There are striking similarities between Hickory Golf of today and the last decades of the 19th century!
Our engaging hobby is almost unknown to the golfing world outside our little band of Practitioners here and abroad, and attracts no professional reward or public notice, with the happy result that it can be competitive without risk of ungentlemanly conduct, and entirely sociable.
Outside Scotland, at least, there was in those days a similar public ignorance or interest, in golf’s early stages of development, and was played in a similar spirit. Although the Victorian Gentry took their pastimes seriously, one looks in vain through the Periodicals and Magazines of the time for references to the game of golf.
In the 20th Century, largely thanks to the American lack of a caste system and willingness to espouse new pursuits, the game grew rapidly – the Club Makers at the Course were overtaken by an equipment industry, and the preserve of the exclusive few became the delight of many, with the help of land availability and a sympathetic climate.
As a natural consequence, hickory was duly replaced by steel, and later materials, both to answer the need for mass production and to improve playability. America led the way in numbers; innovation, and access, with the inevitable result that it came to be as dominant in the world of golf as in the league of Nations. Two World Wars ensured that Europe and the U.K lagged even further behind.
Our golfing return to the equipment of yesteryear may, in its own small way, mark the passing of the status of golf as an international sport, just as the high-tech age has supplanted the mechanical age. Unless America soon finds a new generation of golfing heroes to dominate the sport, there is a real danger that it will follow tennis into a secondary position. Add that thought to the current economic woes, and the dependence of Clubs and Courses on real estate and development values, and the last Century may well prove to have been the zenith of the game’s power and influence.
Golf has always been an individual sport, except for the tribalism of the Ryder Cup and its imitators, and this Hickory Nut will not be unhappy to spend his declining years in the more civilized atmosphere where Open Winners will rejoice in celebratory drinks and parties; money will no longer rule the game, and the best Exponents will not feign greatness or importance beyond their natural skills – Pass the flask!