PRESS RELEASE ISSUED BY Golf Creations (Pty) Ltd and Hickory™ Golf South Africa | Sunday 2nd October 2022
The World Hickory Open Championship is the pinnacle of playing Hickory Golf for the regular players of this supremely interesting form of the wonderful game of golf. The beauty of Hickory Golf is that it can be presented in many different ways and playing traditional golf in the modern world is not just for the serious traditionalists, but for anyone who is remotely interested in golf and history.
South Africa first participated in the World Hickory Open ten years ago when a team travelled to Scotland with a degree of trepidation to explore this mysterious way of managing one’s way around the linksland! It proved to be an incredibly enjoyable experience with a significant degree of success for the fledgling Hickory golfers from Africa with Dave Usendorff finishing 3rd in the individual Championship and South Africa also third as a team in the Team Challenge!
Since that initial foray onto the Monifieth Links, players from South Africa have done battle a further four times on various Linksland in Scotland against up to sixteen countries armed with only six vintage clubs and a great deal of spirit!
What is Hickory Golf anyway?
Quotes by Brandon de Kock (former Editor of Compleat Golfer) from an article he wrote about his time at the 2013 World Hickory Open Championship provide a great summary of Hickory Golf!
“If there’s one thing more important than a ‘go to club’ when you’re a hickory virgin, it’s a sense of humour. In the Hickory Open, and presumably whenever this form of the game is played, there are those who play to win and those who have gone back in time for the sheer thrill of it all. I’m not talking about 300-yard drives here, or perfectly struck 8-irons that stop in their pitch marks; I’m talking about the joy of understanding the game of golf in a way that’s been almost entirely forgotten – a lost wisdom of sorts. When you have hickory sticks in your hand, things suddenly make sense, including just about every golfing cliché you’ve ever heard.
Swing hard and fast, rather than smooth and slow, for example, and you stand an excellent chance of snapping the shaft like a toothpick. The standard set of six clubs and the challenge with all of them is that the sweet spot is marginally larger than a full stop but when you do find it, the feeling is extreme – like a cover drive out the middle of the bat or a backhand down the line that finds the epicentre of the strings. Miss it, just a fraction, and it feels as if you’ve struck a large stone with a small rake: horrible. So you learn to swing long and slow, smooth and rhythmically – or the ball won’t listen, no matter how hard you scream.
On day two, in torrid conditions, a wise local summed things up when he said: “Aye, on days like this, the green’s not a target, it’s a destination!” It’s why those in the know call it ‘the running game’: this is not about hitting your ball from A to B, it’s about solving the riddle of a ball that flies 100 metres in the air and runs another 40 along mounds and gullies, around the snagging swathes of fescue grasses dancing in the wind. Throw in a howling wind and driving rain, and the dry death rattle of spiky, impenetrable gorse bushes and you’d be forgiven for thinking you have landed in a battle scene from Macbeth.
In some ways, Montrose was a perfect venue: one of the courses that make this stretch of coast on the east of Scotland a bucket-list item for anyone with golf shoes. From St Andrews further south, through nearby Carnoustie right up to Royal Aberdeen and everywhere in between, it’s a trip back in time.
Above: With hickory golf, it’s more about the experience than your final score.
On any given day golf can be a challenge and sometimes using a four-piece tour ball and a modern pitching-wedge can be a daunting task when playing certain holes, but it can reach a whole new level when carrying small leather tube of a bag containing somewhat limited options.
The Basic Set
Although the modern set of golf clubs typically numbers 14, a basic hickory set has fewer clubs. The late Ralph Livingston III, one of the pioneers of modern hickory golf, recommended a six-club collection as a basic starter play set. This is what you’ll see in many hickory rental sets too.
- Brassie– serves as both a driver and fairway wood, about 13-14 degrees loft
- Mid-Iron– for long iron shots, about 25-27 degrees loft
- Mashie– for approach shots, about 34-36 degrees loft
- Mashie Niblick– short approach and pitch shots, about 43-47 degrees loft)
- Niblick– lofted for bunker and pitch shots, 52 -57 degrees loft
- Putter– for putting and maybe defending yourself
Hickory in South Africa
Hickory Golf was introduced to South Africa by Paul Adams who fell in love with ‘hickory’ a few years back when he played with hickories in Scotland and subsequently played in the World Hickory Open. Paul started collecting hickory sets accumulated sufficient clubs to equip players to experience this form of the game and so Hickory™ Golf South Africa was born.
There are a number of supporters of Hickory Golf in South Africa including Dale Hayes as well as Louis Hattingh from SuperSport and the PGA Professional Dave Usendorff who both played in the first World Hickory Open Championship in which South Africa participated. South Africa has competed at the World Hickory Open Championship on four occasions and done extremely well with a third place in the Open Division and a Bronze Medal in the Handicap Division.. and even winning the Team Challenge in 2014!
Over the last decade, in South Africa, Hickory™ Golf SA Experiences have been conducted at over 30 golf clubs and for many companies such as Standard Bank, Old Mutual, FNB and Nando’s to mention a few. In 2016 the Super-skills Challenge at the SuperSport Shootout took on a twist when the contestants used hickory-shafted to demonstrate their golfing skills; a contest that was won by Neil Tovey and his brother Mark who represented Football.
The objective with the Hickory™ Golf SA Experiences is to let the participants play as per tradition with “no tees but sand” and certainly no “preferred lies” are allowed! A bagpiper might pipe the players onto the “links land” and players can often look forward to some interesting Scottish fayre from a “hickory menu” and perhaps a wee drappie or two might greet the players on completion.
Experiences can comprise a few holes to gain an appreciation of how skilled golfers were in the 1800 and early 1900’s or maybe nine or even 18 holes of “competitive” hickory golf as played at the World Hickory Open Championship!
The Next Steps with Hickory™ Golf South Africa
Hickory™ Golf SA is ready to move to the next level and a new era is dawning; Gowrie Farm will become the “Home of Hickory™ Golf South Africa” which is an extremely exciting development that will provide a superb platform for many more golfers to “Play Traditional Golf in the Modern Era” through attractive packages for:
- Groups of golfing friends
- Tours arranged by Golfing Societies
- Club Professionals bring groups of Club Members.
Hickory™ Golf SA is set to grow and the vision is:
- To hold Hickory Pro-Am
- To ultimately put a South African Hickory™ Golf Open Championship on the international Hickory Open calendar
- For South Africa to again compete at the World Hickory Open!
Credit: Brandon de Kock – former Editor of Compleat Golfer magazine