Four-leaf clovers in the fairway: How lucky are you on a golf course?

How lucky are you as a golfer?

Have a hole in one? Blessed with a swing like Fred Couples? Have a spouse that lets you play all day every day?

I've been accused of being pretty lucky in golf, especially since I didn't grow up around the game. I only picked up a club on a whim in college.

If only I had a dollar for every time someone told me I was lucky to have the "best job in the world". I review golf courses for a living, a career that sends me around the planet, seeking the next great place to play.

Further proof of my good fortune in the game: I have a pair of hole in ones. And believe me, people who have seen my funky homemade swing think my two aces must be pure luck.

I'm not entirely a believer in luck. Growing up, I read a quote by former University of Michigan quarterback Jim Harbaugh that has stuck with me: "Luck is a byproduct of hard work."

To me, you make your own luck in golf. If you hit a tree, it's "unlucky", but who hit the shot in that direction in the first place? Golf gods doll out as many good bounces as bad. That's the rub of the green.

Think of all the times you've gotten "lucky" on the golf course (keep it clean, people!). It's probably more than you imagine. It's easier to remember the bad bounces and horrible lies and take the good things for granted. If you're playing golf at all, consider yourself lucky. Many people aren't athletic enough or have enough money or time to play.

In honor of St. Patrick's Day - and the Luck of the Irish - I'm here to celebrate all things lucky that happen to golfers on the course. I'm not necessarily talking about lucky bounces off the rake, but more about experiences where you feel truly "lucky" when something good happened to you. I've experience many of these scenarios. How about you? Have a moment where you felt "lucky" on the golf course? Let us know in the comments below.

Dealing an ace

According to the National Hole-in-One Registry, the odds of the average golfer making a hole-in-one are 12,000 to 1. Not exactly "winning the lottery" odds but still pretty difficult to overcome. The one ace I've witnessed that wasn't mine has to be the luckiest of all time. Years ago, a Canadian radio journalist - his name long forgotten - skulled a tee shot badly on a par 3 on The Tribute at the Otsego Golf Club in Gaylord, Mich. The ball hit the top of the flagstick and raced down the pole into the cup. It all happened so fast, no one actually saw the ball go in. Amazing.

Jackson Van Paris, 14, is one of a handful of golfers to already make an ace on The Cradle.

A fortuitous random pairing

The ultimate luck would be walking to the first tee and being paired with a member at Augusta, Pine Valley, Cypress Point, and you hit it off well enough to land an invite. I'm still waiting for that chance, although I probably have to thank a lucky pairing for launching my career.

I was a young, hustling freelance golf writer until my lucky break, a random pairing at a course grand opening with a publisher who had just launched a golf magazine in Michigan. He hired me as a contributing editor and suddenly my opportunities grew. The course wasn't so fortunate. The Yarrow Golf & Conference Center closed in 2015.

The ultimate underdog

Being a middling handicapper, one of my greatest joys in the game is hitting the big shot to win the match, especially if I'm the worst player in the foursome, which is often the case playing with PGA pros and directors of golf. I might scuffle along for most of the round with my usual game, but for one magic moment, I was the man. I've chipped in and hit 50-foot putts to swing momentum. The defeated might say I got lucky. Sore losers, if you ask me.

The weatherman blows it (in your favor)

As everybody knows, never trust the weatherman. I've had sunny forecasts turn to trash and rainy days washed in sunshine. My luckiest break with the weather has to be the day I played 36 holes at Royal St. George's and Royal Cinque Ports, two highly acclaimed links in southeast England. Against my better judgment after monitoring the forecast all week, I got up at 4 a.m. to catch an early morning high-speed train out of London, ditching my family vacation in the process. The deluge scheduled to land in Sandwich never came. I walked two former Open venues in pure sunshine. What a surprise.

Meeting your soulmate

Okay, this has never happened to me, but it could happen. What if you happen upon your soulmate during your next round of golf? Maybe you make a connection with the cart girl or the head pro or just some random guy on the range. Surely there are golfers out there somewhere who married someone she/he met at the course, perhaps a regular customer finally wins over someone in the shop. I'd love to read that romantic tale. Marriage is hard ... but it's probably a little easier if both of you love golf.

An invite inside the gates

For the muni golfer, the "luckiest" you may ever feel is the day you get to play at the best private club in town, the one you pass by all the time in your car and assume you'll never get to play. You know you'll likely never get the invite again, so the whole day feels extra special. You show up early, wear your best outfit and can't wipe the grin off your face. That's a special and exclusive "lucky" feeling.

Free beer!

Sometimes, all it takes is something little to feel fortunate. Free beer would do the trick for most golfers. I know a few Golf Channel colleagues who like to hand out beers from their homes along the fairways. Sometimes in person. Sometimes from a cooler set out for the players. Lucky indeed.

Sidestepping slow play

Slow play is one of a golfer's biggest fears.

Unfortunately, on the day you show up, the course is packed. You just know it's going to be a five-hour death march. Luckily, the pro shop throws you a lifeline. The pro allows you to sneak off the back side. By the time you get to the front side, it's wide open. You can't believe it. You just finished in three hours.

An old friend comes back to life

Nothing gets golfers giddy like their home course reopening after a necessary renovation. It will make you feel like it's Christmas morning and you're 10 all over again, tearing wrapping paper off that present.

You've missed your old friend, both the course and the friends you hang with there. Now that everything's cleaner - new greens, better bunkers - it's the best feeling in the world.

That's how my Golf Channel colleagues feel about the transformation at the Winter Park Country Club north of Orlando. The 100-year-old municipal course was rundown and forgettable until a dynamic $1.2 million renovation by architects Keith Rhebb and Riley Johns gave the 2,500-yard, nine-hole routing more character. Now 'WP' is the unofficial office country club.

A winter warm spell

Living in Michigan most of my life, I know the lucky feeling of an unexpected winter thaw all too well. Winter can be long, cold and deflating. But one random semi-warm, sunny day in December or January can cure those pent-up winter blues. The snow melts. Your course opens. When it's been 20 degrees for two months, enjoying 55-degree weather feels like you're in Hawaii. Playing this kind of unexpected round of golf has never made you feel so lucky to be ALIVE.

Scoring at sweepstakes

Winning a free golf trip means you're winning at life. The opportunities to win a sweepstakes are everywhere. You just have to look for them and apply often as you're allowed to increase the odds. All sorts of places offer sweepstakes opportunities by e-mail or online promotions - especially resorts, destination courses and tour operators. Or you might get a chance to win by attending a charity golf event or auction. Golf Advisor has run sweeps featuring rounds at great courses with top PGA Tour stars like Dustin Johnson and Bubba Watson. It pays to be lucky. Just ask the guy taking the selfie with Bubba.

Jason Scott Deegan has reviewed and photographed more than 1,000 courses and written about golf destinations in 20 countries for some of the industry's biggest publications. His work has been honored by the Golf Writer's Association of America and the Michigan Press Association. Follow him on Instagram at @jasondeegangolfpass and Twitter at @WorldGolfer.
Commented on

A few years ago, a friend and I decided to play a round at a course in the Toronto area. When we arrived, we were told that several young pros were playing practice rounds to warm up for an attempt to make the CPGA tour.

As we approached the first tee, two of these young gentlemen in a cart also approached and asked, "May we join you"? Needless to say, we answered with a loud, "Absolutely"!

I have never enjoyed a round of golf as much as that one! It was truly awe inspiring to the "wanna-be" pros negotiate the course!

What a great stroke of luck!

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Commented on

11 years ago I met this girl in a bar. We hit it off right away and soon after I discovered she not only liked golf, but she was quite good as her dad raised her around the golf courses of Scottsdale. Siezing on the moment I offered our first 'date' to be on the course a few days later. Early morning, opening hole, a par 5. I'm rummaging around in the right rough by some trees 50 yds from the green looking for my 2nd shot when I hear her hit behnid me (from the fairway) about 65yds out. Her ball hits the green 6 feet from the hole, skips once and rolls into the cup for the eagle.

For better or for worse, I married her.

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Four-leaf clovers in the fairway: How lucky are you on a golf course?