Playing Golf With Hickory Shaft Golf Clubs

For the third time in four years, the Golf Historical Society of Canada offered the opportunity to play a round of golf using hickory shaft golf clubs (hickories) at Osprey Links. As per previous years, I was teamed with Lorne Emery, GHSC Secretary and Ambassador. Lorne entertained our group for 18 holes with historical information about the creation of specific clubs, their origin and who played them. Additionally, he kept us laughing with funny tales about golf through personal stories. This event is definitely a highlight of my golf season and I am already looking forward to next year.

This year Lorne outfitted me with a set of 1928 Walter Hagen clubs made by CR Young from Detroit. They were the prototype to modern day Wilson staff clubs. It took a few holes to adjust to these beauties, but on hole four, I was in a groove. I was hitting the ball very well off the tee with the tiny drivers as long as I hit the center of the club face. For most tee shots, I hit the ball between 200 and 225 yards. Not bad for wooden shafts.

The trick to hitting these wonderful clubs was to not over swing. Unlike modern day clubs, they do not react well to a fast swing where I was trying to muscle the equipment. Letting the club do all the work is an expression I have used before; when playing hickories, this is definitely a mantra that is need to produce the best results during each swing.

Lorne also added a plethora of different clubs to try. Two of my favourites was the “Sammy”, a driving iron, and the transitional spoon, the precursor to the modern day hybrid. I found I could hit both straight about 190 yards. Contact was solid and were great clubs to hit off the deck. The cool aspect about these clubs is that they were at least 100 years old. I would love to hear how technology has changed the game when these ‘relics’ still perform as good as most modern clubs.

Unfortunately, I was too busy have a fantastic time to take a picture of the transitional spoon, however if you think of tapered piece of wood at the end of a hickory shaft, you would be close.

Another club that I used was a Jack White special. It was an amazing club off the tee and in the fairway. It had the feel of my Ping Eye 2 Driver that I used to play. This club maker was famous for providing the clubs for the famous amateur – Bobby Jones. I figure if was good enough for Jones, they have to be good enough for my game. It was a fun to reminisce about the history of this club and who may have used this brand over the years.

As I think back to the different clubs I hit and how they played, I wonder if the modern day technology has really improved the game of golf. The science is the same from my point of view. Yes, modern clubs are more forgiving on off-center hits. Not sure that is a good thing for golf, but it is the way of modern golf. Additionally, after playing hickories it is easy to see how advertisement plays an overly important role in club purchases. Chasing the next, best thing seems to be the strategy of many golfers. I am not convinced that is the way to play better golf.

Our group did find the sand a fair bit over the round. Lorne, fortunately, had a solution to this problem. He brought a sand wedge from the 1930s that easily played as well as my modern sand wedge. It sure looked the same and felt the same. I tried using the other vintage clubs out of the sand, but the edges were too sharp and all I did was dig a hole.

Lorne and Mike hit the hickories the best. By trying different clubs with different grips, I had a great time, but it did not result in my best score. I bring this up because many golfers get confused and use their score as a metric to having fun on the links. The score was completely irrelevant because the intent of the day was to have fun playing with hickories. Well, I have to say that I accomplished this goal with flying colours.

As I sit here writing this article, I am contemplating buying my own set of hickories. I am not quite there yet, but I think it would be fun to play these vintage clubs more than once a year. I will be making this decision very soon.

On a side note, Golf Canada has sanctioned the first Hickory Handicap System by any country’s National Governing Golf Body. This will be administered by the GHSC. Check out the details at Golf Canada Hickory Division at the GHSC.

I want to thank the GHSC for hosting the event. Specifically, I want to thank Bill, Lorne, Al, John, and Doug for hosting the group of keen golfers. It was a fantastic day and every golfer had a wonderful time. Playing hickories is a hoot and it is a highlight of my golf season.

I am a grateful golfer! See you on the links!


6 thoughts on “Playing Golf With Hickory Shaft Golf Clubs

  1. Jim Dont hesitate to pickup a set of hickory clubs. Right hand small sets of irons are readily available. I play a weekly 9 holes using mine and find it helps my outlook on the game.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It was a blast playing with you, Mike and Blair again and I thoroughly enjoyed our game.

    Your ball striking was very good and most of your missed strokes came down to putting. I was going to buy you Chapstick since you lipped out so much (LOL). Since you were trying a new putter, you can’t be too hard on yourself. The purpose of our outing was to experience golf as it was played a hundred years ago. Let me say that I love your enthusiasm and willingness to try every club and shot.

    The vintage clubs are very playable as you have discovered. For those of us that play them frequently, our scores are in line with our modern clubs provided we play from appropriate tee blocks. I play my hickories at least three times per week and find them to be the best swing trainer ever. These clubs also improve your creativity in shotmaking and golf course management. It has a positive effect on your modern game.

    I really hope that you decide to get your own set. It gives you a new appreciation for the history of the game and the many characters that have played the game. Channeling your inner Bobby Jones or Walter Hagen is a rewarding experience as you have discovered.

    As a vintage golf aficionado, I realize that I am thumbing my nose at the current equipment hype that technology will make you a better golfer. The solution to playing better is to hone your skills, not looking for magical clubs.

    I am a grateful golfer like you. Thanks for giving me a chance to share my love of the history of golf. I know that Johnny, Doug, and Allan feel the same way.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lorne,

      It was a great time as always. I do not think you are thumbing your nose at anyone, but talking about your passion. That is always a good thing. Yeah, lipping out 8 times was very laughable and I earned the nickname chap stick! Thanks again for the invite.

      Cheers Jim


  3. Playing with no glove. I know you do it. I tried to do it today and feel like I may be able to get used to it. But it will take more adjustment than I thought. The club feels too thin. lol But I don’t worry about my connection to it. The grips I put on make for the most secure connection I’ve ever felt. Even sweating in the Florida heat and humidity with no glove on there was never a time when it felt too loose or that I wasn’t in control. I didn’t feel a need to squeeze to get that. Something about all those “facets” molded in. It’s like gripping a round rubberized meat tenderizer. lol

    I’d say I did very well when hitting irons. My wedges I’ve not used a glove for a long time so that was no problem. But the woods gave me an issue. I gave it the old college try and stuck with it longer than I probably should have considering I was in a skins game. But my wedges bailed me out of almost all the trouble I caused myself exceedingly well and I ended tied for second and pocketing money rather than losing it. From 15 in I had a glove on and no skins got by me though I missed two possible skins with lip out putts and a final eagle attempt on the high side.

    I’ll play with it a bit and see if it takes hold. I certainly don’t thing with these grips there is any need for one for controls sake, but after using one as long as I have it may take a little to get past the mental side of things and it may just not be worth it. One of those you don’t know unless you try for real things.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kevin,

      I find that with no glove I do have a better feel all around. When I stopped using a glove, many years ago, it did take a bit of getting use to. However, I cannot see me using one now. Also, I do not have the challenge of the Florida weather either.

      Cheers Jim


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s