For the second year in a row, I was invited to play a round of golf by Bill Vossen. This invite was nothing out of the ordinary except our round was to be played with a set of hickory shaft clubs! The Golf Historical Society of Canada was hosting a few members at Osprey Links Golf Course to expose modern day players to a round of golf using equipment technology from the late 1800s and early 1900s. I have to say it that even though it was my second time using these amazing clubs, I found that the experience invigorated my golf game.
When I arrived at Osprey Links, I was met by the usual crew of duffers. With smiles on our faces, we caught up on the happenings with the Historical Society their amazing news about how playing golf with hickory shafts is catching on all over, especially in Ontario. Lorne, my host, mentioned that Golf Canada and the GHSC are pairing up to expand the interest in golf. I do not have any more details at this time, but more to follow.
As we head to the first tee, I was excited to start hitting these vintage clubs. My set consisted of Walter Hagen blades that responded very well to my type of swing. The longer irons were a bit easier to hit, for me, because I did not have to adjust my tempo for half hits or delicate chips. I did struggle with the higher loft irons, but that was a person problem. I found that I did have to club up by two than my modern clubs, but that had nothing to do with technology.
Lorne brought up a very good point about lofts. The number on the club was really a red herring because the lofts associated with, let’s say the 5 iron, the number is actually the same loft at my current 7 iron. So, the loft is actually most important when selecting an iron to hit. I guess this is true for all our clubs, but we really focus on woods and hybrids for this number vice irons. Maybe this is an area that needs more attention when buying new clubs.
Rick joined us this year and he started off hitting the hickory shafts very well. Once he dialed in his tempo, he seemed to be cruising along at a very manageable tempo. His favourite club to hit was the 2-iron. He was most consistent with this club and routinely hit it between 160-175 yards. This particular club equates, in loft, to his 4-iron in his new Mizuno clubs which he hits well, so I guess that just makes sense.
Rick and I found that if we did not over swing and let the hickory shafts do the work, we were successful at making consistent and solid contact. It really was all about the tempo with these older clubs. It is a lesson that we continued to learn all day.
During the round, Lorne explained the history of all the clubs and their origins. He outlined how different clubs were developed to meet the evolving nature of golf. I found his recounting of the explosion of interest in golf in the late 1800s and early 1900s impact on the supply of hickory wood (or actual shortage of wood). The supply and demand relationship of golf equipment drove the advent of metal shafts around 1925.
“The first few decades of the 1900’s saw a lot of experimentation and innovation in the club design. Around 1925 the steel shaft was introduced in the United States, although blacksmiths had experimented with them since the late 1890’s.https://golfcollege.edu/evolution-golf-club/
Not only did I have fun playing with the hickory shafts, I learned a great deal about the evolution of the game I love to play. All sports start from somewhere and golf is not different. Interestingly, golf technology has not really changed that much when I examine the foundations of club manufacturing. The lengths are about the same, the face of the clubs are similar, and the swing mechanics to use older and modern equipment is really similar. Of course there are some new innovations, but basically the equipment is the same at its core.
My two favourite clubs for this round were the driver and 4 wood. The driver was a persimmon style type club. It had a large head and face (comparatively), but the sweet spot was very small. It reminded me of the Ping Eye 2 woods I played when I first started golf. I was very comfortable with this club and hit it about 210 to 220 yards off the tee. On a side note, I knew I hit the ball well when I felt the whip of the shaft. It is difficult to describe, but the feedback from contact was more apparent than my modern Mizuno clubs. This feedback helped me control and maintain the proper swing tempo for the clubs; something I found very valuable when shooting my 79.
My favourite club of all was the “Bull Dog”. This 4 wood did not look like much, but hitting it off the fairway our out of the rough was a breeze. Lorne indicated that it was an early version of a hybrid. I would agree with his assessment because nothing seemed to inhibit its motion through the ball. I hit this club about 175 yards with a baby draw. It definitely was a stroke saver.
I want to thank Bill and Lorne for inviting/hosting the Golf Historical Society of Canada event at Osprey Links Golf Course. I am grateful that this positive experience expanded my understanding to another facet of golf I did not realize was even out there. Now if you will excuse me, I have to go renew my Golf Historical Society of Canada membership.
I am a grateful golfer! See you on the links!