It is what every bride is told to wear on the day of her wedding – something old, new, borrowed and blue. It can very well apply to the gentlemen and gentlewomen who assemble each year at the USGTF-sponsored World Hickory Open in Scotland. Some take to the links with clubs that have been aged for a century. Others wield modern authentics crafted by companies that still make clubs in the old tradition. Some have to borrow clubs to compete as they are entering for the first time, and many are blue when a wayward mashie shot finds the gorse or pot bunker. It is all part of the challenge we refer to as hickory golf. I would dare say that the mention of Panmure Golf Club would just pass over the heads of most golfers these days. But the layout just minutes down the road from Carnoustie Championship has a storied history and provided a perfect venue for the 12th World Hickory Open. It is the16th-oldest course in Scotland, dating to 1845, with renovations over the years by the great James Braid. The club was one of the first to help purchase the trophy for the Amateur Championship, which was first played in 1885. It is used as a qualifying site for the Open Championship when ever played at Carnoustie. Not especially long at 6,500 yards, it always proves to be the hardest qualifying course of those used. The sixth is known as the Hogan Hole because Ben Hogan practiced at Panmure for his only appearance at the Open Championship. I parred it both days, but we’ll forgo how. He said it was one of the finest holes ever created. He even suggested the addition of a bunker just to the right and short of the green, which was added and has subsequently been named the Hogan Bunker. One of the things I love about Scottish courses is how they name holes and features such as bunkers, hills and hollows. Hogan spent much of his time hitting shots to the 17th green, and one day he asked that the green be cut shorter to better simulate the conditions at Carnoustie. The head greenkeeper handed him a mower, and Hogan cut the grass himself, even cleaning the mower before returning it. This year, about 130 hickory players from around the world participated in the championship, and several stayed for the team triangular match on two subsequent days following the tournament. It is a tribute to the popularity and growth of the old form over the past several years. The chairman, Lionel Freedman of Musselburgh, has created a first-class competition that has grown to be the premier hickory event on the annual calendar. When a major champion like Sandy Lyle dons the traditional plus-fours, you get the feeling it is a special event. Hickory golf is still a small niche of the golf landscape, but it has steadily grown over the past decade, and playing on centuries-old courses as they were played back then is a special treat. There is nothing like ripping a mashie over a narrow burn to the heart of the green. Knowing that that shot was the culmination of your skill as a golfer is invigorating. Not to all, but certainly to those who recognize the challenge presented by hickory golf. I get a huge lift of spirit playing the game and seeing my hickory friends each year. This was one of my better ones as I finished 5th pro and collected a few more memories to take forward into the future.
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