There are so many vacillating aspects of one's golf game to worry about: grip, stance and swing plane, to name but a few. Throw in variables like weather, course conditions and residual effects from the night before, and it's a miracle one can ever play the game with any consistency at all. So, faced with all these factors that I cannot control, I like to focus on those parts of my game that I can control. One of the most important—but often overlooked—is the organization of one's pockets. Yes, pockets. You have total control over what you put in your pockets. And I maintain that putting the same things in the same pockets every time I play gives me an intangible yet invaluable advantage over an opponent who doesn't.
Here's how my system works:
Two long tees (three if the ground is unusually hard) for use with driver. Tees must be either white or natural wood color. Ball-mark repair tool (metal—not plastic—and not too heavy). Ball markers (either two or three, depending on how many people I'm playing with), which must be perfectly flat. Avoid magnetic ball markers; they will attach themselves to other markers and to the ball-mark repair tool, which is most undesirable. Lip balm.
Scorecard. Pencil—with eraser. If I happen to be playing one of the increasingly rare courses that features pencils without erasers, I take a properly outfitted pencil out of my golf bag. (Pencils, of course, are kept in the same bag pocket as my portable pencil sharpener.) Second ball. Same brand as the one in play, but with a different (I prefer higher) number to avoid confusion. Like the first ball, it should have a single dot below the number, placed there with the permanent marker that resides in my golf bag, not in a pants pocket.
Wallet. Should contain numerous bills of each denomination in order to pay caddie and/or make change when settling bets at the nineteenth hole. Scorecard from first round (if playing thirty-six).
Two short tees (if long tees are white, short tees should be natural wood, and vice versa) for use with irons, hybrids or fairway woods. Pocket watch. No one as clearly obsessive-compulsive as I am could possibly wear a wristwatch while playing golf. (Or rings. Or even a golf glove, for that matter.) But I am loath to step on the course without a timepiece of some kind. I like—no, need—to know exactly how long I've been out on the course. Many golfers walk off the eighteenth green and say something like, "Wow! Seventy-nine! Best round this year!" I am more likely to glance at my watch and announce, "Three hours and forty-seven minutes. Not bad."
So there you have it—the contents of my four pockets. Nothing more, nothing less, day in, day out. Car keys, comb, loose change—all of these extraneous items are banished before play. No foreign objects are permitted to find their way into my pockets during the course of play. That way madness lies.
It occurred to me—as it may have occurred to you—that I might be afflicted with an extreme case of pocket punctiliousness, so I talked to legendary instructor Butch Harmon to gain some perspective.