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!