You may have played The Ocean Course from the tips, or the Old Course in a gale. You may have arrived for the final round of a member-guest with a hangover so overwhelming that you used handicap parking–and deserved it.
But there is another, tougher form of golf.
I tried it yesterday. It defeated me. Utterly.
The occasion was a warm-up round for the National Hickory Championship, which will be contested by avid historians/masochists around the globe on June 11 and 12. The NHO is not the hickory diversion you may be familiar with, the game of plus-fours and Bobby Jones, an era which ended, for the most part, with St. Bobby concluding his career in 1930.
Instead, the NHO salutes an even earlier golf period–1850 to 1900, approximately–which we might characterize by what it did not have: neither tees, bags, bounce, nor grooves. The “long nose” 19th Century driver looked like a wooden banana attached to a stick. It struck a ball called the gutta percha, named for petrified sap harvested from Malaysian sopadilla trees, and a durable successor to the hand-made featherie.
And you’ll be petrified when you have to carry a hazard only fifty yards in the distance. For the guttie leaps off the tee like a pelican filled with lead and it flies as straight and true as a beer-fueled sparrow.
For a less fanciful illustration of the difficulty, let us turn to the Open Championship of, say, 1876 (they played just two rounds back then). Bob Martin, a Scot, shot 86-90 to win first money–10 Pounds Sterling–and the title of Champion Golfer of the Year.
In response to the Virus—in defiance of it, really—the National Hickory Championship will be held all over the world, more or less simultaneously, by any group of two or more on any course with a Slope, with all of us playing the identical yardage. If you have a sense of humor, a desire to get in touch with our game’s history, and a flask, you may want to enter.
You’re going to need some of those evil, guttie balls: contact McIntyregolf.com. You’ll need approved replica clubs: that’s Louisvillegolf.com or Tadmoore.com. It’s also a good idea to visit the website of The Golf Heritage Society to get the lay of the land.
To enter, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
And we’ll see you, via Zoom, on June 11. And in the flesh next year, we hope, when Gearhart Golf Links, the grande dame of the north Oregon Coast, hosts the 2021 Hickory Open.