"Hickory is the new black.” I heard it more than once.
That’s not the colour hickory, but the old-fashioned version of the game: Where men wore tights from the knee down and swings were fluid. Actually, the best swings can be described as oily, maybe even greasy.
Hickory golf is still golf, but not quite how we know it.
This is more of a negotiation than a bullying of the course. It’s about finesse, and luck, and remembering the good shots because that’s easier than forgetting all those bad ones.
Australia’s Hickory Championships have been won and done. As a first-time combatant and future zealot, I can attest to the joy of the hickory. Damn it, I’ll go further and plead the need for our past.
After watching the head of my driver go deep into a dam (as reported last month), I was forced to find a new one. Enter Tommy Moore, a PGA life member and the closest thing to a Godfather of the game in NSW. As you’d expect, there are a dwindling number of folks to turn to if you’re in need of replacement hickory stock. In Sydney, Tommy’s it.
There are others of course – every state will have a go-to tinkerer.
After road testing some drivers at his home course of Muirfield, I went to his place for a quick re-grip. Oh, the embarrassment. You may or may not know I’m currently having an affair with my shed. I’ve got tools coming out my whazoo, and I don’t count a day as good unless I’ve tripped over at least one power cord.
"Playing with hickory clubs feels like catching up with an old best friend from years ago." – Andrew Daddo
Old Tommy Moore, on the other hand, has a tin shed with a work bench on the outside. He does have a vice, and that’s where the fancy stuff ends. A chisel to chop the grips, road tar for adhesive (seriously), a few well-told stories and old-fashioned know how to round out the show.
So, to the championships at Concord Golf Club. There’s an argument to say Tom Doak didn’t have hickory golf in mind during his redesign. It was tough, let’s say that. And long. But by God, we were all in together.
I’m not sure how many turned up, but am certain that these were my people. Lovers of the game, and dress ups and preservers of where we’ve come from for the good of our future.
“Oh,” you scoff. “Look at the old bastards.”
But I like to think, “Oh, look at the old bastards. Just look at them. Feel the joy and the fun as they search for something special. Oh, how they laugh – at the good and the bad. Just look at them.”
I was lucky enough to play with Phil Baird, an oily looper from Manly, Women’s Club Captain and first-timer Kathy Every-Burns and dual Australian Champion and 2011 US Hickory Open Champ, Allan Grieve.
Nervous? Me? What do you reckon?
But Al domed his tee shot, and his second, and his third. Kathy hit a pearler, Phil hit a ripper and amazingly, I found the fairway – the adjacent fairway. No matter. No harm done, the green was never in play for the second shot anyway.
Good shots followed bad, and bad shots followed good, but rarely in a row. Kathy started the day with seven clubs, by the end she had three – and a trophy for her troubles.
Putting was a test, but that might have more to do with Mr Doak than the pokey wands we were wielding. There are no grooves to speak of, no spin as such. It’s a game of land it short and hope for the best.
And maybe that’s what I like about the hickories. The best golfer will still win, but every golfer will have a moment. Weirdly, it didn’t feel as if we were battling the course or our clubs, but we were trying to work with them.
We were forced to think differently. “Oh, look, there’s a shape I can work with.” A flick of the wrists, a widening of the stance, a short jab or a long hook. There’s poetry at your fingertips and you’re actually dressed to embrace it.
Playing with hickory clubs feels like catching up with an old best friend from years ago. There’s trepidation cloaked in hope – you just need a few moments together to remember how it all went. We were mates. Inseparable. It can be like that again, we just need to find a moment and a reason.
And you do.
And then you remember how good it was, that together you were special. That even though this may be a fleeting reunion, it was worth the effort to capture the past.
Trust me when I say, “Hickory is the new black.” You just need to embrace it and get on board before it turns grey.
Want to hear more about the life and times of Tommy Moore? Visit www.golfaustralia.com.au/thethingaboutgolf and take a listen to our podcast.