Last Updated on Monday, 30 July 2012 00:30
Sunday, 29 July 2012 23:58
by Gord Montgomery
I found the golf clubs of my dreams the other day in Banff even though I shot a 47 with them in my first nine holes of use.
Mind you, these aren’t a set of clubs you can cart away from the local golf store, no matter how much stock they carry.
You see, these weapons come from only one place, the Fairmont Banff Springs Golf Club.
And oh yeah, the ball that is best used with these sticks can also only be obtained at the Banff course, so if you’re considering a similar set make sure you stock up on missiles there because you’re not finding them anywhere else.
As for the clubs, which I absolutely fell in love with after about the fourth or fifth shot, are – ready for this? – replica hickory shafted sticks that are a blast to play but somewhat tricky to play with.
Under the watchful eye of Banff Springs Golf Club head pro Steven Young, I teed up my replica gutta percha ball on the first hole at the Tunnel Course, a par 4, 349 yard challenge from the Hickory Tees.
I let fly…and watched my cold-topped Brassie (2-wood) tee shot dig into the weeds about 40 yards ahead.
Not a great start to be sure but hey, I’d never swung such a club in anger before even though I own a set that hangs safely on my wall at home.
My second shot, with a niblick, wasn’t a whole lot better than the first. Best described as an overweight banana ball, it swooped left into the trees and I was starting to wonder what I’d gotten myself into.
I eventually extracted myself from my troubles – and despite 3-putting –wobbled away with a ‘7’ to start.
So far things weren’t looking great and I was sure I could hear my new Rocketballz driver, left behind at the clubhouse, snickering softly to itself knowing its place in my heart, and my golf bag, was surely safe.
Well, hang on there, buckaroo. Not so quick!
On the second hole I caught the Brassie just so – sending the ball off on a good line to land on the fairway about 180 yards or so away.
My spirits soared as I thought I’d conquered the puzzle of these sticks. That wasn’t quite the case but as I went around the course the mechanics of swinging these unique hooks started to surface.
One thing I discovered was you can’t try to muscle the ball – a fluid swing with good tempo is key to succeeding, which sort of sounds like the mechanics of today’s game when you really think about it.
As for the course pro and the man that introduced this aspect of the game to the Banff course, resplendent in a fine set of knickers, purple knee high socks, shirt and tie for his round on the Hickory Course, said playing with this set of clubs is something special and plays into the history of his course.
“The course was built in the 1920s and that was the hickory era,” he commented on how the idea for the Hickory Experience originated.
“We went and sourced builders in Canada and the U.S. We did our research and picked the right head that looked authentic. We picked the butter knife look (for the irons), the shafts, and the grips that were the pure leather,” and the authentic look of the golden days of golf was reproduced in an extraordinary manner.
What made this experience even more genuine is the fact the tee boxes used for the hickory club round are the ones used back in the day. The nine-hole loop plays to 2,800 yards but those can become long yards if the ball isn’t struck properly – as proven on my first couple of holes.
“We got three different patterns of ball to choose from, looked at the dimpling and decided on the look we liked best,” Young commented about the authentic appearing gutta percha replicas. “We don’t even have numbers on the ball,” which was the custom in the ‘20s.
The response to this throwback idea has been overwhelming, the pro continued.
“Everyone loves it,” he noted, adding there is a general worry about “breaking the clubs. I tell people, ‘Go ahead, smack the ground, break them,’ just so they feel empowered to swing them properly.”
Asked how to best play with these historical copies, Young suggested, “I think the feel golfer plays best with them because they adapt to how the head feels, the shaft, all of that. You can swing hard – you can’t be jerky though.
“The other thing is, hit it on the sweet spot. It’s smaller and not as easy to find (as on today’s club) but if you hit it on the sweet spot you’ll have better success.”
Surprisingly, the sweet spot on the hickory clubs is about the same size as on clubs of today. The only difference with today’s weapons, really, is the forgiveness beyond that point.
The point here is, this is an experience anyone, and everyone, who tees it up at The Fairmont Banff Springs Golf Club should try.
As for my round, once I got things under control, it was a blast. I had some trouble putting (so, what’s new?) as the ball seemed to really jump off the face of the club but even with four 3-jerks I was happy.
I was especially pumped when I went brassie-spoon on the final hole, a 365-yard par 4 and hit the ball through the back of the green.
Unfortunately my short game woes showed up at that point – again – and I took a double bogey six to end the round but really, that’s beside the point with a round like this.
If I was man enough I’d buy a set of these clubs (they cost $1,300) but I don’t think I could stand the snickering behind my back coming from my Rocketballz driver and 3-wood when I mis-hit a shot were I to do that.
And thank goodness I can’t hear the laughter coming from the Hickory Club closet when I mis-hit a shot with my new fangled clubs – because there are certainly enough of those.
By the way, if anyone cares and I’m not making an excuse here but I played the hickory nine with an undiagnosed broken foot and an altered swing with no leg action, so that 47 seems even better to me now than before.
Take that Rocketballz!
Gord Montgomery is the sports editor of two weekly newspapers in the Edmonton area. He is currently in his fourth year of writing for Inside Golf and is a member of the Golf Journalists of Canada.
He can be reached at
and is on Twitter - @iGgolfwriter.
By Gord Montgomery
About the writer: Gord Montgomery is the sports editor of two weekly newspapers in the Edmonton area and is a member of the Golf Journalists Association of Canada. He has written for Inside Golf for the past four years with the majority of his coverage in north and central Alberta. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More articles by Gord Montgomery