ARTICLES . . .. .




Barry Kerr  - Old Tom Morris and Hickory Sticks

George Peper - Play (the Old Course) Backwards.   Winter Wonderland

World Hickory Golfer Magazine - Donald Ross, the Twelfth and Me by Mike Stevens



Barry Kerr is the owner of Kerr's Golf Consultancy, based in Dornoch, Scotland and has provided the following introduction to his article "Old Tom Morris and Hickory Sticks".

 By 2008 after spending 50 very interesting years in the golf industry initially as a clubmakers apprentice and latterly as founder and MD of Heritage Golf, (now the St.Andrews Golf Company), I consider myself privileged to have been able to help establish Keepers of the Green. Since moving north to Dornoch where I now have time to enjoy playing golf again, I am establishing my latest business specialising in Edel putter fitting, custom fit special grind wedges and high value antique club replication commissions.Over the years I have been fortunate to have met many of golf's most interesting characters. It would seem foolish to loose contact with the industry and all its high tech developments just because I am considered by some to be past my sell by date. There is after all lots of history but little in the way of true innovation in golf.



For the sake of this article and to avoid any possible confusion to the reader David Joy and Old Tom Morris are the same person, DJ being very adept at slipping in and out of character.

One sunny afternoon in 1989 Old Tom Morris arrived at my newly established Hickory Sticks Golf Company located in Church Square in the middle of St.Andrews.

The old premises in previous years had been a joiners and undertakers yard, which leant an air of intrigue to my old-fashioned clubmaking workshop. After a number of well-guided questions, which happily confirmed my clubmaking credentials to DJ’s satisfaction, Old Tom asked me if I would be interested in fashioning some new sticks for his personal use in an upcoming Byre Theatre production written by himself. This was to be performed each night during the week of the Open Championship in 1990. The fully playable set of facsimile clubs was to consist of ‘The Doctor’, (Alan Robertson’s playclub which he used in the first sub 80 round recorded over the Old Course 5th September 1859), a Forgan long spoon, Tom Morris short spoon, Hugh Philp baffing spoon and Tom Morris putter. There were also two iron headed clubs, a dish faced cleek and rut iron. The set of 7 clubs would have been typical of a professional golfers requisites during the last quarter of the 19th century. After 20 years of intensive use by Old Tom only the baffing spoon, (wooden wedge), needs to be replaced, confirmation as to the strength of the old clubs if proof is required.

Since our early encounter Old Tom Morris has reappeared in many different places including a couple of PGA trade shows in Orlando with our company, igniting the imagination and friendship of a wide group of people. In 1994 one George Makey introduced himself to DJ and shared his vision of Old Tom’s involvement in a new golfing charity hopefully to be based in St.Andrews which was spontaneously christened ‘Keepers of the Green’ by Old Tom. As plans progressed it was thought that it may be of interest to engage new members of KOTG, if indeed there were to be members, in a different kind of golf experience, that of hickory play. At this point my advice was sought with regard to the feasibility of hickory for regular play, which clubs would be required, from what period, how many in a set and could the sets be reproduced at reasonable cost etc. After viewing a selection of original clubs a five club set c.1890 was decided upon, these were considered both strong enough and design friendly enough to be used by a modern player. The photos on the ‘Hickory Clubs’ pages of this web site are the originals from my collection of antiques.

It would be a straightforward business to replicate the iron clubs from the originals with moulds being created to produce wax heads for investment casting. The hickory shafts and leather grips being relatively easy to fit. It would however require a little more skill to reproduce the transitional headed wood, (so called as the head was shorter from heel to toe yet beefier in all other dimensions to withstand the solid ball than the long nose feathery clubs that preceded it). Its brass sole plate and leather face insert were added protection from the rock hard gutta perch balls. As a matter for consideration here is a list of 42 separate operations, which require to be carried out by a clubmaker to produce such a wood. By comparison a modern metal wood usually has 3 components, (4 if a ferrule is to be used), which can be assembled in less than one minuet by an unskilled person working on a modern assembly line.

Stages in the production of a transitional wood, 1) select dried timber, 2) mark out head profile, 3) break out head from plank, 4) select suitable shaft and cut scarf joint, 5) shape head to rough contours, 6) cut scarf joint on head, 7) cut lead weight port and keys, 8) fit crest, melt and pour lead, 9) secure and file lead back weight, 10) mark and cut horn rebate, 11) fit horn and dowel to sole, 12) cut brass sole plate from sheet, 13) file sole to adjust lie, 14) shape and screw sole plate to head, 15) sand head to finished size, 16) glue and bind shaft to head, 17) blend scarf joint head and shaft, 18) scrape shaft to correct flex, 19) seal shaft grain with pitch, 20) waterproof shaft with resinous varnish 3 coats, 21) file face to adjust loft, 22) sand head to fine finish, 23) seal head with sanding sealer, 24) stain head, 25) bring shaft to gloss finish, 26) stamp head and shaft with makers mark, 27) rag on 3 coats of varnish to head, 28) mark grip length and roughen listing area, 29) apply pitch, 30) wind on base layer of listing, 31) roll listing to shaft, 32) pitch first layer of listing and wind on second layer, 33) roll second layer, pitch and wind on third layer, 34) trim and roll listings to shape, 35) select and cut leather grip to size, 36) pitch 3rd listing and wind on leather grip, 37) heavy roll leather grip to required size and shape, 38) trim grip and tack at both ends, 39) whip top and bottom of grip, 40) whip scarf joint, 41) trim, seal and shape butt end of shaft, 42) seal all whipping with varnish, wax and buff head / shaft.




George Peper was, for 25 years, the Editor-in-Chief of Golf Magazine. Today, he is the Editor of Links Magazine where his column appears in each issue. (Fuller biographical details are provided as a footnote to the following two articles). George has been an active Member of Keepers of the Green for many years and is a former Director of the charity.


 Here’s something I bet you didn’t know. The first green of the Old Course is actually the last green. By that I mean it’s the youngest, the last one added to the course. On this links estimated to be more than six centuries old, the putting surface at number one dates back a mere 135 years.  

You see, up until 1870 the first hole shared its green with number 17, the Road Hole, in the same way that—even today—the second hole shares with the 16th, the third with the 15th, the fourth with the 14th, the fifth with the 13th, the sixth with the 12th, the seventh with the 11th, and the eighth with the tenth. (Note how each pair adds up neatly to 18.) Today, the only single-hole greens on the Old Course are the first, ninth, 17thand 18th.

The two-holes-in-the-same-green idea arose in 1832 in response to a sharp increase in play on the Old Course. Before then, the same cup was used by groups heading outward on the front nine and those coming home on the back—a situation that can be assumed to have produced some awkward, dangerous, and, dare I say, nasty moments among the tweed coaters.

Now here’s something else you may not know. Up until that moment in 1870, the Old Course was played backwards—sort of left-handed. Instead of playing down the right edge of the property and then looping counterclockwise for the return down the left corridor, as we do now, golfers played from the first tee to the current 17thgreen and then worked their way up the left side of the course before making clockwise turn into the home stretch.

But when some land freed up on the west side of the burn and Keeper of the Green Old Tom Morris slammed in the new target for number one, lightbulbs ignited under the town’s tam o’ shanters. “Hey,” they said, “we now have an option—we can play the course either clockwise or counterclockwise.” For the next seventy years or so, that is exactly what they did, switching between the right- and left-handed courses on alternate weeks. In the estimation of many, the reverse course was just as good as—and more difficult than—the course we all know today. 

Eventually, however, sanity prevailed. The left-handed course called for criss-crossing between golfers playing down the first and up the 18thholes. With the advent of harder, faster golf balls, that became both silly and dangerous. After World War II, the reverse course was used only sporadically, and then abandoned.

But here’s the third thing you may not know. Backwards is back. The lefty is in from the bullpen. Clockwise time has come. For three days each year—usually the first three days in April—the reverse course goes back into service.

This year I gave it a whirl—and I’m still reeling from the effects. I’d just about gotten to the point where I felt comfortable courting the Old Lady we all know, and suddenly I there I was face to face with a schizophrenic transvestite.

Without boring those of you who have never played the Old Course traditionally, let alone lefty, let me say that holes one and two may be the most difficult start in golf, the first playing from the tee in from of the Royal & Ancient clubhouse diagonally across the first and 18thfairways, then over the Swilcan Burn and the Road Bunker, with out of bounds  down the entire left side, the 460-yard second calling for a big drive and then a slinging-hook long iron or fairway wood around the facade of a hotel. Another killer is the seventh, played from the traditional 13thtee to the green of the par-three 11thhole. But played in reverse, it’s a par four with the tee shot down the traditional 12thfairway (and its minefield of bunkers—invisible on the regular course but very much in sight going backwards—then an approach shot over the dreaded Hill Bunker (where Bobby Jones once tore up his scorecard) to a green that is about as receptive as a trampoline. Blind shots abound, particularly at the 13thwhere I had just 100 yards for my approach but didn’t know where it had finished until I’d strolled for two or three minutes around the acre of gorse that fronted the green (traditionally backs the sixth).

Prior to setting out on the reverse course, I’d been feeling good about my Old Course performance, most of my scores in the mid 70s to low 80s. On this day, I did not see the south side of 90—and I putted well. Still, my day was far less painful than the one experienced by the chap in the group just ahead of mine.

He was a big, strong bloke and I’d noticed that on the holes where he connected he hit the ball a very long way, but it was rare that day that he’d managed to get all his vectors aligned for a proper launch. Now, the final hole calls for a teeshot from the traditional second tee across the Swilcan Burn, perhaps fifty yards ahead, and then up the broad fairway to the 18thgreen.

As many of us like to do on that final hole, our man went for a big one and unleashed perhaps his most powerful hit of the day—but he caught it a tad thin and the ball shot out at barely ankle height whereupon it pinged smartly into a metal support on one of the footbridges over the burn and shot straight back at its originator, striking him like a bullet squarely between the legs.

It all happened so quickly, there was a split-second of shock silence—then, as our friend bent over in agony, clutching his groin, his entire foursome, my entire foursome, plus a half dozen or so caddies and assorted onlookers doubled over in laughter. He had just felt the full visceral thrill of playing the Old Course in Reverse.




It’s November in the Auld Grey Toon, and the silly season has set in.
Why silly? Well, here we are on a remote tip of the Scottish coast–on the same latitude as Moscow. Rain pelts us about one day in three, wind whistles almost constantly at 20-40 mph, and daylight lasts barely eight hours (and that’s daylight, not sunlight—you want sunlight, figure on about two hours). Yet there is golf—unremitting, indomitable, exuberant golf. Look at the current ballot for the Old Course and you’d think it was midsummer—virtually every tee time is taken. The parade of the intrepid is constant, not just on the Old but on the New, the Jubilee, the Eden, the Strathtyrum and the Balgove as well.
When I arrived here, I smirked in disbelief at this procession of fools—heads down, hands in pockets, bundled like Eskimos, trudging doggedly into the gale. Where I’d come from (suburban New York) the probability of my playing winter golf was about the same as my playing Othello at the Met or middle linebacker for the Giants. But here, I’ve learned, things are different. Today I am one of those fools—a confirmed silly winter golfer.
First of all, it’s not quite as idiotic as it looks. Rain, wind, and darkness notwithstanding, the winter conditions in St. Andrews are pretty darned golfable. It’s a dozen degrees or so warmer here than in the U.S. northeast and the average snowfall is only an inch or two per year, as opposed to a foot or several. The courses stay open (with green fees at half price) and the blessed sand-based fairways and greens remain in remarkably good nick. So there is no Labor Day letdown, no hibernation—everyone just keeps on swinging. If you don’t join in, you’re dismissed as a dilettante, a wimp, or both.
Since most of the daily play comes from locals—rather hearty locals at that—there’s no mucking about. Four-ball rounds finish in three and a half hours or less. Indeed, on some days only the swift survive—slackers may freeze in place, blow out to sea, or run out of light. Such conditions also breed a special camaraderie, similar, I’d suspect, to the bond shared by Siberian letter carriers.
The Old Course plays both easier and harder than in summer. Easier because many of the tees are moved up and the ground is so hard that, even on a windless day, a player of moderate power can drive a par four or two. And you may deduct at least one additional stroke from your score as, during any given winter, a large number of the course’s vaunted bunkers become Hallowed Ground Under Repair, as part of the ongoning maintenance program. Thus, when you hit into the Cottage or Cartgate or Strath or Principal’s Nose or Hell, instead of wading sadly into the abyss, you simply pluck the ball out, no penalty. Harder because the bone-hard ground and brisk winds combine to pose relentless strategic challenges. In Before every shot, you must stop and say “Wait a moment now, just exactly what is it that I want to do here?”
There are, however, a couple of tribal rituals that must be learned, beginning with the matter of apparel. I’d always assumed you couldn’t play winter golf without five layers of clothing. Now I know you can’t play winter golf with five layers of clothing. My sartorial epiphany came on the day I learned it’s okay for guys to wear silk underwear.
But the ultimate challenge—and the silliest aspect of the St. Andrews silly season—is the business of taking it to the mat. On November 1, a large wire trash can appears next to the first tee of the Old Course. It’s filled with dozens of slabs of artificial turf, each the approximate size and shape of a haddock. This is the signal that, in the interest of protecting the hallowed ground, over the next five months all iron and wood shots from the fairway will be played off a mat.
My mat and I got off to a poor start. There was a white string attached to it which I assumed was intended to be looped around some appendage of my bag. So I slipped it over my umbrella handle. By the time I reached my tee shot the string had twisted itself into a braid that Heidi would have been proud of—two long minutes later it was unraveled, but so was I.
Most of the wily veterans, I noticed, shoved the mats into pockets of their bags. At least two guys dragged them along the ground behind them, like haddocks on a leash, and one rather corpulent bloke shoved it down the back of his rainpants, an abrasive butt warmer. I settled on a bag pocket.
When your golf ball sits on a mat, it’s approximately ½ inch closer to your hands. Naturally, I failed to compensate, with the result that on my first few swings I made excellent contact with the mat but horrible contact with the ball, propelling both about the same distance. After four mighty swipes at the opening hole I was a yard short of the Swilcan Burn, about to learn that the toughest of all mat shots is the soft wedge. When both ball and mat flopped lazily into the drink I nearly turned back for the warm sanctity of my home.
My debut day with the mat produced a score of 94. My second attempt was marginally more successfully only because I hit every shot of less than 80 yards with a putter. It was nearly a month before I broke the code. But once I did, my mat and I quickly became fast friends. By pointing it to the right of my target, I realized, I could induce the more inside-out swing path I’d been working on for over a year. By positioning the ball at the very back edge of the mat, I was able to hit a driver into the wind when needed. By flipping the mat on its back, and hitting off the corrugated rubber bottom, I could get some check on my pitch shots. One day I actually slapped the mat down on the upper tier of the 17th green and instead of putting used a wedge to flop the ball down to the pin on the lower level. I saved par that blessed day and then parred the home hole for a 72—on January 18th.
And so, along with my Scottish neighbors, I’ve come to love winter golf. For five months a year we play in gales, in hail, and in sleet. We play on days when balls blow off tees and flagsticks blow out of cups, when 300-yard par fours can be reached with 4-irons and 150-yard par threes can’t be reached at all. Our eyes water, our noses run, our ears burn, and our joints ache, but our passion never wavers.
Yes, to walk a brisk 18 holes in winter with three good friends, the wind lashing against your cheek, the turf crunching beneath your feet, is to know a noble sort of joy. Golf just doesn’t get any sweeter.

George Peper Biography

George Peper was for 25 years the Editor-in-Chief of Golf Magazine. Under his leadership the magazine became the most widely read publication in the game, with over 7 million readers, and was nominated for four National Magazine Awards. Today he is Editor of Links Magazine where his column appears in each issue.
Peper is the author, co-author, or editor of 20 books with total sales of more than a million copies. For 20 years he wrote and produced the Masters Annual, the official chronicle of the Masters Tournament. He has written the scripts for over a dozen videos and TV specials including two in cooperation with Jack Nicklaus. His 1999 script for “The Story of Golf,” a two-hour documentary for PBS, earned him an Emmy nomination.
In 2008 Peper was presented the Donald Ross Award from the American Society of Golf Course Architects for his contributions to the game of golf and golf course architecture, joining a list of recipients that includes Byron Nelson, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, and Robert Trent Jones. In 2009 he received the Lincoln Werden Award from the Metropolitan Golf Writers for contributions to golf journalism.
Among his contributions to the game are “Pace Ratings,” which enable courses to establish an exact time in hours and minutes in which a group of four golfers should be reasonably expected to complete 18 holes, and “The Need System” which the USGA has adopted as its recommended method for allocating handicap strokes across 18 holes. He is also the originator of GOLF Magazine’s list of the Top 100 Courses in the World.
Peper earned a B.A. from Princeton and studied toward a PhD in comparative literature at Yale before joining GOLF Magazine. A five-handicap golfer, he is a member of the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews and Newport Country Club in Rhode Island. He is also a member of the Golf Writers Association of America, a member of the advisory panel to the World Golf Hall of Fame and a former director of the National Golf Foundation.
Peper currently is a partner in a Hong Kong based company called Engage which represents American golf course architects for projects in China. Through that business, he has himself become involved with golf course design, and his first course—Moon Island in Qiqihar, China—will open in the summer of 2011.
Peper and his wife Libby have two grown sons, and they now split their time between St Andrews and Portsmouth, Rhode Island.



In some ways, we’re the new kid on the block although, having said that, we’re now about to publish out twelfth monthly, on-line issue. What do we feature? The hickory game. In all its parts. Our writers mainly talk about the game’s history, most especially the hickory years of 1860 1930, but we also like to consider the impact of the ‘Auld Game’ on golf in the 21st century. Its values, its characters and its skills.

Far from being a trip down memory lane. World Hickory Golfer celebrates the continuing strength and impact of the hickory game and the continuum that binds the world of Tom Morris and Willie Park to the golfers of today.
We look to the past and to its influence on the future. Custodians, we hope, of that tradition, we look forward to a full exchange of ideas, correspondence and experience with The Keepers of the Green.

I hope you enjoy reading the selected article by Mike Stevens and encourage you to read the rest of the August 2011 issue which you can access by clicking on this link

Lionel Freedman,

Editor, World Hickory Golfer


Donald Ross, the Twelfth and Me
By Mike Stevens

A player’s point of view, reliving the glory of the wooden shaft era in the 2011 U.S. Hickory Open.

Most people in the United States know French Lick, Indiana as the home of Larry Bird, the great basketball player of the Boston Celtics. Long before the Hoosier state schoolboy spent hours shooting baskets at the local gym, French Lick hosted one of the last major golf tournaments played with hickory shafted clubs – the 1924 PGA Championship. In that event, Walter Hagen outlasted Jim Barnes on the 36th hole to win and pocketed $6,830, a princely sum in those times.

The golf course was designed by Donald Ross and originally called the Hill course and an apt description of the layout it is. Up and down, the holes wind through the hills on the outskirts of town. Standing on the clubhouse veranda, one can see most of the course and marvel at the brilliance of Ross. Here is a man who knew how to challenge the best in the game but also give the master of the foozle a reasonable route to threaten par.

To this venue came 81 hopefuls wielding mashies, cleeks and niblicks with dreams of capturing the U.S. Hickory Open Championship. Weather wise it was magnificent, at least for me, a Florida native, bright, sunny and hot. I mean Sahara hot. I swear I saw some of the local corn cobs popping on their stalks. I loved it and felt right at home.

Unfortunately, Mr Ross positioned some native grasses that swallowed my ball on the backside of green number twelve. Up to that point I was getting along rather handsomely. A mere three over level fours and then triple bogey. How cruel the golf deity can be sometimes. To follow up, the two toughest holes on the course lay ahead. Confidence shattered, I limped home in 82 blows.

Day two temperature was slightly cooler as I teed off seven shots in arrears and fighting my swing. Luckily, my short game was cracker and kept me going until again number twelve, a hole that just had it in for me. This time, after a wonderful shot from deep rough to the front of the green, I was faced with a putt from French Lick to Terre Haute. Needless to say three putts later my heat index rivalled mother natures. The damage done, I faltered some on the next few holes and finished with 80. The good news is that it was third lowest score of the day and netted me a fifth place finish.

All in all, it was a great time with many old and new friends who share a love of golf that came here a century past. The competition was spirited, the venue pleasing and the festivities joyous. The French Lick resort personnel were great hosts and went out of their way to insure all had a great time. Congratulations to Alan Grieve who travelled all the way from Australia, a worthy champion with two fine 75’s. It is pleasing to see the interest and growth of the hickory game across America. I salute all my fellow participants and hope we can do it again next year at this same site. After all, I have a score to settle with Mr Ross and number twelve.