Preserving the rich history of hickory golf clubs for future generations

Golf's rich history goes back centuries, with origins in Scotland.

While the games and tools used in the game have changed quite a bit since its beginnings, one group in the Phoenix area is trying to keep the old game alive.

Each club has its own story. For John McIntosh, his love of golf is in his blood.

"I set the record at Palmbrook in 1996.. that's the local newspaper article.. that's the original scorecard there.. I shot 62.. so there's a time in life when I actually knew how to play the game," he said.

John's family, originally from Scotland, was one of the first families to help teach the game of golf to North Americans. His grandfather, D.B. Dave McIntosh, was sent to America in the late 1800s by "Old Tom" Morris of Saint Andrews. His arrival helped lay the foundation for golf's rich history here in the United States.

John's grandfather would eventually design one of the premiere courses at the time, Oak Hills Country Club, just outside of Chicago. It was here that young John developed a passion for his grandfather's old hickory sticks.

"I feel his spirit. And I feel his energy, is the term I think I use. I can feel his energy and these golf clubs, because I know he had his hands on them. And he was there. Either putting them together or testing them after his guys that worked for him put them together."

It's an energy that still permeates through his home. Scattered around every room in his house, John's collection of hickory sticks continues to grow.

"This is probably from the late 1800s.. when we turn it over, it says Galewood, Illinois."

Hundreds of clubs, some more than a century old and many were made by his Grandpa Mac.

"This is one of the clubs my grandfather made for Grandma Mac," he said. "Probably 90% of the clubs I have, have this stamping.. the pro at Glen Oak. There's the pipe I was referring to, meaning they were forged at Tom Stewart's foundary at Saint Andrews."

Unlike the carbon and graphite clubs we use today, these sticks are typically made from ash or hickory wood.

"A bulldog club, I would compare it to the modern hybrid club. It has some loft to it and it's useful for getting out of tough lies and so forth."

He admits that these clubs can be harder to control. But for John, and other club collectors like him, they believe it's important to preserve the rich history of hickory golf clubs for future generations. The movement has even spawned dozens of tournaments around the country, including one that took place in Sun City West back in March.

Nearly a hundred hickory golf collectors hit the links with their original sticks, each one with its own story to tell.

Some of these golfers are no stranger to the game either, like 76-year-old Jack Delany. He's been playing golf for most of his life, but when he was introduced to the hickory game a few years ago, he knew he had to try it.

"The golf swings look similar, the clubs are not similar.. I see a lot of other players hitting the ball lower, sometimes the bad kind of low, than i do with other clubs."

For John McIntosh, all of hickory clubs are special.

"I play modern clubs, as well as antique hickory clubs. And I love them all the same."

Due to how fragile most of his hickory clubs are, John will only bring them out for special tournaments, but the connection he makes every time he drives the ball using one of his grandfather's sticks is something he says never gets old.

"It's a family thing with me and when I hit a good shot.. thanks, grandpa. You did good work, you know."

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