Lee Bacchus looks at Golf

Golf Superstitions and Rituals

In every other part of my life, I am the embodiment of the rational, logical, no-nonsense man.

I don't read horoscopes, never feel destined to win the lottery and never make a detour around an ominous ladder. But when it comes to golf, I (and many of my golfing friends) are like tremulous primitives, seething with superstitions and shamanistic rituals.

For instance, my choice of ball. In my case the brand is not as crucial as its seemingly arbitrary number. I hate 1's, am not fond of 4's, will accept a 2, but will always feel a good round will accompany a 3.

Why is this so? I'm not at all sure, but I think it as to do with the fact I once fired a 79 with a Titleist 3, but stumbled to a 92 with a Titleist 1. And besides, a "1" is too intimidating; it's high-ranking status automatically assumes you have something to live up to.

Indeed, when it comes to golf, I can turn from the cool logic-driven certainty of a Spock, to the flighty inner-hysterical beliefs of a Shirley MacLaine. Take my golfing apparel; Choosing my clothes before a round is no simple matter. I have "lucky" shirts, "lucky" shorts and to some extent, even, "lucky" underwear.

It's a damn good thing I'm a consistently bad golfer or else I may be still wearing the same Calvin Kleins I donned when I started the game two decades ago. Of course, I avoid anything other than white or natural wood-colored tees. Pulling out a red or pink tee in my golf belief-system is like drawing the death card in Tarot.

A friend of mine indulges a food ritual as deeply embedded as any you'd find among the lost tribes of New Guinea. Holding it aloft like some magical talisman, he eats a banana before both nines. Ah, the mystical healing powers of potassium!

Another friend, in cooler weather at least, insists on wearing an ancient sweater so hideous in color and design that we can only surmise its purpose is to ward off evil spirits, like the dreaded Demon of the Duck-Hook.

But my superstitions are more subtle, and sometimes I fear they're not so much superstitions but rituals of an obsessive-compulsive kind. For instance, if assigned to scorekeep, I will not pencil in my name first. Last is bad, too, so I will insert myself somewhere in the cozy safety of the second or third line.

Of all my superstitious beliefs, however, none is more magical and insistently important than my choice of headwear.

Visors? Oh, sure, and why don't I piss into the wind while I'm at it.

Tilly-styled hat? And you can write triple-bogey on my card before I even start.

No, I'm afraid the only acceptable headwear is a soft baseball-styled cap I bought at the Gap somewhere back in the early '90s. Sadly, the brim has frayed to the point where the plastic insert in the brim peeks through as if struggling to escape its cotton prison, and a swath of dark sweaty residue has stained its lining. But like the "blankie" I clutched as an infant, this beloved cap, for whatever irrational reason, must be worn.

Sure, it's ugly and a bit smelly, but it beats sacrificing virgins to the local water hazard.

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