But Matthew Dodds, president of Brandthropology, Burlington, Vt., often puts away his shiny, modern clubs for a slower, more genteel game using hickory-shafted clubs from golf's early days.
"My cousins run a tournament down in the D.C. area, and after a round, we all got drinking scotches," he said.
"We talked about how the new technologies were taking the old courses out of play [and wondered] what it would be like to turn back the clock," Mr. Dodds said. A little research on his part revealed "there were a bunch of guys-mostly associated with the Golf Collectors Society -- that were already doing it. ... It all seemed so wonderfully perverse that I decided I had to give it a try."
The former exec at FCB, D'Arcy, BBDO and McCann Erickson first had to rummage for equipment. "I'm a real trash picker. I go to thrift shops, Salvation Army stores. Then, when I need to supplement or get specific clubs, I go to eBay. For pre-1900 clubs, Golf Collectors Society meetings are great. There's a set of people looking to trade, and it's fun to swap out with folks. I love that you can pay $50 or $500. Lots of room for arbitrage."
And, golf being a highly competitive game, hickory tournaments have gained favor. "I've run a tournament called the Adirondack Hickory Open for a few years," Mr. Dodds said. He said he's folding the tournament into what the Equinox in Manchester, N.H., is doing. "Orvis and Johnny Walker signed on as sponsors, so I think there's a future."
Mr. Dodds, 42, is fresh from a low net score win at the National Hickory Championship held in West Virginia.
The equipment can only be described as quaint next to the latest Callaway Big Bertha Fusion Ft-3.
"My set includes a long-nosed play club, mashie, niblick, lofter and putter. A sand tee maker and three gutta-percha replica balls complete the equipment." The executive notes that replica gutta-percha balls go for $9 each, so "you're in the heather for a while before you give up a search" for a lost ball.
The big difference, of course, is distance. Mere waifs these days can crush a modern-day driver well past the 300-yard mark. "I can hit my modern driver 225-245," Mr. Dodds said. "My hickory driver runs 185-220" yards.
"Playing with hickories is very humbling," said the father of two. "I tend to get into trouble with my moderns because I can make decent shots with poor swings.
"I liken it to driving an American car with a mushy suspension vs. driving a rather more unforgiving European sports sedan. You receive a lot more feedback." And even more challenging is a shot from a sand trap. "The sand wedge as we know it came in just as hickories were dying out. The ones that are out there-especially the Walter Hagen models-get a pretty penny. So you're in a trap with a niblick with no bounce, and your knees are knocking. You have an error margin measured in millimeters."
Knickers and croft jackets
Part of the fun is dressing for a hickories event. "You can get knickers nowadays pretty easily, but I like to buy older woolen trousers and wear them with suspenders. Yes, they're hot in summer. I've won a couple of 'best dressed' awards so I guess it's gone to my head. I was laughing the other day because the only time I wear a tie nowadays is on the golf course. I've been trying to find the old style croft jackets worn by [golf's first superstar Harry] Vardon."
And while there are differences in game played circa 1906 and in 2006, some things haven't changed. Mr. Dobbs' favorite libation on the 19th hole?
MacCallum Scotch whisky.
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