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Golf Superstitions: It’s Only Weird If It Doesn’t Work

Tiger hardly noticed a soft pressure on his shoulder when he was playing in the Presidents Cup in Dublin, Ohio (2013). Indeed, he tried to waft it away until he realized that his girlfriend, Lindsey Vonn, had snuck a baby squirrel onto his shoulder. Apparently Davis Love III found “Sammy the Squirrel” and carried it in his pocket until handing it off to Vonn. “Sammy,” quickly adopted as the team’s good-luck charm, was no doubt credited with a role in the U.S. win over the Internationals.

We all know what color of shirt Tiger wears on Sundays. While Stacey Lewis likes to wear something blue, Lexi Thompson wears ladybug earrings, and Paula Creamer shows up on the final round in something pink. “When I look at pink it makes me happy,” says Creamer, “The Pink Panther.” Creamer also has a pink panther club head cover and often plays a pink golf ball.

Photo by Post & Courier

Paula Creamer always shows up on the final round in something pink because the color makes her “happy.”
Photo by Post & Courier

The Reader’s Digest Universal Dictionary defines superstition as, “an unfounded belief that some action or circumstance completely unrelated to a course of events can influence its outcome.” Some experts believe that superstitions or lucky charms can calm otherwise chaotic situations by helping to create a greater feeling of control and reducing anxiety.

Testing the power of luck in a German study some players were given “lucky” golf balls, while others were given the same golf ball but without being told they were lucky. The group with the lucky golf balls made 30% more putts than the other group.

If giving in to a harmless ritual – whether it be wearing red or carrying a shell in your golf bag as Brittany Lang has done, a gift from a young fan – can give you a better sense of control and calm, it makes sense. The mental aspect of golf can really influence the outcome.

When a golfer wins a tournament and goes back over his or her game, he or she often tries to figure out what might have been different about this time. Something they wore? Something they ate? Not wanting to jinx their next tournament, they will try to stay with whatever that “x-factor” was when they play again. Why mess with success?

So when the Big Easy (Ernie Els) gets a birdie, he won’t use that ball again: for him there is only one birdie in a ball. And after Nick Watney finished 6th in the 2009 Farmers Insurance Open, caddie Chad Reynolds, vowed not to cut his hair as long as Watney finished in the top 10, a string holding up for five events. (Boston Red Sox Fans could relate to the facial hair thing).

ernie els

When Ernie Els gets a birdie, he won’t use that ball again: for him there is only one birdie in a ball. Photo by Golf Channel

Numbers Game

Numbers count, too. Dustin Johnson always has two tees and a 1960s quarter in his pocket because he likes shooting in the 60s. Tom Weiskoff carries three tees and three cents in his pocket; Ernie Els thinks the number two is unlucky, and Jack Nicklaus plays with three coins in his pocket. Jimmy Walker prefers to play with odd-numbered balls and Karrie Webb and Retief Goosen start on Thursday using 4’s and play down consecutively until Sunday when they use 1’s.

Ever wonder why balls aren’t made with numbers higher than four very often? The higher numbers are believed to bring bad luck. Go figure.

Marking It

Paul Azinger marks his golf ball with a penny and makes sure “Honest Abe” is facing the hole, Frank Vega of SuperStroke uses an earring once worn by his mother-in-law, and Davis Love III uses a 1965 or 1966 penny as a ball marker. Why? He believes pennies minted after 1970 are unlucky.

Then there’s Chi Chi Rodriguez. He plunks down a quarter to mark his birdie putts, a buffalo nickel for eagle putts, and if that’s not working, he’ll switch to a gold coin. Keegan Bradley marks his ball with a coin heads up and Zach Johnson uses a marker made by his wife, Kim, that contains biblical phrases he reads during the round.

zach johnson

Zach Johnson uses a marker made by his wife, Kim, that contains biblical phrases he reads during the round.
Photo by Golf Channel

Teed Off

Davis Love III uses only white tees, Lee Trevino refuses to use yellow tees, and Colin Montgomerie won’t use red or yellow tees as they are associated with hazard stakes.

Food Fetishes

Natalie Gulbis is known to eat a McDonald’s Egg McMuffin and hash browns before she tees off and Hall of Famer third baseman Wade Boggs ate chicken before every game, took exactly 150 ground balls during infield practice, and wrote the word “Chai” (meaning “life”) in the dirt each time he went to bat.


Remember the hang-ups Melvin (Jack Nicholson) had in the movie, “As Good as it Gets” where he ate breakfast every day in the same restaurant and avoided stepping on any sidewalk cracks? Now watch Christina Kim when she walks onto the green being careful not to step on the edge for that could bring bad luck.

One of the most hilarious bloopers occurred in the 1960s as a T.V. commentator explained Arnold Palmer’s ritual before each round. He reported, “One of the reasons Arnie is playing so well is that, before each tee shot, his wife takes out his balls and kisses them…” So much for live television!

And the ultimate superstition? Steward Cink will tell you he avoids all superstitions because they are in themselves bad luck. Guess we could call that the “anti-superstition superstition!


What superstitions or quirky routines do you have when it comes to golf?

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