Three of Golf’s great ongoing superstitions

Jack Nicklaus

Any time the stakes are high, superstition tends to take hold. In the world of sports, where technique and stats are hailed alongside inborn talent, superstitions can become habitual for some athletes.

Most are based on an individual’s unique quirks and beliefs, such as Michael Jordan’s ritual of wearing his college basketball uniform shorts under his NBA set. Others follow entire teams, such as the Ecuador World Cup team, which hired shamans to rid evil spirits from tournament stadiums back in 2006.

Every high-profile competition has a laundry list of interesting superstitions—but it’s not just athletes who get caught up. For example, poker pros are known as some of the most superstitious pros around.

Though they spend hours honing their skills in probability and critical thinking, they’re also prone to peculiar behavior at the tables, from switching seats to wearing the same clothes after a hot streak

The latter is something many golf fans should recognize from Evan Harmeling at the 2020 Savannah Golf Championship. Just like the world of poker (and the NBA, as exemplified by Jordan’s uniform habits), what golfers wear seems to have a big effect on their game readiness

‘Winning’ Outfits

You know when you’ve been Tango’d! (PA Images)

The winning outfit is incredibly common in golf, as players are allowed to wear the colors and brands that they like. Most are sponsored, which means they’ll be working with a single label—but that doesn’t mean they can’t choose unique colors… or the same shirt all over again.

Tiger Woods is known for his bright red tee, worn on Sundays, in which he’s made unforgettable shots over the years. Rickie Fowler, taking a page from Tiger’s book, has become known for his Sunday orange (which has become a fan favourite). And then there’s Paula Creamer, who only wears pink on the greens.

But the superstition of wearing a certain shirt to auger victory isn’t unique to the greats. Pro Evan Harmeling recently made headlines for recycling his whole outfit after a particularly successful day at the Savannah Championship, as mentioned above.

And then there are the players who avoid certain getups. For example, Lee Trevino refuses to wear yellow shirts.

Lucky Charms

Not all pros opt for a winning color or style of shirt. Others prefer to carry a lucky charm with them. At last year’s Northern Trust tournament, pro Peter Uihlein uses golf club covers that resemble his dogs. The gifts from his girlfriend, named Bagger and Breya, change according to Uihlein’s performance using one.

Though a very portable sort of lucky charm, some golfers, Uihlein included, stick to a single brand of golf. For Bagger and Breya’s dad, there’s no option aside from the No. 5 Titleist balls. Another pro, Zach Johnson, also relies on a charm from his partner. She crafted the small ball marker to help keep him levelheaded during play.

And, once again, there’s also an emphasis on avoiding certain items that could bring on bad luck. For example, a classic golf superstition warns players from using red tees.

Plenty of Loose Change

Though Johnson may use a ball marker gifted from his wife, many prominent golf superstitions revolve around using coins. Some of the most legendary players in the sport’s history have employed rigid marking systems with their favorite coins.

Chi Chi Rodriguez kept three coins in his pocket. He’d choose a coin to mark his ball based on the shot; one was even minted in pure gold. The famous Jack Nicklaus was also known for toting around three coins, which he kept in his back pocket at all times.

Then there’s Paul Azinger, who placed pennies face-up to mark balls, making sure that Lincoln faced the hole. Davis Love III took this one step further, only using pennies that were minted in the 1960s.

Today, ball marking isn’t quite as nuanced as it used to be—today’s emphasis seems to be on clothing and good luck charms. However, Australian pro Cameron Smith is sticking to the old traditions. He uses a special ANZAC coin to mark his ball.