Types of Golf Traditions

By Jessica Mousseau

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Golf is an old sport with a broad range of traditions. Though there is much debate over who actually invented golf, the game as we know it today was so popular in Scotland that by the 1600s the King had to outlaw it in order to get his people to practice archery needed for military campaigns! Golf traditions can be seen as a positive aspect of the game or, in some cases, as a negative force that keeps golf from keeping up with the times and including all players. Some golf traditions dictate how the game is played with what equipment, while other traditions are more casual and concern the post- celebratory drink buying.


There are about as many golf traditions out there as there are golfers. One of the most popular golf traditions is that a golfer who makes a hole in one buys a round of drinks for the other golfers at the country club after the game.

Since 1949, winners of the Masters tournament have been awarded a green blazer, which is a tournament-specific golf tradition. After one year, they are required to return the jacket to the club. The jackets are then held onsite for them to wear when at the club, but they are not allowed to keep the green blazer in their possession after the first year unless they return to win the Masters tournament for another year.

Some golf traditions dictate what equipment golfers use. This sometimes creates controversy as players and golfing associations debate how to balance changing technology with traditions. Several years ago, the United States Golf Association came under fire when they asked golf ball manufacturers to submit prototype designs to them. Golfers felt that tradition dictated they remain true to the classic dimpled golf ball design that has been the standard for the past hundred years. The USGA felt that other concerns, like the increasing number of injuries and property damage to far flying balls, took precedence over tradition, and that a newer, shorter flying ball was needed.


Golf traditions can vary wildly depending on where you are playing the game. As with all traditions, some are worldwide, but the majority are regional. In New England, the tradition is for golfers to end their day on the course with a "broken down golf cart," an alcoholic beverage that combines amaretto, melon liquor and a dash of lime juice. Golf martinis have become a fairly recent tradition after a game of golf in New York. Some traditions are not only regional but are particular to specific golf courses or tournaments. For example, the winner of the LPGA's ANA Inspiration (one of the women's major championships) takes a celebratory jump into the water hazard on the final hole.

Time Frame

Golf was popularized in Scotland during the 13th century. This means that not only has the game had a long time for develop traditions to develop, but that many of the roots of these traditions have been obscured. Originally leather pouches filled with feathers were used as golf balls. That was one tradition golfers were happy to let fade when they discovered how much farther dimpled balls could travel. We know that the traditional golf word "par" was actually borrowed from the stock market during the late 1800s. It is unclear what term was used to express this idea before then.


Not all of golf's traditions are positive. Some private golf clubs continue sexist practices by denying women membership based upon club tradition. In addition, many country clubs throughout America had prevented non-white members, specifically African-Americans and Jews, from joining by both formal and informal means. Many of these practices continued until the 70s, 80s, and even 90s.