Philip Truett

Philip Truett, the doyen of modern-day hickory-golf, has honoured FineGolf  by accepting an invitation to join its Advisory Panel.

 

Philip Truett, hickory golf,

Philip Truett

Philip was a founding member of the British Golf Collectors Society in 1987 which has become the primary organiser of games played with pre-1935 hickory-shafted clubs outside of the U.S.A.

philip truett, hickory golf,

Philip in action at Brancaster

He has played an influential part in golf behind the scenes, and has been a committee member of the Royal & Ancient, Walton Heath, South-Eastern Juniors and is a member of many other clubs, including Rye. He is the custodian of perhaps the most complete collection of early golf books in private hands in Europe and plays with a selection of James Braid hickory-shafted clubs, Braid having been Open Champion five times and the professional at Walton Heath 1904 to 1950.

Always dressed immaculately he favours traditional dress on the course. He is an expert on the now defunct Royal Isle of Wight GC and golf course architect Herbert Fowler.

He will be at FineGolf’s  ‘Running-Golf Day’ on Sept 4th, at Notts GC, Hollinwell, and has written for FineGolf a fascinating article below that explains the history of hickory play and the running-game,  while promoting the concept of the ‘three-dimensional game’ that was initially developed by five times Open Champion Peter Thomson.

 

“THE RUNNING GAME AND HICKORY GOLF”  by Philip Truett

 

The stated aim of Lorne Smith’s most admirable crusade is to focus on the enjoyment of playing on all-the-year-round firm, fast-running surfaces – the running game – in contrast to soft target-golf.

The ever-increasing number of hickory players could, quite easily, adopt the same mantra. We need to run the ball. Firstly, to obtain length on the long shots with the lower-flighted ball and, secondly, for the shorter shots, to run the ball on to the green.

A shot from up to 100 yards out and barely leaving the ground with one’s ‘Approaching Cleek’ is, I would suggest, infinitely more satisfying than picking a wedge, with exactly the correct loft, and hitting it flat out with a large divot going almost as far as the shot itself.

Try the low running shot sometime but you will only be able to achieve it, particularly in the middle of winter, if your surfaces have got Lorne’s fine grasses, as we have on our predominantly fescue grassed fairways at Walton Heath.

Golfers from the pre-1930 hickory days wouldn’t even know what target-golf was!

Why should they have known? The greens and the fairways of the traditional links and heathland courses were naturally firm and fast. The equipment, apart from one’s trouble club – the niblick – weren’t designed to throw the ball high in to the sky. The ball was hit in such a way that it ran on after pitching.

We must never forget that golf was always meant to be a three-dimensional game. It should be about length, direction and run.

Target-golf takes away one of those dimensions – the run on the ball. Excluding that third factor brings it down to just how far we hit it and how straight we hit it – akin to a game of darts!

Losing the run of the ball takes a huge amount of skill and enjoyment out of the game. Not surprisingly, those earning a living from hitting a golf ball are only too keen to avoid that third dimension which, so often, results in a bad or unlucky bounce, but that was always part of the game.

Of course, hickory-shafted clubs did loft the ball. In fact, at a time when the game was expanding so rapidly in the 1890’s and so much unsuitable ground was being used to lay out these new inland courses, the game almost resembled a steeple-chase. Ditches (bunkers) and mounds (fences) were thrown up across the complete width of a fairway. One barrier for a bogey four and two for a bogey five hole. Playing from square, gun-platform tees to square greens didn’t help the aesthetics!

However, these barriers were never hard up against a green. Following the ball landing, it needed space to run out and to stop, as per the third dimension referred to above.

The later, better educated, golf course architects of the ‘Strategic School’  did away with the steeple-chase, while the cross-bunkers they created were still comfortably back from the greens and almost invariably with a space down one side, for the player to run their ball through that gap. Very exciting!

The run on the ball is vital. We must maintain our courses in such a way that  allows us to achieve this, by encouraging the growth of fine grasses.