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After two-time major champion Sandy Lyle won the World Hickory Open on the Panmure Golf Club Oct. 7-8 in Carnoustie, Scotland, interest in hickory golf spiked once again.
Hickory golf, in which competitors use old hickory-shafted clubs (or replicas), appears to be growing around the world.
The sport is expanding, said Hamp Munsey, president of the Society of Hickory Golfers in the United States. Were seeing growth in a wide geographic area, including many European countries.
According to veteran clubmaker Tad Moore in Selma, Ala., sales of hickory-shafted clubs are up many orders received through the Internet as golfers discover the thrill of old-time golf.
There are two primary forms of hickory golf. In tournaments such as the World Hickory Open, players use pre-1935 clubs with hickory shafts. Reproductions, made primarily in the U.S. by Tad Moore Golf and Louisville (Ky.) Golf, are carried by many players.
However, these golfers use modern golf balls, the most popular being ultra-soft models.
Meanwhile, some hickory purists prefer to play Gutty Golf, using pre-1900 clubs and gutta-percha balls. These balls do not go nearly as far, and scores generally are much higher.
Lyle, 56, shot 74-69 in the 36-hole World Hickory Open to win by three shots over Englands Andrew Marshall and Paolo Quirici of Switzerland.
I made him a full set of clubs, said Moore, 73, who has been making modern and historical golf clubs for about 50 years.
There are reports of Sandy playing in Champions Tour events and hitting balls on the range with his hickory-shafted clubs. Anyway, he liked them so much he bought additional sets for his family and friends. And he bought some more for himself, so he could have sets on both sides of the Atlantic.
Lyle, who won the 1985 Open Championship and 1988 Masters, became interested in hickory golf three years ago when he came across an old set in the offices of golf course architect Scott Macpherson. The New Zealand born architect and Lyle are collaborating on a course called Kersewell in Lanarkshire, Scotland.
Lyle was so keen to try the hickories out that the pair went to play at Musselburgh Golf Club, an old Open Championship venue.
It was quite fascinating to experience how our forefathers played, Lyle told Golfweek.
Moore, who designed the Dunlop irons that Lyle used to win his Open Championship, made Lyle a matching set from driving iron to sand iron with stronger shafts (weighing about 200 grams) and thickened grips.
Lyle regularly plays with his hickories using modern balls, playing rounds at Prestwick, St. Andrews, Royal Dornoch and Skibo Castle, among others. Last Sunday, Lyle said he played 12 holes with hickories, and he uses them to practice.
The clubs help Lyle get a good feel for his swing.
Its really good to help you tune your senses, he says, because they can be unpredictable as far as shaping the ball goes. ... I would recommend them for any young golfer who wants to experience playing golf in the raw. The feedback you get is incredible.
Munsey, who resides in Greensboro, N.C., has become something of a walking, talking encyclopedia of hickory golf. Were beginning to get some younger members, which is a very good sign, he said.
Historically the Society of Hickory Golfers was composed mostly of senior players. Thats because hickory golf is an outgrowth of The Golf Collectors Society, Munsey said. The reasoning went like this: We collect all these clubs, so why dont we go play with them. And they did.
Golf courses for the open division in hickory events have been about 6,200 or 6,300 yards, although they are getting slightly longer as the competition improves.
And beware, traditionalists. Lyle already is planning a defense of his title at Carnoustie next year.