Image via Flickr user Don DeBold
The goal of insurance is usually to protect us from life’s least happy circumstances: the loss of a family’s primary breadwinner, the theft of one’s car, the onset of an illness requiring expensive treatment. We buy insurance to protect us from misfortune and the times when lady luck lets us down.
But there is one type of insurance that people buy to protect them from the consequences of unusually good luck: In Japan, the U.K., and, to a lesser extent, around the world, golfers buy insurance to protect themselves from the potentially bankrupting consequences of sinking a hole in one.
The concept of hole in one insurance may baffle the uninitiated, but to many it is a wise precaution as golf tradition holds that anyone who scores a hole in one should buy drinks back at the clubhouse for his playing group — if not everyone present. In Japan, many give extravagant gifts to friends and family after scoring a lucky ace.
In our research, we failed to dig up a definitive account of how the tradition became so entrenched. It likely came out of exuberant golfers buying rounds of drinks for friends and even strangers. Perhaps it was influenced by the idea behind many traditions of someone who experiences a great success humbling him or herself. (In judo, for example, anyone promoted to a higher belt is celebrated by being thrown onto his or her back by everyone else in the room). Clubhouses also likely promoted the tradition as a way to drive up bar tabs, while some speculate that golf courses, which often put up a plaque for holes in one, may have formalized the tradition to discourage golfers from making false claims.
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