To promote the new golf movie Tommy’s Honor, Jordan Spieth put aside the Under Armour polo for a day and stepped into a time when wearing a suit and bonnet was more appropriate. Interestingly enough, it wasn’t only the hickory golf clubs that proved just how skilled the golfers were back in the day.
When golf started, woods were actually made out of wood and hickory golf clubs were the norm. Men wore full suits on the golf course, creating the ultimate gentleman’s game. In today’s day and age, the players wear much more casual clothing, so you would imagine Spieth’s surprise when he tried to hit a ball in a stiff jacket.
Spieth said the period attire forces a more compact swing. Even with that more compact swing, he experienced a massive loss of power and control…but gained an appreciation for the Old Tom Morrises of the world and luminaries of the early game.
Here’s Spieth in all his tweed-and-newsboy cap glory, using dirt as a tee.
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) March 30, 2017
And if you’re champing at the bit for more footage of PGA Tour pros hitting hickory clubs, you’re in luck! At the then-called Northern Trust Open at Riviera last year, Kevin Na, Charley Hoffman, and more took a few swings with some vintage weaponry.
The universal reaction to hitting hickories and the irons of yore is “these are cool” and “these are hard to hit.” This seems to hold true for professionals and amateurs alike.
Of course, there’s an entire subset of the golfing population that collects and hits clubs from late late 19th/early 20th century…with the appropriate gutta percha balls. If you’re a real enthusiast for hand-made clubs from before the demon invention of steel shafts, you’re probably also dressing up in period attire for the “total look.”
If you can believe it, there are no shortage of organizations dedicated to playing hickory in the United States, The Society of Hickory golfers, and similar. So are these folks just the Civil War re-enactors of the golf world? Kooks relegated to the margins? Perhaps. But they shouldn’t be. In a game that venerates history and tradition, and one that has seen massive changes in technology, hickory golf is an important reminder of the game’s origins.
And it stands to reason that if you love, say, St. Andrews, you should at least be curious about the way it was originally played. Far from being a mere thought experiment, though, you can actually play classic venues with period equipment, ala Jordan Spieth in the video that began this bit. That’s something to be celebrated and enjoyed.