Playing Hickory Golf

Playing hickory golf is basically golf with clubs made prior to about 1935, when steel shafts became pretty much the norm. Over the past 30 years or so, the sport has taken off and there are now regional groups of hickory golfers across the U.S., Canada, Australia, and Europe. The Society of Hickory Golfers was created in 2000 as an organizing body to establish tournament and equipment guidelines, sponsor an annual U.S Hickory Open and provide support to the growth of the sport throughout the world.

The sport captivates golfers who enjoy the sensation of capturing a pure shot with clubs that are nearly unique each and every one. Many hundreds of thousands of these clubs were made in the day. Some are collectibles never to be played, others are sturdy “common” clubs that are just right to take to the course for an examination into the art of shot making.

Modern hickory golfers enjoy learning about the players and types of play in use during the major hickory eras of the mid to late 1890s, the early 1900s and the golden era of hickory golf – the 1920s.

Makers of hickory clubs number in the dozens with such names as Tom Stewart, George Nicoll, Slazenger, Wilson, MacGregor, Spalding, Robert Forgan, and many, many others whose clubs are now prized for their workmanship, their sturdy shafts, and the creativity of shots that the great variety of clubs allow one to explore.

Some like to assemble sets of clubs from just one maker, others put a variety of clubs in their play sets as each club may serve a singular purpose. Some pursue original clubs only, while others are happy to enter the sport with modern replicas made by expert craftsmen such as Tad Moore and the artists at Louisville Golf. There are clubs to be found by the hundreds on such sites as eBay and from individual golf antique stores that have websites. They can be found at flea markets, antique stores, and golf collector trade shows, especially the annual GHS trade show and the winter trade show, usually held in Columbus, Ohio.

Experts from the SoHG or the GHS can provide some help if you need answers in how to purchase. Be sure to check out the story below on building a play set.

Then, try them out at your local club. Get some friends to give them a try. Find the nearest hickory golf tournament from the schedule page on the Society of Hickory Golfers. Some of these tournaments offer rental sets where you can explore the game before buying your own clubs. Find what suits you and build a set around that.

Hickory golf tournaments range from the very casual to the premier U.S. Hickory Open and even the world class World Hickory Open, held in Scotland each October. You’ll be welcomed wherever you go as a member of worldwide community that exists to share the joy of a sport that re-engages the spirit of golf and brings smiles to its players.

Participants in the 2011 U.S. Hickory Open at the Donald Ross Course of the French Lick Resort in French Lick, Ind.

Building a Play Set

Click here to learn how to build your own hickory golf play set. You’ll be taken to a page on the website of the Society of Hickory Golfers where you can explore additional aspects of modern hickory golf.

A basic hickory golf set includes a wood such as a driver or spoon (3-wood), mid iron, mashie, mashie niblick, niblick, and putter. These roughly correspond to a three iron, five iron, eight iron, and pitching wedge.