Ranking the 25 Coolest Traditions in Golf
The centuries-old history of golf makes it a very distinctive sport.
While the game has evolved, some of its great traditions have lasted throughout time and continue today.
Some of them may seem silly, but they all have a special meaning in the game.
Here's a list of what I believe to be 25 very cool traditions in the game of golf.
25. Seeing Jack Nicklaus in His Gray Blazer at the Memorial Tournament
On the very short list of the best houses that Jack built, Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio is a spectacular venue, always in pristine shape and home of the Memorial Tournament.
All tournament committee members wear gray blazers, but none stands out more than Nicklaus as he makes his way around the grounds.
24. Masters Champions Dinner
Each year on Tuesday of Masters week, the previous year’s winner hosts a dinner open only to winners of the Masters.
The host also chooses the menu for the dinner, and because of the number of internationals who have won, some of the greatest players in the game have gotten to sample a wide variety of food.
23. TPC Blue Monster at Doral, 18th Hole
It’s been tweaked and redesigned a bit, but it’s still a monster.
If it weren’t for the water bordering the left side and the bunkers and trees on the right, this 467-yard par four might not be much of a test.
But as the 72nd hole of a PGA Tour event, it’s as tough and thrilling as they come.
At one time, caddies were a very integral part of the game.
Motorized carts, pull carts, even players carrying their own bags wasn’t the way it was done.
But at the country-club level, youngsters interested in doing the job lessened, and clubs had no choice but to turn to golf carts.
Then, of course, that decision started to provide something of a revenue stream, and the use of carts increased.
There are still many higher-echelon clubs that have caddie programs and if you’ve not played a round with a caddie, you’re really missing out.
21. Par 4 Tenth Hole at Rivera Country Club
A drivable par four of just 315 yards from the back tees, this downhill hole has ruined many a contender’s chances at this historic venue.
Bunkers strewn on both sides of the fairway and positioned at odd angles exact a steep price for a shot that finds them.
20. The Green Jacket
If it’s not the most recognizable piece of clothing in golf, it’s close.
The green jacket has been awarded to winners of the tournament since 1937.
That year, members of the club wore green jackets during the tournament so fans could easily recognize them if a fan needed to ask questions.
The single-breasted jacket is “Masters Green” and has the club logo on the left chest pocket and the brass buttons.
19. Amen Corner
Perhaps the most celebrated trio of holes in golf.
The 11th, 12th and 13th holes at Augusta National Golf Club have decided many Masters tournaments both positively and negatively.
No. 11 is a very, very difficult par four, No. 12 is a terrifying short par three and No. 13 rewards a pair of good shots with eagle and birdie opportunities.
18. Par 3 Contest at the Masters
One of the absolute best non-event events ever.
Wednesday afternoon at 1 p.m. of Masters week, many of the current players, as well as the greats of the past, adjourn to the Par 3 Course behind the historic clubhouse for a nine-hole “competition.”
Threesomes move around the course, and many players use family members for caddies, including little children.
There are people everywhere, and roars can be heard all around the grounds.
Don’t forget: No champion of the Par 3 event has ever gone on to win the Masters that week.
17. The Crow’s Nest
Amateurs who make the field for the Masters can opt to stay in this area in the upper part of the historic Masters clubhouse.
It can hold as many as five players. It’s not exactly spacious, but it gives young players an opportunity to experience the Masters in a way no one else can.
They get spectacular views of the grounds from the windows on all sides of the Crow’s Nest.
16. The 17th Hole at TPC Sawgrass
Located on Pete Dye’s architectural jewel in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, this par-three green sits in the middle of a lake.
For the Players Championship the yardage is usually around 140 yards.
Doesn’t sound like much, but considering it’s all water, the fickle winds of May and the nerves of playing in an elite professional event all make it a very difficult hole.
It’s the signature hole on one of the most difficult courses the pros play ever year.
15. The Final Round of the U.S. Open Being Played on Father’s Day
For many years, the U.S. Open ended each year with a 36-hole finale on Saturday.
That changed in 1965 when USGA abolished that practice and made the tournament a four-day event.
Since then, winning the U.S. Open has become special for both players and fathers.
14. The Lighthouse at Hilton Head
You don’t see many television shots or still pictures from Harbour Town Golf Links without seeing the Harbour Town Lighthouse.
It was originally built in 1970 with the intent of attracting boaters from the Intracoastal Waterway, and it has accomplished that.
But it has also become recognized as a landmark for the golf course and a symbol for Hilton Head Island.
13. TPC Scottsdale's 16th Hole
For 51 weeks of the year, the 16th hole at the TPC at Scottsdale is just a routine par three.
Not terribly long, no water hazard. But during the week of the Waste Management Phoenix Open, with hospitality tents lining the 162-yard hole and upwards of 20,000 loud fans cheering and jeering appropriately, nothing else in golf compares.
12. Pebble Beach Golf Links and AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am
One of the highlights on the early-season PGA Tour schedule, the AT&T National Pebble Beach National Pro-Am combines the spectacular scenery afforded by Pebble Beach Golf Links with celebrities and a whole lot of fun for a week.
Bing Crosby hosted this event for many years, and he’d be shocked at how big it has gotten.
11. PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament
Started in 1965, the grueling six-round final was a direct avenue to the PGA Tour for the lucky 25 players who outdueled everyone else.
Those who made it to the final had to survive three prior stages of qualifying.
This year’s tournament was the final one, as the PGA Tour changed the way players will get playing cards for next year.
10. Charitable Giving
Golf is entertainment, whether it’s tournament golf at the highest level or a just-for-fun round with friends. But golf is a lot more than that.
According to a report done by the National Golf Foundation, the golf industry’s charitable impact in 2011 was $3.9 billion.
Its research showed that 12,000 golf facilities, 75 percent of which were in the United States, hosted 143,000 events, drawing 12 million participants and generated an average of $26,300 per function.
9. The Claret Jug
It’s really not that impressive in stature, but it is perhaps the most-revered trophy in golf.
Officially called the Golf Champion Trophy, it’s been awarded to the winner of the Open Championship since 1872.
The current jug was first given to Walter Hagen after he won the 1928.
Each winner gets to keep the jug until the start of the next year's tournament. He returns the original and is then given a replica to keep.
8. Arnold Palmer Standing Behind 18 to Greet the Champion of His Tournament
The King takes great pride in his event, the Arnold Palmer Invitational and insists on being part of the greeting party for the champion.
The big smile, firm handshake and a hug are always part of the greeting.
Fans at this year's tournament got a sneak peek at what it will be like when he's not there. Palmer was taken to a hospital to have his blood pressure checked and missed those ceremonies.
7. The Wicker Baskets on the Flagsticks at Merion Golf Club
The East Course at Merion Golf Club was designed by Hugh Wilson.
As he studied English golf course designs, he noticed shepherds carried staffs with baskets at one end to hold their lunch.
Wilson decided to use the baskets to help golfers locate the holes, but also to keep the direction and strength of any wind a mystery. The baskets have been part of the East Course since 1912.
6. The 12th at Augusta National
So what would you think of a par three that requires a mid-iron tee shot over a creek to a green that tilts from back to front, has virtually no room for long misses, is fronted by a shaved bank and most times is unforgiving?
Well, it sounds a bit terrifying and it is, even for the best players in the world who play it in the annual Masters tournament.
Several times over the years, contenders have seen their title dreams disappear on this little hole.
5. The Ryder Cup
There is no other competition in golf that stirs the passion and excitement of players and fans like this biennial team competition does.
The United States dominated the early competition against Great Britain & Ireland, but once the setup of the event was changed to include the rest of Europe, the tide turned, and it became a real-live heartfelt battle.
It sometimes goes a bit over the top, but it is something the players and fans from both sides eagerly look forward to.
4. Ivor Robson’s Distinctive Voice as Starter at the Open Championship
He’s as much a part of the Open Championship as the heather and gorse, strong winds and quirky links course.
Ivor Robson has been the voice of the Open since 1975, and he announces every player who steps onto the first tee each year.
Check out his very distinctive voice as he introduces Padraig Harrington.
3. Removing Hats and Shaking Hands at the Conclusion of a Round
Golf has long been referred to as a gentleman’s game, and a very simple gesture at the end of the round shows that.
The simple act of taking off your hat or visor and shaking your playing partner’s hand is the way it’s always been done and the way it always should be.
It's a sign of respect and friendship for the other player, even in defeat.
2. The Old Course at St. Andrews
The birthplace of golf isn’t much to look at aesthetically, but the Old Course is something that should be on every golfer’s bucket list.
The quirky bounces, odd angles and outrageous undulations on both greens and fairways make it the golfing experience of a lifetime.
What other course has things like the Swilcan Bridge, Valley of Sin, Road Hole?
How about seven greens that are shared by two holes each?
Hitting the tee shot blindly over the corner of the Old Course Hotel in an attempt to find the fairway on the17th hole?
It’s one of a kind and makes the Open Championship even more special when it's held there.
1. Honorary Starters at the Masters
In a tradition that has been in existence since 1963 when Jock Hutchison and Fred McLeod hit the ceremonial first shots at Augusta National Golf Club, big crowds gather early Thursday morning to watch Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player do the honors.
Even though the official field doesn't start competing until an hour later, the Big Three doing the honors signals that the Masters is underway.
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