When resident Stan Spring localized his love for playing golf with hickory clubs to Louisiana’s City Park Golf Course—which opened in 1928, before the popularity of steel-shafted clubs—he began donating excess equipment to the course and encouraged others to follow suit. His hope was to collect enough so fellow hickory enthusiasts could rent clubs and play the sport as it was once played.
Stan Spring, a member of the Society of Hickory Golfers, has taken his game in a different direction, and he’s inviting Louisiana golfers to join him, The Baton Rouge Advocate reported. Rather than steel or graphite, the shafts on his clubs are made of hickory. And the faces of some of his irons are as smooth as butter knives, lacking the customary grooves. As for the woods—well, you don’t have to explain how they got that name.
“It’s a lot of fun, and it’s completely different,” Spring said. “It’s kind of like going back in time.”
Spring, 67, became interested in the old clubs in 2005 after watching two movies—“Stroke of Genius,” about Bobby Jones, one of golf’s early 20th-century greats, and “The Greatest Game Ever Played,” about Francis Ouimet’s stunning upset victory in the 1913 U.S. Open, The Advocate reported. He began buying clubs from that era and learned to repair and restore them.
“I just get a charge out of knowing over 100 years ago, here was this golf club that somebody put together by hand and has a hand-forged head on it,” Spring said. “And nobody’s touched it and it looks like crap, and now it looks like it used to be and it’s playable.”
Spring has played in hickory-only tournaments around the country, but decided there was a perfect place for them in his own backyard—Baton Rouge’s City Park Golf Course, which opened in 1928, The Advocate reported. Except for a renovation that turned two par-4s into par-3s, the course remains much as it was. The course was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2002.
City Park’s early players would have used hickory-shaft clubs. Steel-shaft clubs didn’t come into vogue until the late 1930s, and early versions were made to resemble wood for fear that golfers would object to the look of metal, The Advocate reported. They didn’t, and hickory shafts went the way of knickers.
Spring donated some of his hickory clubs to City Park and is encouraging anyone who owns them to do the same, The Advocate reported. Spring said he wants the course to have enough so that golfers who want to play the old course with old equipment can rent sets from the pro shop.
He’s been finding golfers who share his interest, The Advocate reported. Pete Hittle, who moved to Dutchtown, La. in 2014, began collecting antique clubs when he lived in Iowa, got them repaired and put together a set for playing.
“I’m just thrilled to find some hickory guys,” Hittle said. “I haven’t played modern clubs in at least 10 years.”
Danny Simoneaux, club pro at City Park, and his assistant, Charlie Marquette, have tested the old clubs, The Advocate reported. Even using modern golf balls—Spring also makes old-style balls from gutta percha, a tree resin that was used for decades starting in the mid-19th century—Simoneaux figures the clubs add about eight strokes to his score for 18 holes.
The shots don’t carry as far, he told The Advocate, and the clubs are idiosyncratic. Spring has one wedge with a concave face that looks more suited for serving punch than hitting a golf ball.
“As far as the performance of the clubs, they’re very individual,” Simoneaux told The Advocate. “You can’t get a set that have all the same shafts. You have to get to know each club. But they’re really pretty solid. There’s no forgiveness. They demand a really good swing.
“It’s super fun, because it’s completely different.”