Guidelines for Historical Golf Play

Historical golf play is discussed here.

For both competitive and casual historical golf play in Canada, Golf Historical Society of Canada (GHSC) generally recommends following the guidelines for equipment, balls, etc. as presented by the U.S. Society of Hickory Golfers (SOHG). 

However, individual SOHG guidelines may be relaxed at the discretion of an event’s organizers, particularly with respect to casual play events. 

Below are some of the more significant GHSC-recommended guidelines for historical golf play, divided into four sections. (In a few cases below, we have added some light humour.)

A) FOR HICKORY GOLF (pre-1935):

Clubs:
  1. For either pre-1900 and post-1900 hickory golf play, original and reproduction or re-constructed period-appropriate golf clubs may be used. Shafts should be made of hickory or another wood that is period-appropriate.
  2. For pre-1900 hickory play, irons should be smooth-faced and woods should be long-nose or transitional in shape.
  3. For pre-1900 and post-1900 hickory golf play, there is no limit to the number of golf clubs one may carry in their golf bag and/or on their person. 
 
Balls:
  1. For post-1900 hickory play, modern golf balls (i.e. conforming golf balls which are approved for use by the USGA/R&A) may be used. Period-appropriate approved replica balls are also acceptable.
  2. For pre-1900 hickory play, approved replica gutty golf balls are generally used.
 
Other:
  1. Laser finders and other digital devices for determining distance (but not slope) are permitted. (We generally don’t have caddies to help us so why not?)
  2. Golf carts are fine. (Especially since we are all getting older and sometimes need some extra help.)
  3. Wooden, plastic or sand tees may be used. (If you can make the sand thing work, go for it.)
  4. Golf gloves are acceptable. (We’re not that picky.)
  5. Golfers are encouraged to wear period-appropriate attire during historical golf play. (We’re about having fun, so let’s dress-up.)
  6. For scoring, we encourage the use of a Modified Stableford system. For individual Golf Canada hickory handicapping, actual hole-by-hole scoring is to be used.
 

B) FOR CLASSIC STEEL (generally 1924 to 1980’s):

Clubs and Balls:
  1. Players are encouraged to use steel-shafted clubs including small-headed persimmon woods. (We want you to set those older clubs in your basement free!)
  2. Modern or classic golf balls may be used. (Ever hit a 1970’s Titleist balata ball? Talk about soft!)
 

C) RULES OF GOLF:

GHSC generally recommends applying Golf Canada’s latest Rules of Golf for historical golf play. This is to reduce player confusion since some golfers play both modern and historical golf. However, for some historical golf events, the organizers may wish to apply period-appropriate golf rules. Here are links to authentic period-appropriate Rules of Golf for hickory play:

  1. Pre-1900 (R&A Rules – 1895)
  2. Post-1900 (R&A rules – 1921)

D) ADDITIONAL COMMENTS:

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, GHSC promoted and supported an Ontario Hickory Tour which was more rules-focused. As a result of the pandemic, we currently promote and support historical golf play on the basis that having fun is the most important thing. For a competitive Canadian historical golf event, the event’s organizers will determine what specific rules for equipment and play apply. GHSC’s Board Members are always available for consultation.

Golf Historical Society of Canada
1346 Clyde Rd.
Cambridge, ON N1R 5S7

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