Luck, Lucky Charms & Superstitions in Golf

Charles Howell approached the 18th tee, on the 72nd hole of the 2005 Buick Invitational needing an eagle 3 to get into a playoff with Tiger Woods. From about 100 yards away, Charles struck his 3rd shot perfectly, the ball soared through the sky and landed in the cup… only to bounce backwards and spin into the nearby water.

luck lucky charms in golfGolf is a funny game, it has been said that golf is 30% mental, 60% skill and 10% luck. I personally think the mental game plays a larger part, but I have no doubt that luck plays a significant role. Many PGA players are very superstitious, whether it’s a common as Tiger wearing a red shirt on Sunday, or lesser known stories like Doug Standers refusing to use white golf tees – nearly every player has their hitch.

Here’s a couple history stories you may not be aware of:

• Jerry Kelly only uses dimes to mark his ball that are from the year 1969 or prior.

• Paul Azinger always marked his ball with an American penny, with ole Abe facing the hole every time.

• Chi Chi Rodriguez used a quarter to mark his ball on birdie putts, a buffalo nickel for eagle putts, and if other coins weren’t getting the ball in the cup, he’d switch to a gold coin.

• Natalie Gulbis, our bikini calendar friend, has an odd high-calorie McDonalds infused ritual before every round. Her treat is an Egg McMuffin and hash browns.

• Jack Nicklaus would never use his own tees on par 3’s, he’d always find a broken one to use.

• Duffy Waldorf has his kids write on his golf balls.

• Karrie Webb always used consecutive balls from Thursday to Sunday, start with 4’s and ending with 1’s to finish her round on Sunday. Why? “Of course, I like to be number one on Sundays”, she said.

• Peter Lonard, and Aussie player, much like Tiger, enjoyed the color red on Sundays, but he chose his underpants as his clothing of choice. Unfortunately / fortunately after 15 years of Sundays, the underwear finally worn out.

One of the funniest and most famous incidents related to superstition happened in the 1960’s in a televised event. A commentator told the audience about one of Arnold Palmer’s rituals before a round. “One of the reasons Arnie is play so well,” he said, “is that, before each tee shot, his wife takes out his balls and kisses them…” Oops!

A recent German study featured in Golf Digest did a little test of “luck”. A group of players were given proclaimed “lucky” golf balls, while another group was given “just the same golf ball as everyone used”. The group with the lucky golf balls drained 30% more putts than the group that did not. It just goes to show how large a part the mental game truly plays.

Do you have ay lucky charms or superstitions? What are they?

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  1. I always mark my ball with a poker chip from the MGM grand. I won a bunch there last sping and hope the chip still has some luck in it!

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