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Golfing Traditions and Superstitions

Golf Care, 10th March 2015

Golfing Traditions and Superstitions

The sport of golf has been played for at least 550 years. It has advanced from a rudimentary stick and ball game played on the wild links land of Scotland’s east coast into an international sport enjoyed by millions across the globe, during that long evolution, many practices within the game have become so engrained as to become custom.

Also, with fortune playing such a significant part in a successful round of golf, it’s understandable that golfers have become a superstitious bunch. Here we take a look at some of golf’s great traditions and superstitions


Golf traditions

The 19th hole


It’s likely the world’s first golf club; the Company of Gentlemen Golfers (now The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers), came to be because of discussions over a few post-round drinks.


After games together on Leith Links, a group of players would meet in Luckie Clephan’s tavern to dissect their games, celebrate successes and commiserate failures. It was here the men decided to petition Edinburgh City Council for a silver club to be played for annually on the links of Leith.


In 1744 the council consented to the request and the first golf club was born. Today, at golf clubs around the world, players still head to the bar, or “19th hole” as it’s affectionately known, to toast their day on the fairways and pay tribute to the pioneers at Leith.


Why are there 18 holes on a golf course?


At first there was no standard: in the 1700s, Leith and Bruntsfield Links were five-hole courses; St Andrews had 11 which were played twice (out and back) to make a full round 22 holes.


But in 1764, the St Andrews links was altered. The first four holes were changed into two longer ones. After that it was nine holes out, nine holes back. With St Andrews established as golf’s home by that point, this is what stuck.


Why do golfers shout Fore?


Although it isn’t certain, it’s quite possible the term originated from the “forecaddie.” He was given the job of going ahead of the players to spot where their balls landed. If the ball headed in his direction, the player would shout “Forecaddie,” as a warning. In time this was shortened to “Fore!”

‘Is ‘Fore!’ being forgotten?’


Why birdies, eagles and albatrosses?


Again, it’s not known for sure but the terms could well come from U.S. slang of the late 19th century. Back then the word bird was used to describe something as superb – “a bird of a hole,” for example. Eagles and albatrosses evolved from that – bigger and rarer than a mere birdie!


Golf superstitions

Lucky and unlucky tees


Lee Trevino will never use a yellow tee. He considers yellow to be the colour of cowardice and has stated he’d rather hit a driver off the ground than use a yellow tee.


Others fear the red tee as they say it signals danger. Tony Lema wouldn’t use the standard white tee as he felt it to be too run of the mill.


Marking it


Many players mark their ball on the green with a lucky coin. Some use a coin with the year of their birth, some use rare coins, others will only mark with one side of a coin facing up. Poker or casino chips can be considered lucky, particularly if one came as part of a big win.


Do you need a lucky ball marker? We give away a free poker chip ball marker with all Golf Care policies, along with 6 JPX Mizuno balls and 3 rounds of golf at some of the world’s most renowned courses, including The Belfry and Celtic Manor.


No number 3’s please


Many golfers refuse to use a ball with the number three on its surface, as they fear this might cause them to take more three-putts on the greens.

However, others like the 3s as they think they might bring more birdies on the par 4s. Golfers are a funny breed!


If you enjoyed reading this, you’ll be interested in reading

‘A brief history of Golf’ & ‘What I’ve learned in Golf’

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