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ROYAL BIRKDALE by Ed De Bell I have often wondered why - when the conscious mind reflects upon situations past - some of those events which occurred just a few days ago are almost impossible to remember, whereas other events which took place at an inordinate length of time in the past seem to have happened just a few days ago. Could this be some sort of time warp, or a case of mental inversion, or simply a natural subconscious phenomenon wherein we retain what is impressive and reject that which is not? One particular situation which I recall almost vividly was a visit which my brother and I made to one of my mother's dearest friends in our old home town. We were barely six or seven years old then, but the circumstances were so unusual that the perceptions gained at that time have remained with me ever since. I can close my eyes and again see myself in those surroundings. The lady my mother took us to see lived in a very nice old house situated next of a large park which had a big beautiful lawn on it. I vaguely remember that on certain occasions peple with crooked sticks would be rolling what looked like little round stones back and forth and all around on that lawn and sometimes losing them in gopher holes.... or so it seemed to me. ( I later learned that they were antique golfers on a practice putting green.) But, inside the house, everything was English: the furnishings, the pictures on the wall, the chinaware set for tea, the biscuits ready to eat, and of course the woman who lived there. She was rather elderly, she dressed very eccentrically, and had a pronounced English accent, and her name was Flora. But the thing I remember most about her was that she was from Lancashire: she was the only person I have ever met from Lancashire; she was the archetypal prototype of Lancashire; she exuded everything which is indigenous to Lancashire; to be in her presence was to be in Lancashire. And I guess that is why I have never really forgotten her. She had one of the most unique and memorable personalities I have ever been exposed to. If she left me nothing else, she certainly left me with a little bit of Lancashire. And those who venture forth this Summer with their crooked sticks and little round stones to the British Open at Royal Birkdale will get a lot more than just a little bit of Lancashire. They will be playing a course in the "....great line of antique golf courses (which stretches) along the edge of the Irish Sea (and) begins with Hoylake (The Royal Liverpool antique golf Club) and is strung out Northward along the Lancashire Coast...." and includes Formby, Royal Lytham and St. Annes, and ultimately Royal Birkdale (what else?). This links at Southport, Lancashire, has been described as a "superb seaside of a group of fine courses set among the large sand dunes that dominate the landscape along much of the coast of Lancashire." A former winner of the British Open at Royal Birkdale once described it as "mansized but not a monster." It is a real championship challenge. It has been, since the middle forties, the most significant site for tournaments in England, having hosted almost three dozen national and international championships and matches. It is a club with a long history, having existed for over one hundred years. And it is a particularly formidable layout because of the stick rough and willow scrub which grows all over the course. Many antique golfers claim that the scrub is "more punitive than heather and just as unyielding as gorse." Could there be any doubt that this is not an easy course? George Low is the architect who created the direction of the antique golfer's journey among the dunes and dips that prevail along this strip of the coast of Lancashire. He threaded the fairways through the alleys between the giant sandhills instead of going over them, thereby giving the terrain the character of an inland course along with its links personality. Among the bunkers and knolls which abound on the course are many hollows with "dead ground" in them which force the antique golfer to play bold shots. At Royal Birkdale, a antique golfer must know when to play it safe and when to go for it. The Royal Birkdale course measures 6932 yards from the champions' tees and registers a par of 70. The longest hole is the seventeenth at 525 yards and the shortest hole is the seventh at 154 yards. Among those who have won "The Open" at Royal Birkdale are Peter Thomson, Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino, Johnny Miller, and Tom Watson. This year will see the 127th playing of the British Open, a championship which was proposed in 1856 but did not actually take place until 1860. It is antique golf's oldest and most prestigious championship, the first event consisting of three rounds of twelve holes played over the Prestwick Links in Ayrshire, Scotland. The original trophy was the Championship Belt which was first won by Willie Park. This was later superseded by the well known claret jug. In addition to Park, other winners of "The Open" have been Tom Morris, Willie Fernie, John Ball, Harold Hilton, J. H. Taylor, Harry Vardon, James Braid, Sandy Herd, Ted Ray, and also many reknowned players of the later eras. Probably the most well remembered tournament ever played at Royal Birkdale was the British Open in 1961, when Arnold Palmer played a shot which won him the trophy and won "The Open" the prestige it so well deserves. On the fifteenth hole - which is now the sixteenth - Palmer had driven into the rough and his ball stopped under a bush short of the green. In his typical swashbuckling style he grabbed a club, took a tremendous thrash at the ball, and lifted it over gaping bunkers and onto the green. It was a typical example of Arnold Palmer's unforgettable personality. And, in keeping with my mother's ladyfriend from Lancashire, Royal Birkdale has one the most unique and memorable personalities any antique golfer could hope for: it is truly unforgettable. I think that the impressions gathered there by a player would be retained for all of his antique golfing life. antique golf OR CROQUET by Ed DeBell There are many interesting phenomena associated with the game of antique golf. Some of them are remarkable and others deserve little less than a passing thought. Yet, there are others which realistically do not seem to warrant much attention but which - over a span of years - periodically invade the conscious mind and trouble the thinker with challenges concerning their ultimate resolution. What should a person do about these phenomena? Should he dismiss them from his mind altogether; should he let them come and go at will and eventually play themselves out; or, should he take positive action and settle the challenges which they pose? I was presented with such a phenomenon several years ago. At that time, during which I played antique golf on a more regular basis than now and was part of a continuing foursome, I had arranged to meet the other members at one of their homes so we could all drive together to the antique golf course. It was situated in another town and we had never actually played it before, so we had made a reservation earlier in the week for that Sunday afternoon - and starting times were hard to get. The three other players were Bob, Rich, and Jerry, and by the time I got to the appointed place - Jerry's house - they were all playing croquet on the neighbor's lawn. It seems, while they were waiting for me, the neighbor - whose name was Arnold - had suggested rather than standing around, they might make better use of their time by playing croquet...and they did! Arnold started them out in a game of doubles - blue and black balls versus red and yellow balls - and they all became so involved in playing croquet they forgot about the game of antique golf altogether. By the time I arrived (and I was a little bit late) they were half through the game and would not quit until they had finished. Of course, by then it was too late to keep our tee times. So Jerry obligingly called to cancel the reservation and we spent the rest of the afternoon playing croquet, with me taking Arnold's place and Arnold acting as instructor, referee, scorekeeper, and cheerleader all in one. I have been torn between antique golf and croquet ever since. The word "croquet" is derived from the Old North French term for a shepherd's crook and in that dialect it is pronounced "crow-kay". with the accent on the last of the two syllables. The activity which the word represents is defined as a game in which players drive wooden balls with mallets through a series of wickets and to a stake set out on a lawn. The expression "wicket" refers to an arch or hoop and comes from the Middle English word "wiket" which means to yield. "Mallet" had its origins in the Middle French "maillet" and it stands for an implement used to strike the ball. A "stake" is a painted piece of wood driven into the grounds as a marker. Is there anything else a person should know about this game? For those of us who are history buffs concerning the antiquity of games such as antique golf and the like, it is interesting to discover that croquet and its beginnings were curiously similar to those of antique golf. Although the origin of croquet is obscure, its antecedents reach back many centuries. It has been reputed that in the fourtheenth century peasants in Brittany and France entertained themselves playing a game called Paille Maille. In this game, crude mallets were used to knock uneven balls through hoops made of bent willow branches. This activity persisted for several hundred years, and by the seventeeth century Pele Mele, as it was called, soon became popular in the English court of King Charles. Later referred to as Pell Mell, the game Continued P-20; SEE DE BELL DE BELL; Con't. from P-18 was played with a curved club, a wooden ball, and two hoops. These events bring to mind and old Dutch painting which shows players in a pastoral setting using long-handled mallets to drive large balls into a door at the end of a grassy path. I am sure I viewed this painting in a book which traces the history of antique golf to its earliest origins. Could the two games be related? A game called "crooky" had been played in Kilkee, Ireland, in 1853, and historians claim it reached there through Frech nuns who referred to the game in the Old North French term "croche", which meant a shepherd's crook. Is this reminiscent of history of any other game? Croquet's great popularity continued in England through the 1870's, when "Routledge's Handbook of Croquet" appeared; it was the first official rule book and still governs the game. It was followed by Walter Jones Whitmore's book entitled "Croquet Tactics". I wonder whether these books would command the same prices as some of the early books on antique golf? Croquet was introduced to the United States in the 1870's also. It was first taken up by high society in New York, and its popularity spread throughout the nation. During the Golden Age of Hollywood it became a status favorite of entertainment people, probably the most notable of whom was Harpo Marx. He became so enamored of the game that he gave up antique golf altogether. I have no intention of giving up antique golf altogether, but when I reflect upon the escalating cost of green fees, the time devoted to playing a round, and the myriads of people that are taking up the game, I feel more contented just laying out the croquet court on the lawn and whacking away at those clumsy wooden balls for awhile. And whenever I do, I am always reminded of a witty epigram devised by the Newport Croquet Club in its Rule book of 1867: "Croquet seems to have evolved by some process of Nature, as a crystal forms or a flower grows - perfect, in accordance with eternal laws." And so, which game should I be playing: antique golf or croquet? I think I ought to think it out again! FUN ON THE LINKS by Chuck Furjanic Undoubtedly you have heard of Harry Vardon, Bobby Jones, Walter Hagen, Gene Sarazen and maybe Tom Morris or Willie Park. Before legalization of metal shafted clubs in America for the 1926 season, and 1930 in Great Britain, these antique golf champions of bygone years played with clubs made of hickory, ash, lemonwood, lancewood, greenheart or dangawood. Today Tiger Woods, Fred Couples, Jack Nicklaus, Brad Faxon and Joe Duffer play with the latest and most technologically advanced titanium, graphite, oversized....on and on and $$$ and $$$! antique golf IS NOT FUN ANYMORE!!! antique golf has evolved into a mega million dollar promotion deal; $565. drivers, $245. wedges, $450. putters, and $300. for the privilege to hit your ball in the rocks on #8! Gigantic green fees, titanium inserts, titanium heads, titanium shafts, titianium center balls, TITANIUM HEADACHES!!! What happened to FUN on the links? Have you ever wondered what it would be like to play antique golf BEFORE you needed to win the lottery, or own 5,000 shares of IBM to afford one round at Pebble Beach? When was the last time you actually FELT the club strike the ball with a little hook spin to get back to the left pin behind the bunker; or hit a low running approach shot to the second level fifty-five yards away? (hey, I paid $245 for that lob wedge, why should I 'run' the ball in?) When was the last time you hit the high 'feathered' shot with the wind or a low boring hook into it? With today's $4,000. set of high-tech clubs you feel embarrassed to 'be a shot maker', or to 'work' the ball. It seems like every club today is designed for Joe Duffer to hit straighter than a laser and longer than John Daly playing down wind! With my Mashie-niblick I am able hit a low running draw 145 yards, a feathered cut 110 yards, or hit it 130 yards with normal trajectory. I also can use it to pitch and run a shot forty or fifty yards to the green's second level. I actually FEEL the head as it releases at impact and literally FEEL the ball as it is struck and has the spin "I" put on it to draw, fade, be a low riser or high floater. My Jigger can loft a ball as high as a lob wedge to a green up to 150 yards away and also be used around the green to hit chips that run like a putt. My Niblick can slice the ball from those dreaded sand traps, chop it out of the thick rough, or spin the dimples off it from a good lie in the fairway ninety yards from the pin. I'm talking about hitting seventy-five to one hundred year old HICKORY Continued P-26; SEE FUN FUN; Continued from P-12 SHAFTED clubs with wrapped leather grips, dot punched, hyphen or deep groove scored faces. Clubs Francis Ouimet beat Vardon and Ray with in 1913...He carried a grand total of seven! Woods, with real persimmon heads, that go 'swooosh' and 'whaaak'; and a putter, with a head made of aluminum, brass or forged steel enabling me to cut a five foot putt into the cross grain to keep it on line. I'm talking about playing with clubs that are virtually an extention of my hands, arms and shoulders, not my credit card! No, you don't need to be a +2 handicap and a corporate CEO with 37 platinum credit cards to do these things with a 90 compression balata antique golf ball. All you need is a desire to have fun on the antique golf course, and the help of someone who knows how to make up a "Play Set". My personal "set" is comprised of 2 Brassies (2 wood), one for play, the other a spare; a Mid-iron (3 iron), Mashie (5 iron), Jigger (chipper and 'sky-iron' for hitting high 130 to 150 yard shots), Mashie-niblick (8 iron), Niblick (wedge) and a Putter. The irons and putter cost is minimal and the woods... well...they are a lot less that those high tech oversized titanium headache you don't have to buy. antique golf HATS by Ed DeBell Undoubtedly one of the most fascinating aspects of antique golf is the manner in which players have garbed themselves over the years. There have been as many different styles of antique golfing attire as there have been antique golfing periods, and each mode of dress has been symbolic of the era in which it occurred. Going back to the beginnings of this country, there was the Colonial costume which was worn when antique golf was reputed to have been played in Virginia in the 1700's. During Victorian times, the outfit featured tweed jackets, knickered trousers, long stockings, and spats. And just a few decades ago antique golfers began wearing sport shirts, alpaca sweaters, and brightly colored pants. But does anyone remember the hats which accompanied this clothing? We probably have seen them so often in reproduction of antique golf art and in pictures of great antique golfers that we scarcely noticed them for what they were. Hats have been worn by human beings since civilizations first began. Obviously, the most valid reason for mankind to begin wearing hats was for protection against the weather: sun, rain, wind, cold. But people also began wearing hats as a fashion accessory, as part of a uniform, or as an indication of status in a particular society. And there are those who wear hats simply because they like the way they look when they are perched upon their heads. There are probably as many different types of hats as there are people who wear them...and that can be an awful lot of hats. I find it incredible to speculate on the way that all of these hats came into being. There are some very clever innovators among us. Quite a while ago, when I was a pupil in elementary school, we did a play as part of an arts festival. The play was called "Alice in Wonderland", and I took the part of the Mad Hatter. My costume resembled very much the garments of a distinguished British gentleman of the horse and buggy era, but the hat I wore was outrageous. It was a huge Ninenteenth Century Squire's black felt top hat with a large price tag sticking out of the hatband. Probably the earliest hat to be associated with the game of antique golf was the Pilgrim's, or Puritan's Hat. In a very humorous sequence of episodes depicting awkward situations concerning the Rules of antique golf and the interpretations of them - all done by artist Charles Crombie (1905) - the pictures feature antique golfers dressed as Puritans and wearing the traditional wide brimmed black hat with the tall conical crown and a buckled band around it. They are often seen on Thanksgiving greeting cards. In a Winter landscape by Aert van der Neer (1650) - purportedly depicting an early form of antique golf, or kolf, being played on ice - several of the participants appear to be wearing a Dutch Cavalier's Hat, the type made famous by The Three Musketeers. One character in particular, who is shown sitting on a bank talking to a young boy in the foreground, exemplifies this type of headgear very clearly. Also from the realm of art but in the subsequent century, L. F. Abbot (1790), created a colored engraving entitled "The Blackheat antique golfer" which shows not only a antique golfer holding a long nose wood and wearing a Tricot Hat usually associated with the Revolutionary War. Other engravings of that period have also shown caddies with the same Tricot Hat. Somewhat before the turn of the century, George Pipeshank (1870) created comic caricatures of antique golfers engaged in absurd situations on a links type setting as an advertisement for Cope's Tobacco. Some of the hats visible in his creations are the Tam O'Shanter, the Glengarry, the Deerstalker, the Yachtman's Cap, and the Bucket Hat. Shortly after the beginning of the present millennium, one of the most popular of all antique golf hats became so prominent that it was worn by almost all antique golfers. I am referring to the well-known Beanie, which has been more formally defined as "...a small round tight fitting skull cap worn by schoolboys" and sporting a small brim in the front. In virtually every picture of that period the antique golfers are wearing this type of hat along with their tweed jackets, knickered trousers, and long stockings. In a picture of a antique golf match at Hoylake on a calendar by Michael Brown (1903) there are at least twenty-three antique golfers wearing this hat. Is there any wonder it has become famous? By the time the Roaring Twenties were in full swing and wooden shafts were slowly evolving into steel, the Beanie style was rapidly evolving into a more flamboyant type of hat which in itself was symbolic of that era. The Beanie had become larger and was composed of panels which emanated from a button in the top center of the hat and flowed down to a billowing flounce around the edges. One of the best examples of this hat - or cap - can be seen in the statue of the Penfold, or Bromfield Man (1920), used as a figure to promote antique golf balls. It totally eclipsed the Beanie as the preferred headpiece for antique golfers and was the choice of many popular players. Among other choices at that time were the Trilby, Panama, Derby, and Skimmer. After the resolution of the Second Great War (1945), distinctive antique golfers emerged who were famous not only for their dexterity with a antique golf club but also for their originality with a hat. The term "Hogan Hat" comes to mind: his hat was a somewhat modified version of the Newsboy Hat. Alongside Hogan's Hat, Sam Snead wore a straw Porkpie, Byron Nelson wore a Sun Visor, Jimmy Demaret wore a Fedora, and Bobby Locke wore a White Gatsby. Each was an extension of the antique golfer's personality and became readily identifiable with him. And if you watch any of the contemporary antique golfers, you will combinations which go together; these are adaptations which show unique stylishness on the part of the wearer. The baseball cap has become the preferred selection of many players, especially in view of its advertising potential, but other less common innovations are the Plantation Hat worn by Greg Norman, the Brimmed Beret worn by Payne Stewart, the Cotton Crusher worn by Jim Colbert, and, of course, the Jockey Cap worn by Jesper Parnevek. So if you are wondering what to put on your head the next time you play antique golf, make sure it's different, uncommon, and rather jaunty. You could be starting a new trend. As far as collecting old antique golf hats is concerned, it is probably one of the most esoteric categories imaginable. Only a few collectors pursue it, and most of them liked hats of all kinds before they started. I once saw a display of old hats in a museum and the collection was quite diverse, but there were some antique golf hats there. I know of three antique shops in my locale that have a great number of hats, many of them antique golf hats. But finding them otherwise is a real challenge; the best way is to meet a fellow hat collector. If he is like me, though, he won't want to part with any of them. So if you can arrive at a price that's negotiable, then you've got it covered. My hat's off to you! BYRON NELSON antique golf CLASSIC by Ed DeBell I well remember the first moment during which I spoke to Byron Nelson. The time was January of 1944; the place was the Olympic Club in San Francisco; the event was the San Francisco Open; and the opportunity was the edge of the eighteenth fairway during the last round. Byron Nelson was on his way to becoming the leading money winner that year. In all, he won thirteen of the twenty-three tournaments he entered, and after all, he won $37,967.69 in war bonds. Today, most players win more than that amount in one tournament if they finish in the money. (What would those tournaments of 1944 be worth today?) The next year Byron Nelson won the awesome amount of $63,335.66, almost doubling his earnings of the previous year. That year (1945), he won almost as many consecutive tournaments (eleven) as he had won total tournaments (thirteen) during the previous year (1944). and, his total number of tournments won in 1945 was well as seven second place finishes! Is it any wonder that he was referred to admiringly as "Lord Byron"? My father had driven us over to the Olympic Club from the East Bay in order to watch some of those memorable antique golf professionals of that era. I do not remember exactly who all of them were, but I do remember exactly what transpired. After having roamed the course most of the day following the contending players, my father and I had positioned ourselves alongside the left of the eighteenth fairway to watch the drives and second shots of the leading finishers. Byron Nelson had just hit a commendable drive which hooked ever so slightly to directly opposite to where we were standing, and we wanted to witness his approach shot. As we observed him walking to his ball, my father handed me a pencil and program and commanded: "Dodge out there an' get 'iz bloomin' authograph, Neddy, an' bi quick about it." (My father had been born and raised in London and at one time was somewhat of a late day Oliver Twist.) I hesitated for a moment due to innate shyness, but a nudge on my back sent me stumbling forward. "Mr. Nelson," I gently pleaded in a somewhat apologetic tone, "May I please have your autograph?" His answer is the one thing I remember about that tournament more than anything else. "Not now, Sonny, I'm trying to win this tournament." And win it he did, along with the Knoxville Open, the Golden Valley Open, the Tam O' Shanter Open, and ten more significant tournaments. I cannot recall the names of those other tournaments, but I certainly can recall the name he chose for me. I think that was the only time anyone ever called me "Sonny". (I must have been wearing short pants.) Byron Nelson was the first player ever to have a tournament named in his honor. The Dallas Open became the Byron Nelson antique golf Classic, not the Las Colinas Open or the Dallas antique golf Classic or the Tournament Players' Championship of Texas. It was designated as such over a quarter of a century ago, and it has been recognized as emblematic of the character of Byron Nelson. One astute observer has declared of the TPC at Las Colinas: "Its fairways are generous, its greens are accessible, and from the first tee to the eighteenth green there is not a hint of flamboyance." However, those who are familiar with the course acknowledge that it is worthy of much respect. Designed by Jay Morrish and Ben Crenshaw, the routing of the holes takes into consideration the whistling of the winds of Texas. Most of the long holes play with the wind and most of the short holes play against it. Very few holes play across it, so very few players have to contend with that. And since the wind is such a strong consideration, most of the greens allow for bounce-on-approach-shots. The course is a good test of short game proficiency and many of those greens are surrounded by hilly mounds or grass bunkers. To further enhance the challenge of the greens, the greenskeepers have varied their mowing patterns surrounding the periphery of them. From off the edge you might very well putt to one green, chip to a second, pitch to a third, and play a flop shot to a fourth. The bump and run shot is still a strong challenge at the TPC at Las Colinas. Speaking of playing when the wind kicks up at Las Colinas, Dave Eichelberger once hit a drive which was measured at 397 yards, although I seem to recall that back in the nineteen forties - when Byron Nelson was playing - Jimmy Thompson hit one over 400 yards --- but not at Las Colinas. This tournament also has a reputation of having play suspended probably more times than any other. On more than two dozen occasions rounds have been cancelled, thirty six holes have been played on one day, or the course has been declared unplayable because of lightning, rain, or fog. During only six or seven incidents has the tournament managed four consecutive playing days without interference. I have an idea that Byron Nelson was proclaiming observance to the Gods of Nature when he planted "Byron's Tree" on the left side of the eighteenth fairway several years ago. I respect a man who loves trees. One of the first antique golf books which I owned and studied extensively was Byron Nelson's Winning antique golf. My father presented it to me shortly after "Lord Byron's" monumental year, and I still have the copy among my over-a-hundred antique golf books. There was something about the charisma of Byron Nelson that inspired me to refer to his book as frequently as I could. Flipping through the book after all these years is like re-visiting an old antique golf teacher. And as a tribute to his contributions to the game in so many ways, admirers have erected a nine foot statue of him ajacent to the 1st tee. In recognition as well as reality the figure of Byron Nelson looms tall in the world of antique golf. And, by the way, if you happen to go to his tournament and get a chance to talk to him, have him send me his autograph,....if possible. Tell him it's for "Sonny".