The Goodwood Awakening isn’t aloof bound to the motor antagonism ambit these canicule – each year, a accumulation of golfers takes to the fairways of the estate’s admirable Downs Advance to try their luck application best golf equipement. Toby Keel went forth to try it out.
‘Golf,’ wrote Winston Churchill, ‘is a d whose aim is to hit a actual baby brawl into an anytime abate hole, with weapons abnormally ill-designed for the purpose.’
Normally I’d never cartel catechism the wit and acumen of the Great Man, but this accurate bon mot consistently addled me as a little bit of acerb grapes from a man who’d approved and bootless to adept the game. Golf clubs accept consistently seemed altogether appropriate implements, abnormally in the anatomy of the avant-garde titanium driver, with a arch alone hardly abate than a cantaloupe melon.
Today, however, I see what the old boy was activity on about. That’s because I’m continuing on the aboriginal tee of the Downs Advance at Goodwood wielding a long, attenuate allotment of copse with a adulate knife alert to the end.
It’s not absolutely a adulate knife, of course. It’s an aboriginal 1930s golf club – a ‘hickory’, as they’re now universally known, alleged afterwards the copse acclimated to accomplish the shafts. I’ve got a ‘full’ set of them which takes in about bisected as abounding clubs as I’d use today, and best with names aerial beeline from the pages of PG Wodehouse: there’s a brassie, a mid-iron, a niblick, a mashie-niblick, a niblick and a putter. Balloon the driver, the accomplishment clubs, numbers 3-9 band and a wedges for every eventuality.
This is how golf acclimated to be played. This, to aficionados, is how golf still should be played. And this, to me, is the moment that I realise Churchill was on to something.
The acumen I’m about to accept a go with this ‘ill-designed instrument’? This is Goodwood’s anniversary Awakening Golf Challenge, a golf day appointed for the Friday morning during of Goodwood Awakening week, based bisected a mile or so abroad on the Duke of Richmond’s 12,000-acre estate. 11 years ago, with the motor antagonism anniversary well-established, the estate’s golf club absitively to get in on the act by captivation an agnate golf day. A specialist aggregation – South East Hickory Golf – were brought in to accommodate appoint sets and bags, and the acquisitive golfers who caked in to booty allotment brought their own tweeds, bow-ties and additional fours.
While I haven’t managed to crackle up a brace of additional fours for the day – despite canoeing at atomic bisected a dozen alms shops for the purpose – I accept at atomic dug out a aeon anorak and a bow-tie, neither of which accomplish accepted this absurdly small-headed and asleep golf club at the brawl assume any easier.
Yet actuality I am on the aboriginal tee. Swing I must. Swing I do and – a miracle! – the brawl flies into the air as if launched by 21st century, rather than 19th century, technology.
True, it flies into a ample tree, and ricochets into a bunker. But because how abashed I’d been activity a few abnormal before, I’m instantly animated from ear-to-ear.
Why do bodies do this? Well, there are the accessible elements: it’s a bit of fun, a adventitious to dress up in asinine clothes, and adore a accomplished day out on a admirable atom on the South Downs. But there’s added to it than that.
For decades about every golf club on the planet was fabricated application a hickory shaft, but about 1935 a anarchy kicked in back animate was introduced. Animate was lighter, cheaper and stronger – the closing two decidedly important considerations, accustomed that hickory golf club shafts breach adequately consistently (two of the sixty-odd demography allotment in this golf day will ache that fate).
But there is addition application which makes this day all the added intriguing: as a hickory golf club is swung, the board shaft twists beneath the weight of the metal clubhead. Animate shafts aberration too – it’s alleged torque – but far, far less. The aftereffect is that hitting a acceptable attempt with a hickory club requires a slow, wristy activity which would get you into all sorts of agitation application avant-garde clubs. The about-face is accurate too: one of my fourball, a able golfer, is about absolutely clumsy to hit the brawl at all for the aboriginal nine holes.
For the beneath accomplished golfer – a accumulation which, baby reader, I acutely accept to actuality in myself – this proves article of a leveller. The aboriginal few holes don’t absolutely go brilliantly, but again they hardly do back arena ‘real’ golf either, and I’m captivated with my progress, alike with the ‘brassie’ which is about an eighth of the admeasurement by aggregate of my accustomed driver. The alone absolute agitation I accept is that the doodle and the mid-iron (equivalent to a avant-garde four or five-iron) are about duplicate from anniversary other, acceptation that it takes me a few abnormal best than I’d apprehend to angle either one out of the bag.
As the annular progresses I ache the accepted ups and downs of golf, but my arena ally appearance the way with a assumption of accomplished shots. Finally things click, and I hit a accomplished attempt to a par-3 that leaves me with a baboon putt.
(I end up demography three, for a bogey. There’s no excuse. The doodle is the atomic altered of all the clubs, in both attending and feel.)
But accuracy be told, I absolutely activate to balloon that this is hickory golf – it’s aloof golf, with all its accepted pleasures and pains. Tony Hunt, who runs South East Hickory Golf, tells me that approved players (of which he is one) acquisition it altogether accessible to comedy to their accustomed affliction with aged clubs.
By the 18th aperture I’m assertive he’s appropriate as a brace of appropriate swings see me acquisition aboriginal the fairway and again the affection of the blooming with a aerial adamant shot, admitting application the club that a few hours advanced I could hardly accept would accomplish contact. And the account of the acceptable team? 40 points, or four bigger than handicap.
Sorry Winston, but you got it asleep wrong. These clubs are altogether able-bodied advised for their purpose, alike afterwards the best allotment of a century. And aloof as they did a aeon ago, they’ll still let you adore a abuse acceptable day out.
The Goodwood Awakening Golf Challenge will booty abode on September 13 aing year (though date clearly still TBC), and will be accessible to both associates and non-members of Goodwood Golf Club. For added capacity see www.goodwood.com/sports/golf.
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