The Green Jacket and Beyond: Iconic Golf Traditions
By Bradley Turner, Keiser University College of Golf Director of Online Golf Instruction – MBA, PGA
Golf has been played for over five hundred years, and over this time, there is a rich history of traditions that have been woven into the customs and culture of the game. From the hallowed grounds of St. Andrews in Scotland to the flawless conditions at Augusta National, golf traditions have evolved over the centuries, blending elements of skill, honor, and camaraderie. In this article, we will explore some of the iconic golf traditions and their origins and how they may influence the traditions in your local golf community.
Masters Traditions and History
The most coveted garment in the world of sports is the iconic Green Jacket, which is presented to the winner. Its origin traces back to 1937 when members of the Augusta National Golf Club wore a green jacket during the Masters Tournament to stand out for patrons who sought information. Sam Snead was the first recipient of the Green Jacket when he won the Masters in 1949. If you own a Green Jacket, you are either a member of the Augusta National Golf Club or you have won the Masters Tournament, an exclusive group for certain!
The Masters Tournament has iconic traditions that make it the most-watched golf tournament every year. One of the most revered moments in the golf tournament is the Opening Tee shot from past champions. In 2023, Gary Player, Tom Watson, and Jack Nicklaus hit their ceremonial tee shots from the first tee, indicating that the tournament had officially gotten underway.
Another Masters tradition is the Par 3 tournament, which is held on the Wednesday before the start of the tournament. The Masters committee selects hole locations that are conducive to hole-in-ones, making the event fun for players and spectators. The golf course is closed to players on Wednesday afternoons so the maintenance team can complete the final preparations for the tournament.
The Champions Dinner was started in 1952 by the great Ben Hogan, who had won the Masters in 1951. Hogan established the tradition that the previous year’s winner would select the dinner menu and host the evening’s events. As you can imagine, Augusta National has employed a world-class culinary team to deliver a one-of-a-kind experience for the Champions Dinner. In 2023, Scottie Scheffler hosted the dinner serving a home-state favorite, Texas Ribeye Steaks.
The Home of Golf – Scotland
The game of golf has been played for centuries, with the St. Andrews Golf Club being heralded as the home of golf. The oldest golf tournament is the Open Championship, which was first played in 1860 and has been contested at St. Andrews 29 times. In addition, the British Amateur has been held at St. Andrews 16 times. For golf enthusiasts, a trip to St. Andrews is a must for the bucket list.
St. Andrews golf course has some iconic features that separate the golf experience from almost every other golf course. Many of the bunkers on the golf course have been named for historic characters of the local community. The Road Hole, as the name implies, has a road alongside the green, and it is considered an integral part of the hole. This means that a golfer must play from the road; there is no relief.
On the 18th hole, all golfers will cross the Swilcan Bridge, which spans the small Swilcan Burn and served as a bridge for livestock as far back as the year 1250. The bridge has witnessed centuries of golf history and the modern tradition of players pausing for photographs on its hallowed stone surface. All the great golfers in the history of the game crossed this iconic bridge, an unforgettable experience for everyday golfers.
The Claret Jug is presented to the Open Champion and is considered the oldest sports trophy in the world. First presented to the Champion Golfer of the Year in 1873, the names engraved on the Claret Jug include many of the greatest to have ever played the game. The tradition of drinking your favorite libation from the Jug continues today for the Open Champion.
Other Traditions and Your Local Golf Community
Traditions of the game have permeated into the golfing experience of golfers everywhere. An example is the dress code expectations for golfers. While these expectations have changed a bit over the past decade, it is expected that you wear golf apparel on the golf course. A casual dress code on the golf course is much different than a casual dress code for many other sporting and leisure activities. It is good advice to clearly understand the dress code when visiting a private country club. Some of these facilities have strict dress expectations, including dinner jackets and removing hats when entering the clubhouse.
Another tradition in the game that you may experience in your golf community is to remove your hat and shake hands with your fellow competitors. The traditions and etiquette of the game have been around for centuries, yet the origin of this practice is unknown for sure. It stems from the days when men wore hats for protection from the elements, and a sign of respect when meeting someone was to remove the hat to make better eye contact with the person. This custom was easily transferred to golf as it portrays the gentlemanly quality and expectations in playing the game.
There is much speculation as to the origins of the tradition of buying drinks after a hole-in-one. The likely version goes back to the 1870s when a hole-in-one was cause for celebration with the lucky golfer receiving drinks from his fellow golfers. As the tradition expanded, there became an unusual increase in reported hole-in-ones. It became evident that there were too many miracle shots happening with the motive of a free drink as a primary reason. Thus, the tradition changed. If you were fortunate enough to make a hole-in-one, the golfer would buy drinks for everyone else. Amazingly, the number of reported holes in one plummeted. As for buying drinks for everyone in the clubhouse, back in the 1800s, there were only a handful of golfers playing daily. Buying drinks for a dozen golfers is manageable. Buying drinks for one hundred golfers in the clubhouse is something different. If you are fortunate enough to make a hole-in-one, celebrate with your foursome, and buy them each a drink, it is considered proper etiquette to do so!
Golf distinguishes itself from other sports through its timeless traditions and cultural practices. These traditions have become the fabric of the golf experience for players around the world. While most golfers will never own a Green Jacket or hold the Claret Jug, the rich history and traditions of the game can be experienced every day at every golf course in the world.
Want more tips? If you want to take your game to the next level, contact our team at Keiser University’s College of Golf & Sport Management today. With our dedication and experience, together, we can elevate your game to new heights. Give us a call today at 888-344-4964.