I started playing golf at Doon Valley Golf Course in Kitchener in the mid-eighties after I had finished my schooling and started working in Kitchener at BF Goodrich. It’s a good thing that I waited until then as in my first-year golfing, I played 66 games and since then rarely under 100 games annually!
It all began when a friend of mine at work asked if I’d be interested in playing golf some weekend with him and a good friend of his. Well, my father, who was a farmer and never played a game of golf in his life, knew from his circle of friends that if I wanted to be in the business world (I went to the University of Waterloo to become a Chartered Accountant) then I had to take up golfing and he helped to buy me my first set of clubs. With that incentive and the offer of a game, I said of course! The rest is history – after my first 3 games I was hooked and signed up as a member!
At Doon, I did have a “brush” with hickory golf but it was not really appealing to me at the time. There was a member, Jerry Caskenette, who was also a member of the Golf Historical Society of Canada and he would show us some of his old clubs from time to time, but I never took an interest – why would you want to try and hit the ball with something like that when you have all of the new technology available? Well, Jerry might have been onto something and now that I do play hickory golf, I have acquired one of his replica putters (he made clubs and his stamp is on the bottom) – albeit 25 years or so later!
And that leads into my story on how I actually got my start with playing hickories. About a dozen years ago, I moved over to Cambridge Golf Club, along with a bunch of former Doon members, and later met Lorne Emery. During one of the charity tournaments about two years ago, Lorne had a display set up on one of the par threes and all of the players got to hit a hickory club from the forward tees. Well, the club that I hit certainly didn’t look like anything that I’d hit before – grip, shaft, club head all looked pretty “ancient” but I tried to put a smooth swing on the shot (as recommended by Lorne after he selected the club for me) and to my surprise, it worked! The ball went up in the air towards the flag and ended up about 15 feet or so behind the hole!
Later that summer, after my weekend group’s game Lorne approached me, several times about playing a round of hickories – he would even provide a full set of matched clubs (no small feat since I’m a lefty!). Eventually I thought why not – what’s the worst that could happen (as Lorne would say)! I’m not sure how Lorne did it but the first hole was a simple regulation par, two on and two putt – nothing too special here other than the ball going very straight which was a bit odd. This could be fun but then par magically disappeared for the next 16 holes, instead replaced with bogies, doubles, and triples with the ball rarely getting in the air after the tee shot. But then magic happened again on the 18th hole when I got a regulation par – just to remind me that I could golf!
It was fun! After a few more games I decided that I needed my own set of clubs so I purchased the set of matched clubs from Lorne and then played a total of about 45 rounds of hickory golf before the end of the year. Since I was playing original clubs so much they were starting to take a bit of punishment, especially the woods – chipping, screws coming loose, so over the winter, I decided to get a set of replica woods and irons from Tad Moore. I was pretty sure that I’d be playing more hickory rounds so I needed a set that could handle that. I received them in early April and magic happened the next day. It was a beautiful day so I decided to play the new clubs and shot an amazing 76—a great score for me! Another beautiful day followed so I played them again hoping for a score close to the previous day. Not even close – a 93 under the same conditions (same course). Golf’s a strange game.
Anyway, that didn’t stop me from playing about 100 rounds of hickory golf last year along with over 80 games of “modern” golf. For some reason, I seem to enjoy playing the hickory clubs more than my modern clubs right now – maybe because I think that I have more potential for better scores with them than my moderns – I’m not sure. The one thing I am sure of is that “golf is a game—hickory golf is a puzzle” and I’m constantly working on trying to figure it out!
Since I’m a lefty it’s a bit more difficult to find older clubs but I’m trying to put together a set of Stewarts and also trying to find a left-handed Schenectady putter (if such an animal exists!)
I’m looking for interesting clubs that might help me to expand my current set and my game!
I have the following hickory-shafted clubs:
Any course that appreciates me playing there and does their best to ensure that I have a great experience
Ontario courses that are open in December (January, and February)
I’ve only been a member for the past couple of years but I really enjoy meeting other members and playing hickory golf with them
I also enjoy helping and watching “first-time” hickory players hitting good golf shots and their reactions to playing with “old” clubs (don’t worry – they won’t break!).