Golf Historical Society of Canada

Northern Hickory Tour (2023)

Osprey Links Cart Gal

HSC News Item: Sept 1, 2023 – Northern Hickory Tour (2023) Reported by: George Supol, GHSC Hickory Ambassador

The three days, Thursday, August 24 to Saturday, August 26, saw the return of the Northern Hickory Tour to GHSC. Once again, a group of players from Southern Ontario joined a group of players from Northern Ontario to play post-1900 hickory golf. This was the third time the Northern Hickory Tour has been held, thanks to the Event’s organizer’s, Lorne Emery (GHSC President), Bill Vossen (North Bay Hickory Ambassador), and Jim Burton (publisher of the Northern blog The Grateful Golfer).

The trip included a return visit to the City of Orillia’s Couchiching Golf Course on Thursday, followed by a return visit to the City of North Bay’s Osprey Links Golf Course on Friday, and then a first-time visit to Mattawa Golf and Ski Resort situated in the Town of Mattawa near the Quebec border, on Saturday. Both Couchiching and Mattawa are 9-hole courses and it was fun to engage them each twice, especially Couchiching, where there were very different tee blocks for each round both in terms of distance and direction. Couchiching was formally opened on June 3, 1915. It was designed by Stanley Thompson and lies in the heart of Orillia, “Cooch” is a semi-private parkland style—a “hidden jewel.” Osprey Links’ two nines are completely different—one longer and flatter, with lots of water, the other hilly, requiring the playing of target golf using hickories. For this writer, Mattawa was the most enjoyable as the wind picked up and the course had some interesting subtleties in terms of partially obscured approach shots and slightly elevated greens where run-up shots were commonly required. That’s considered normal for hickory golf play.

The three courses we played were charming and very playable with hickory clubs—even a bit rugged with gnarly rough and rolling fairways that gave our play a very historical feeling. Back in the original days of hickory golf, grass cutting machines were not so sophisticated, and were often used less frequently, resulting in slower running fairways and greens. This was similar to the play conditions we encountered.

A great time was had by all our hickory players, and the camaraderie was, in this writer’s opinion, simply superb. We all bonded and there was much discussion over each day’s lunch or dinner about the course we had just played, our current historical golfing implements, and our lucky/unlucky shots.

I highly recommend that hickory players who haven’t yet tried the Northern Hickory Tour do so next year. You’ll be happy you joined.

Below are 41 pics (mostly c/o Allan Lew, Bill Vossen and Jim Burton) from our great 2023 trip to Northern Ontario. Click on an image to see a larger version. The first 5 pics are from Couchiching, the next 23 pics are from North Bay, and the final 13 pics are from Mattawa.

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