By Scott McCormick, a golfer and blogger with Golf Now Dallas.
Even professionals will admit that a little bit of luck can go a long way in golf. Don’t get me wrong – skill, focus, and intense training are all necessary to be at one’s peak. But at the end of the day, the odds of sinking a tiny ball in a tiny hole hundreds of yards away can leave one thinking that there’s more at play in the air other than wind resistance. Sports are often prone to superstitions, but golf is absolutely rife with them. The game’s most popular golfer, Tiger Woods, admits his iconic red shirt is actually a habit of superstition since his mother apparently warned him that wearing red on Sundays would boost his game – being the Capricorn that he is.
Here are some of the most prevalent myths in the game of golf, along with some analysis about how they might have started.
Hazard Balls Carry Bad Mojo
For a variety of reasons, many golfers have acquired the notion that using a ball that has been involved in a hazard shot might result in further hazards down the road. This holds especially true for balls that have unfortunately landed in a water hazard – many pros refer to these balls begrudgingly as “water balls” and will refrain from using them on any further holes for their round. On the other hand, some refuse to brush the dirt off if they’re in the middle of a lucky streak, since they believe that washing their ball will result in changing their luck.
The reason for the belief that balls can carry bad mojo can hinge on several reasons. For some, blaming the “energy” of a ball rather than other factors in the environment can help them explain the lack of consistency in the results of their swing. Others might consider these failings as due to minute differences between balls, despite the fact that they mostly seem identical. Regardless, most golfers aren’t willing to compromise logic when a gut feeling is saying that a ball has bad luck written all over it.
Don’t “Cheap Out”
When it comes to marking where your ball lies, the traditional decision has always been to use a quarter. But more than a simple tradition, many golfers refuse to use any other coinage (meaning going cheap with a penny or dime could spell disaster for your game.) And many golfers regard other balls found in sand traps or left abandoned out-of-bounds of the course to be similarly jinxed as previously stated, and they typically avoid picking them up. But instead of being based on mojo, many people regard this as unsportsman-like.
Despite clichés about golfers being well-to-do, the real basis of these superstitions doesn’t have anything to do with avoiding being a cheapskate; it’s that these practices further standardize the game and make elements of it feel more “controllable.” In a game in which so much is left to the wind (literally,) sports psychologists have recognized the trend of superstitions such as these arising as a means of assuming control over elements of the game in which they have little influence. Further superstitions along these lines hinge on lucky clubs, which players might bring along even if they remain unused. Others might bring lucky charms to focus on, which could boost their confidence when heading up for the tee-off.
The End Game
Regardless of the reasons that we hold these superstitions, the truth is that most of us are fully aware that they are arbitrary and baseless. The habits of seasoned vets may confound rookies who haven’t been in the game for long, but these routines have an important place in maintaining our emotional health while playing the game. The stresses of competition and performance anxiety can take a huge toll on us, but regaining control through these small quirks can be a great way to alleviate our minds and improve our game.
And as long as these practices aren’t inappropriate or too off-the-wall, who’s to say what’s in bounds?
Image Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/raysawhill/8306067796/