or comments at

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