Luckiest shots we've witnessed on the course

In the spirit of St. Patrick's Day, the staff recalls some of the most improbable shots they've seen during their own games.
One of the luckiest shots of the modern era: Costantino Rocca of Italy celebrates his birdie putt on the 18th green to force a playoff with John Daly during the 2005 Open Championship at the Old Course at St Andrews.

There are plenty of lucky shot compilations on YouTube.

The most recent video was published by the European Tour last year. They're fun and entertaining to watch while killing time at work. (Shhhh. I won't tell if you won't.)

What's frustrating about watching them is most pros don't need luck. They're already so good. Here's calling hogwash on the old adage: "It's better to be lucky than good." Who wouldn't rather be good? That way everyday golfers wouldn't need as many lucky bounces as they do.

Playing thousands of rounds across five decades, our Golf Advisor staff has seen plenty of good - and bad - luck on the golf course. A good bounce can be the difference between a career round or a day of club-chucking frustration. In honor of St. Patrick's Day - and the luck of the Irish - we've come up with the luckiest shots we've ever seen live.

What's the luckiest shot you've ever seen in your life? Did you pull it off? A buddy or playing partner you just met? Share these stories in the comments below.

Aces wild

I've probably told this story a couple hundred times whenever the topic of a hole-in-one comes up in conversation. I believe I was a witness to perhaps the luckiest ace ever. More than a decade ago, I was playing in a media golf outing at the scenic Tribute course at the Otsego Club in Gaylord, Mich., with two Canadian golf radio hosts. I still don't remember his name, but I'll forever remember his shot. One of these broadcasters hit the most wicked, bladed iron shot you could imagine, a ferocious line drive steering straight for the flagstick. The sound of the collision with the pin rings in my ears to this day. His ball somehow hit near the top of the flagstick and disappeared. Some sort of invisible hand guided the ball to crawl down the pole and into the hole. We were all dumbfounded. The worst part of it all? It was the final round of a weeklong golf binge, so he snuck out of town moments after the round before buying the customary celebratory drinks. - Jason Scott Deegan

Too young to know better

I've seen a lot of golf in my 50-plus years around the game. I've played thousands of rounds, caddied at every level from private clubs to the PGA Tour and opening day exhibitions. I've also covered a lot of major championships. I walked every shot of Lee Janzen's final round at Baltusol when he won the 1993 U.S. Open with one of the luckiest championship shots I can recall - an approach to the 10th green from the right rough that sailed right through the middle of a massive tree canopy without so much as touching a limb or even brushing a leaf.

But I would have to say that my most memorable lucky shot I witnessed was hit by our daughter, Cory-Ellen, when she was age 10 on her first time at a golf course. This was at The Orchards Golf Club in South Hadley, Mass., on the campus of Mount Holyoke College. She had been on the range before but never on a real golf course. As she plunked her way down the opening hole with a number of very mediocre shots she ended up about 50 yards from the green in the left rough. Without much prompting from me, she chipped her 9-iron shot pretty crisply, got it going airborne about half the way, then watched as it bounded along the ground, straight for the hole, where it hit the pin and fell in. Now that was luck. She looked at me as if that's what she was supposed to do and I could only marvel at the result. - Bradley S. Klein

One for the wind

It was probably a three-plus-club wind a few springs ago when we came upon the par-3 seventh hole on the Creek Course at Timber Ridge Golf Club, a solid 27-hole Jay Riviere design just south of Houston in Friendswood, Texas. Club selection was a guess at best, much less executing the shot on this 155-yard hole. Two of us had already missed the green when the 25-handicap player in the bunch, Kevin, coming off a string of double bogeys or worse, launched a left-handed 6-iron shot around the water and over a bunker. This shot was different than any of the others I had witnessed in the past hour and a half from the former college kicker. This one was well struck. It sailed over the water, biting through the wind and made a beeline for the flag, then disappeared - a slam dunk. The shot itself was pretty solid. What was lucky was that it would be about the only good shot Kevin hit all day. Sandwiched around his scorecard's one were two nines and there were at least two double-digit scores en route to a total of 107. He didn't care. After the round, the beer kept on flowing. - Mike Bailey

Check the cup, please

The luckiest shot I’ve ever seen was many years ago, the first time I was played Paa-Ko Ridge Golf Club in New Mexico. The sun was setting when the group got to the 17th hole, a long par 3. I was paired with two older guys from New York City. One of them was truly terrible. He sprayed almost every shot and must have lost at least a dozen balls during the round. I was in my own cart and teed off from a couple of tee boxes back from them. I hit a squirrelly shot off to the left, playable but short of the green. Before I could get up to the tee box that my playing partners were using, they both hit their drives. I clearly saw the woeful guy hit a low but very straight drive – by far his straightest shot of the day. It rolled up onto the deep green and headed back toward the flagstick. It then hit the pin and popped up a bit before tumbling into the cup.

I started saying “Wow, that’s amazing. Hole-in-one.” Neither of the guys paid any attention to me. They drove off hurriedly and started looking for the ball in the thick grass, bushes and trees behind the green. I shouted out another time, “Your ball’s in the hole,” but they were single-mindedly looking for it in the trouble. I proceeded to chunk my second shot, so I didn’t get onto the putting surface until my third shot. Meanwhile, they were still looking for the ball in the thicket behind the green. By the time I saw the guy’s ball I was exasperated and said, “When you’re done looking there, check the cup.”

On the face of it, it was obviously a good shot, but when you haven’t hit a straight shot all day, refuse to listen to your playing partner who saw the ball the whole way and then spend way too much time looking for it is the scrub vegetation before being practically forced to check the cup, that’s got to be a lucky shot. - Bill Irwin

Left is right, right is even better

Turns out, the buildings along Links Road serve as strategic architecture.

When you're a measly, mid-handicapping amateur, the luckiest breaks on the course (besides an ace) are those that send a wayward ball from certain O.B. back into play. I've seen a drive bounce off a moving car during a junior tournament back into play and have seen all sorts of shots off rooftops back on to the right side of the white stakes. But the one lucky break most vividly in my mind has to come from the Home of Golf. Years back I was playing the Old Course at St. Andrews in Scotland, paired up with a father and son from Scandinavia. The kid and I were pretty similar sticks and were close in score down the stretch. We reached the 18th hole with waning sunlight and a stiff left-to-right breeze was blowing balls towards the town. I aimed way left but hit a necky slice that started towards the middle of the massive double-fairway but it took off right once it hit the ground and rolled and rolled until it eventually settled right under the fence. O.B.!

Then the kid steps up and hits a wicked block right. No chance of staying in play - that is until it struck the second story of a building, bounced over the parked cars on the street and safely into the fairway. He made par on the last while I was out of the hole. They say "left is right and right is wrong" on the Old, but on the 18th, dead right is Position A, apparently. - Brandon Tucker

A lucky ruling

In honor of the recent Rules of Golf controversies, my entry is not so much a lucky shot as a lucky break. It happened to me in a junior tournament in Massachusetts - I want to say it was Swansea Country Club. I pushed my tee shot left into a low-lying wetland area. I identified my wayward ball, but there were no red or yellow stakes or paint, even though the club might normally use them. This was an early spring event, and so the club hadn't bothered to put stakes out yet that year. So what might normally be a hazard ended up being merely casual water for me. It turned out my nearest point of relief was some 30 yards right, back into the fairway. So while we all wait for the next rash of complaints from touring pros about the alleged silliness of the Rules of Golf, keep in mind that they can be your friend, too. - Tim Gavrich

St. Patrick's Day

Hole-in-ones are obvious, but what are some of the luckiest things that can happen to a golfer at the course? Jason Deegan shares some favorites.
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I was playing with a friend in Palm Springs at the Tahquitz resort course. We were matched up with a husband and wife. She was new at it; he was teaching her so "they could have more fun on vacation." She was athletic, and hit some good shots despite him constantly telling her what to do. He was an arrogant guy, a fair player. My friend and I are single digits and were making mostly pars while he was making bogeys. He seemed the type who would come home and brag about how well he did. He wasn't happy that we were playing so well, and we actually heard her say "honey I thought you said you were good at this." We get to the 13th, about 125 yards for her. She asked what to hit and he brusquely said "your seven wood." She knocked it right in the hole with a decent shot, but would have gone over if it hadn't hit the stick. My friend and I were jumping up and down on the tee but he was visibly angry and red faced. She looked perplexed and said, "honey, isn't that what I'm supposed to do?"

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Luckiest shots we've witnessed on the course