Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Turning Back the Clock to Hickory Shafted Golf Clubs

Modern golf equipment has experienced a constant technological march forward. More distance, more power, more accuracy. With 460cc titanium drivers, cavity back irons, space age graphite shafts and high tech putters, golfers are constantly searching for the Holy Grail of equipment.

At the same time, there seems to be a movement away from scoring low with the latest equipment, to the more ethereal 1920s when mashies, guttta-percha balls and cool clothes were all the rage. Players are donning knickers, finding hickory shafted collectibles and entering tournaments like the 3rd Annual World Hickory Open at Craigielaw Golf Club in Aberlady, Scotland and the 10th Annual National Hickory Championship at Oakhurst Links in West Virginia.

Yet, finding authentic 1920s-era equipment and using it on the course requires scouring antique shops, flea markets and grandpa’s attic and that doesn't guarantee you'll find anything worth playing with. For those ready to go all out for a complete set of "retro" clubs you can pick up a circa 1930 Bobby Jones Replica Set offered by Golf Links for a mere $3995.

A new company, hoping to take advantage of the surge in "retro" golf is Sweet Wood Golf Company based in Maryland. They have introduced their first hickory shafted putters called "Brunette", "Red Head" and "Blonde", not because they have pictures of women on the soleplate, but because of the stain color on the hickory used in their shafts. They expect this line to retail for $135. A bargain in comparison to some of the fancy high tech putters currently on the market.

Since 1974 there has really only been one company that dominates the "semi-retro" space in golf equipment and that is Louisville Golf. They have been making persimmon drivers and putters all that time and have seen the ups and downs of being a unique golf club manufacturer, but they only take the "retro" movement so far. Their heads are wood, but their shafts are modern steel and graphite. Their prices are modern too.

Another option might be playing with irons fitted with hickory shafts. Sweet Wood Golf Company expects to introduce their Modern-Day Hickory Irons that will have 8210 soft carbon steel iron heads, modern loft/lie angles, USA turned hickory shafts and PGA Tour certified slip on leather grips for the expected market price of around $1800.

It remains to be seen if hickory-shafted golf clubs take off, but if you are a "retro" fan and think that the authenticity of the equipment you play is as important as the game, then modern day golf equipment has nothing over niblicks, brassies and hickory shafts.

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