- My Timewarp Golf Challenge 2016
The other day I was trying to work out when I first took up golf. I remembered the time a friend of mine had invited me along to a accompany him around a small pitch-and-putt. I had a few shots and thoroughly enjoyed myself. A few days later I walked into a high street sports shop and bought myself a set of clubs. I knew very little about the game but decided it was me. The next day I turned up at my local public course and joined up with three strangers. I went round in 95 which was the lowest score out of the four of us. They asked me how long I'd been playing; I don't think they believed me when I said it was my first game. I had visions of getting to a single figure handicap with a short time but I've still not achieved that. The next day whilst watching some late night TV I caught the end of some professional golf tournament. Wow, I thought, I can even watch my new found hobby on TV! Some guy called Nick Faldo had just taken the lead after some guy called Greg Norman kept hitting it into the water.
Within about six months I'd even started buying old wooden shafted clubs when I stumbled across them. A whole new world opened up. In 2003 I started my hickory golf rental company Timewarp Golf. I've had an absolute brilliant time trading and playing with hickory clubs ever since. Over the past two decades I've handled thousands of clubs from the hickory era and a fair few from the post hickory-era as you can imagine. I've never really felt that interested in anything that wasn't wooden shafted. But strangely my feeling have changed dramatically in the past few months. It's like I've discovered collecting all over again and here's why.
Last year I played some really nice golf, had a few rounds sub-80, and felt I was only a few rounds away from attaining my lifetime goal of a single-figure handicap. Then, on a chilly day in October, I over-did a session at a local driving range and walked out half-crippled with a severe lower back strain. The enforced five week lay-off of not swinging a golf club AT ALL was by far the longest break I've had in twenty years. I did at one point wonder if I'd ever be able to swing a club again. In late November I decided to risk a gentle swing in the back garden. Thankfully, my back felt ok. I should say I'd been doing stretches every day to try and regain some level of mobility so I didn't approach things totally cold. The next week I played nine holes and all felt fine. The next week I played eighteen holes and went around in ten over par. What I felt playing was not satisfaction at how well I'd scored but just shear enjoyment of playing. So maybe I'll attain that single-figure handicap or maybe I won't. But the experience of having an enforced lay-off reinvigorated my desire to play golf just for the sake of it. And this got me thinking. I began to think what challenge or target I could set myself (yes, I think I am one of those people who needs a target to aim for in life). After some thought I decided my challenge would be to break 80 with my hickories...a real "Timewarp Golf Challenge" just for my own enjoyment. I've have some good nine hole scores with them over the years but have never really scored well with them. A few days later I came across an early steel shafted driver dating from the 1930s. The head is stamped Jack White Gullane. It's in excellent condition and a ticket on it indicating that it had once belonged to the John Letters company. I remember reading somewhere that the company had a small museum of clubs...over the years I've come across several clubs with similar tickets so I believe that the John letters Company had it's own museum of clubs which was sold off by auction sometime around the 1980s. Anyway, I've had this Driver for about 15 years and I've often thought of selling it on. But as steel shafted clubs go for relatively little money I've just tended to put it back in the rack. on them. After pondering a while I realised I could branch out my challenge to include trying to break 80 with early steel shafted clubs. Then a switch flicked in my mind and I thought "maybe i could try breaking 80 with clubs from all the major eras of golf clubs....hickory...steel...graphite". And so what I'm calling my " Timewarp Golf Challenge for 2016" has been born.
"In 2016 I will endeavour to break 80 playing with sets of golf clubs from different eras"
The sets I'm so far planning on playing with are as follows: 1920s Hickory Shafted Clubs 1930s Early Steel Shafted Clubs 1970s Steel Shafted Clubs 1980s Steel Shafted Clubs 2010s Graphite Shafted Clubs
In time I would like to "go earlier" and play with some 1890s gutta percha ball era clubs and maybe even earlier .i.e feather ball era clubs...but that's going to take some planning, time and expense!
I must admit the decision to play with both 1970s and 1980s clubs has really just been driven by what's come into my possession as you can see when I list out what clubs I've got below.
Besides breaking 80 with each set, the main reason for doing this is to gain an insight into how the clubs influence my play and my scores. As golfers we are bombarded with the message that our enjoyment in playing the game is intrinsically linked to a) our score b) how far we hit the ball. Don't get me wrong I do feel great when I've hit a good score, but my experience of being injured over the last few months has re-awoken latent feelings within me that I actually play golf for other reasons.
Here's some details about the different sets I'll be playing with each week. My plan is to rotate the sets weekly. I feel this might either severely hamper my chances of scoring well with any of the sets (thinking that I'll have to get used to them again each time I use them)...or, it might make me score better (because my brain and body will have to focus more on playing with different sticks and will become more sensitive (?) I really don't know but hopefully time will tell).
1920s Hickory Shafted Set
These clubs are all wooden shafted...the shafts are made from hickory which is native to the Carolinas in North America. Within the set I have a Driver, and two brassie woods. The brassies have lofts equivalent to about a 5-wood and a 7-wood. I've never actually measured the lofts on any of the vintage clubs I have; this is something I plan to do this year. One thing though is clear...the numbers sometimes stamped on hickory era clubs do not indicate an equivalence with modern clubs. For example a lot of hickory era mashies were stamped 5. By eye it is clear to see that a mashoe has the loft of about a modern 7-iron. To go with the three woods I have a mid-iron ( roughly the quivalent of a modern 5-iron), a mashie ( a modern 7), a mashie-niblick ( a modern 9), a niblick (with the loft of a modern sand-wedge) and a putter. The irons are "true-Lines" which I'm led to believe were a relatively budget line of clubs. I didn't acquire these irons as a set, I just acquired them separately and made them into a set. I had to re-shaft a couple of the heads and I've also re-gripped them. I've probably played about 20 rounds with this set of clubs....I've had some good nine-hole scores but success over 18 holes has not been encountered...yet!
1930s Early Steel Shafted Set
At present this set has only one wood, my Jack White, Gullane Driver, with a very early Apollo steel shaft. The heads of the irons carry the Tom Stewart Pipe cleek mark, as well as being stamped Spalding and Henry Cotton. I must admit I'm not sure where these clubs date from the 1930s or were made late 1940s/ early 1950s. They are very comparable to a set of Nicoll clubs I once had that I could accurately date to 1938. If you are reading this and know different I'd be delighted to hear from you.
1980s Steel Shafted Clubs
This is a complete set of three woods and nine irons by Ben Sayers of Scotland. The model name is Silver Crest. I believe they date to around 1981/82.
I have also recently acquired some Titleist Accu-Flow irons....a 3, 5, 7, 9 and SW. Some reference material cites these clubs as being from as early as 1979, however, the Titleist website says they date from 1981-82. I feel the branding on them is definitely more 70s than 80s with the Titleist name standing out from a rough forged background but I guess they should know. They have quite a rear offset to the head and a thick top-line when viewed from above. In that respect I think they were a good decade before their time. When I compare them with my Callaway irons they look very similar at address.
2007 Callaway X-20s Graphite Shafted irons and 2012 Ping G25 Woods.
Whilst these irons are nearly ten years old I am still of the opinion they are modern clubs. I see very little difference between the x-20s and Callaways latest irons. Over the last six years of so I have upgraded from G15 woods, to G20 woods ato G25s. I feel a little sad that the golf industry is now firmly locked into the behaviour of bringing out new irons on a typical two year cycle plan as happens in a other consumer products (I'm thinking of cars here). The thing that gets me is that it's often pretty obvious that the new models really don't have anything new in them technology wise...they are usually just tweaking the aesthetics of the clubs even though the marketing spin tries to make out different.
To carry the clubs I have assembled an array of bags