Each month Compleat Golfer’s playing editor Brandon Stone takes us into his world. In this issue he portrays how he played a round with hickory clubs to prove a point to his father…
No matter how young or old you are, there’s always a generation ahead of you who will tell you how things were different things in ‘their day’ and just how good they were compared to today’s generation.
Coming from a family where my father, Kevin, has been in the golf industry for almost four decades – yes, that pushes him into his fifties – I’ve often been lectured about how, ‘You kids will never understand how good us old ballies were in our day.’ He’s been such a powerful and positive influence in my life, though, that I’ve allowed him to get away with preaching to me about it.
We enjoyed our braais growing up, and often the subject around the fire was golf. Especially when the likes of Andre Cruse, Mark Wiltshire and James Kingston came round, I knew there was going to be only one topic of conversation – more so when the beers started to kick in.
So, you can imagine how long I’ve waited for payback, to show them this laaitie can also play a bit, and that I’m as competitive and proud as any golfer who’s walked the great fairways.
I received a call from my old man while I was playing a couple of European Tour events in the Middle East. He mentioned that he was playing at an SA Senior Tour event at Centurion Country Club and wanted to know if he could stay at my house. It’s a rhetorical question, of course. But there was obviously something else on his mind.
He said there was a pro-am on the first day and he wanted me to be his ‘amateur’ partner. I actually laughed and reckoned he was pulling my leg, but he wasn’t. And this excited me, because it is always a pleasure to play with my father in a competition environment. And it brought my competitive instinct to the surface.
First things first, though. What would my handicap be? I hadn’t thought about that in years. We spoke to the guys on the Senior Tour about me playing, and there were a few concerns. However, I had an idea. What if I played with hickory clubs? This would give the ballies an obvious advantage over me, but I also thought that if I could beat them playing with clubs that were a couple of generations older than even my father’s and a few others in the competition, I’d prove my point once and for all: that us youngsters can play!
I have a set of hickory clubs that I bought the night before I won last year’s Scottish Open and I’d been itching to use them on the course ever since.
My old man reckoned that if I played with them I also had to dress the part, so my wife took some of my old Golfino pants and shortened them a bit and we bought some white soccer socks, while my old man bought me a vintage hat.
When I walked on to the range, heads turned. I had a glimpse of what it must have been like when Bobby Jones walked on to the tee. All the seniors loved my outfit, with many suggesting I should wear it on the European Tour sometime. Who knows, maybe I will.
The hickory clubs were a topic of great interest and reflection. Many senior pros had a go at flushing a few down the range like they did back in the day. I tried to replicate them, and I wasn’t far off. I was ready to go.
I ripped the driver off the 1st tee, no more than 220m, mind you, but couldn’t have hand-placed the ball any better in the middle of the fairway. I hit that same club off the deck, just short right of the green. I then chipped it up to six foot and thought, ‘I’m going to birdie my first hickory hole.’ I mean, what’s all the fuss about them being hard to master?
The putt just slid by the right edge and I tapped in for par.
That’s probably as ‘easy’ as it got and I ended up shooting 83 – and I was actually happy with the score. I played the par-threes and fives in a combined one-over, which I’d accept even with my current clubs. But the par-fours killed me, playing them 10-over. The huge difference was the chipping. A wedge that has zero bounce is a recipe for you to climb the walls in frustration.
Overall it was an incredible day out.
Any time I get to play with my old man is a blessing, but the highlight came afterwards in the pub. Listening to some of South Africa’s finest golfers of their generation talk about today’s modern game is highly entertaining. And when they spoke about what the Tour was like in their day I felt a pang of jealousy.
The stories are classic: from driving all over the country in 10-car convoys to pulling pranks on each other on a daily basis. The ‘ballies’ tour must have been a hoot. Nowadays one can’t sneeze on the range for fear of putting someone off during their warm-up.
The bottom line is that golf is not about the courses, nor is it about the equipment. Golf is about the company and just having a great time. And that’s why we all love this game.
Follow Compleat Golfer’s playing editor on Twitter @BrandonMStone and on Instagram at brandonmstone