Golfers are among the most superstitious of all sportsmen because it’s such an unpredictable game. Superstitions make us feel more in control. That applies to lifelong hackers as well as world-class pros. On Friday the 13th of a year ending in 13, here are 13 of golf’s most prevalent superstitions.
Never Tee Off in Front of Someone Who’s Just Made a Birdie
This is the one time to shelve “ready golf.” Always, ALWAYS step aside and give the honor on the next tee to let a player who’s just made a birdie. Otherwise you risk incurring the wrath of the golf gods. While we’re on the topic, always approach the tee box from behind the markers. Never walk through the front of them.
We’ve seen them all. Some are luckier than others. Tigers and gorillas are currently out of fashion. Caddyshack-style gophers never went out of style. For superstitious alumni, college mascot head covers are known to work wonders in a tight match.
Lucky Ball Markers
Some players like vintage coins (foreign or domestic). Jack Nicklaus and Tom Weiskopf both carried three coins, regardless of denomination. (We like three dimes). Quarters with your birth year can be good. Casino chips are bulky, but some players swear by them. Anything that fits in your pocket and is not a hubcap is acceptable.
Never Carry an Extra Ball in Your Pocket
The message to the golf gods is simple. You don’t have confidence in your ability to keep the ball you’re playing within the confines of the course in a place where it can be found.
Never Use a ‘Water Ball’ on a Par Three with a Water Hazard
There’s a reason why they call those old clinkers “water balls.” They tend to end up wet. The only exception is a veteran water ball that’s avoided a watery grave more than once and has proven to be lucky.
Four leaf clovers, ideally ones found and picked the day of play, are best. Dried and pressed four leaf clovers can be OK too, depending on provenance. Zuzu’s petals are always good. So are rabbit’s feet (preferably white). Skip the family lockets and cameos.
Lucky Golf Shirt
We all have a shirt or other article of clothing we pull out for special occasions, like the bucket-list invite to Pine Valley. We’re sure that wearing it is going to produce a decent score. After all, if you look good, you just might play good.
Never Use a Ball Found During a Round
There it sits in the rough, a new ball, your favorite brand. Pick it up, but save it for another day. Using it the same day is bad karma. Also, never, NEVER pick up a ball that is out of bounds. That’s just asking for trouble. In the same vein, never use an unbroken tee that’s stuck in the ground on the tee box. The previous golfer left it behind for a reason.
According to the late Tony Lema, white tees were to be avoided, i.e., they suffer from commonness and can be bad luck. Lee Trevino never used yellow tees. Red signifies danger, aggression—also a no-no. All other colors are acceptable except for pink, unless you’re Paula Creamer. Natural tan is O.K.
Since the days of the “Billy Barroo” putter in Caddyshack, but probably dating back to the Stone Age when shepherds had favorite crooks they used to knock rocks into rabbit holes, golfers have always carried lucky clubs. Putters are notorious lucky clubs, because, let’s face it, most people don’t have a friggin’ clue what they’re doing on the greens.
Don’t Wash the Ball in the Middle of a Career Round
Hitting long straight drives? Radar approaches? Dropping every putt?. DON’T GO NEAR THE BALL WASHER, unless you want to risk washing away the ball’s magical awesomeness. Wiping the ball gently on your own golf towel is OK. Just don’t overdo it.
Use Only Low Numbered Balls
This line of thinking is very logical and has nothing to do with superstition. Why play a ball with a number higher than par? For years, that number topped out at four. Balls marked with a five, despite the presence of par fives, always felt like a bogey. Or worse. The verdict is still out on balls with a zero. Avoid double-digit numbered balls like the plague.
Talking to a Ball
Not yours. That’s expected. However, talking to someone else’s ball, a.k.a. “putting your mouth” on a fellow competitor’s golf ball while it’s rolling or in flight—exhortations like “hook, slice, carry, get down, hit a house,” etc.—is a real no-no.