A field of international amateur and professional golfers tee-off on Tuesday 3rd October at Kilspindie, Aberlady in the 13th LinkedGolfers World Hickory Championships. This year the event is being held over Scotland’s Golf Coast’s unique assembly of hickory-bespoke links featuring some of the world’s best layouts.
Hickory Golf is played with original or pre-1936 replica hickory shafted clubs and yet skilful players such as last year’s winner and former Masters Champ Sandy Lyle are still able to hit their drives close to 300-yards yards and record scores of as little as 67, although this has only been achieved twice in the tournaments 12-year history.
As in past years, the field reflects most of the best exponents of hickory golf in the world. Indeed, the organisers will be delighted with support from more than a dozen countries – some which will surprise golfing aficionados. Out of the 120 competitors, 28 are scheduled to arrive this week from Switzerland, where their game is centred on Engadine near St Moritz, where members also tend indulge in toboggan racing in the winter on the infamous Cresta Run. But don’t be bluffed by these remarkable facts, the Swiss are serious hickory golf experts. For example, Paolo Quirici is one of the top seeds this year, and he was Championship winner in 2013.
It also true that the game is sufficiently challenging to eliminate the wanabes. Indeed 80% have competed in the past. That said, the game continues to grow in this extraordinary but incredibly beautiful new location. In recent years, the World Hickory has been played on Scotland’s Golf Coast, where it will now be for the next two years.
Paradoxically, the game seems to appeal to all except Scots. For example, Sweden is the other European country to embrace hickory golf at a very accomplished level. With literally thousands playing the game back home. The World Hickory welcomes 19 of them this year.
The next largest team is not unsurprisingly from the USA, where former champ and one the world’s best known known hickory adherents, former US champion Mike Stevens, comes from. In addition, England led by Andrew Marshall from Norfolk will be well represented this year. Andrew was our Open champion at Carnoustie in 2015. Other nations entered include both Austria, Denmark and another half dozen countries, emphasising the rapid growth of the game at a European level.
Meanwhile this year, Scotland will be represented by a small team of talented international junior golfers from Loretto’s much vaunted Golf Academy, led by former Hickory Champion Rick Valentine.
For golfaholics in Scotland, who are interested in taking a look, the organiser strongly recommends coming along to Kilspindie on Tuesday 3rd and Wednesday 4th October (follow signs from Aberlady, East Lothian) or the Musselburgh Old Course on Thursday 6th and Fri 7th October, at the Racecourse.