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Sir Bob Charles to host historic golf tournament

Posted by: on 26 January 2022

sir bob hickory

Courtesy of Golf NZ:

New Zealand’s greatest golfer, Sir Bob Charles, will host the inaugural Golf Warehouse New Zealand Hickory Open Golf Tournament at the Christchurch Golf Club’s Shirley Links, his home club.

On 13 March 2022, players will use 100-year-old wooden-shafted hickory clubs in an event that is the first of its kind to be held in this country since the 1930s when hickories were in common use.

“I’m really proud and excited to be hosting this national tournament,” said the octogenarian Sir Bob, “which is taking me back to my earliest playing days. It’s a significant milestone in the history of golf in New Zealand, and is our contribution to a world-wide revival of hickory golf. I hope it will become an annual event.”

The tournament, in which players with an 18 handicap and under are eligible to enter, is already attracting a great deal of interest from golf enthusiasts throughout the country. The Golf Warehouse, New Zealand’s principal golf retailer, is generously providing sponsorship.

“Because the tournament will include a foursomes and an individual stroke play championship, played during one day on a nine-hole course, we unfortunately have to limit the field to 72 players,” said Glenn Bongartz, a hickory enthusiast and former Christchurch Men’s Club Captain.

Glenn, Sir Bob Charles, and Stuart Upton of Antique Golf NZ, form the core planning group organising the contest, which will be played in the tradition of links golf on a course measuring 2,700 yards designed by Bob Charles. 

Clubs will be provided from Stuart’s stock of around 450 hickories, many of which are expertly restored or refashioned. His is the largest private collection of playable hickory clubs in New Zealand and one of the world’s largest. Almost 70 playing sets of clubs, eight of which are left-handed, are available for use in the tournament. Each set contains five or six clubs as was common in early competitions, comprising a driver, mid-iron, mashie (short-iron), mashie niblick (pitching wedge) and putter. All sets are in authentic canvas and leather bags of the hickory era. 

“I bought my first hickory club, a putter in very bad condition, at an antique fair in Akaroa in 2010,” said Stu.  “I then discovered that almost all golfing countries hold a national hickory tournament, and I set about building an inventory of clubs to allow tournaments to be held in New Zealand. The three of us were thrilled when Sir Bob Charles agreed to assist us by hosting the first tournament. We all share an ambition to promote the revival of hickory golf in this country.”  

 “I believe that the sophisticated technology of modern clubs and balls has detracted considerably from the skills required in the game,” says Sir Bob. “These 100-year-old hickories are the original clubs, and they have a special feel that provides a great challenge, enabling us to experience the game of golf as it was meant to be played.”   

Golf is widely regarded as being among the most ancient of sports, with its origins stretching back to Medieval times. The manufacture of golf clubs has come a very long way since the 1890s when the first professional tournaments were held in Scotland and England. While today’s sophisticated clubs are made with great precision from the strongest and lightest metals, the earliest clubs, were hand-forged, principally in Scotland, with shafts of hickory, a strong and flexible wood obtained from America, and heads made from various hardwoods such as oak, ash and elm, and later persimmon, among the hardest of woods.

The hickory era extended until the 1930s when modern metal clubs became common. Sir Bob began his playing days with hickory clubs, a mid-iron and a mashie, and even today he will use some clubs inherited from his father.

In hosting the inaugural hickory golf tournament, Sir Bob Charles and his compatriots at the Christchurch Golf Club, hope that they can recapture some of the skills and experiences of traditional golf and help the modern generation of golfers to recognise and respect the origins and growth of this great and ancient game.

The March tournament at the Shirley links is being widely advertised around the country. Players are encouraged to wear traditional dress such as plus four trousers, waistcoat and flat cap, and there will be an impressive display of golf memorabilia from the hickory era. The golf will be followed by a prize-giving and dinner. Proceeds from the day will be donated to Futures Canterbury, an organisation that supports junior golf.

Golfing enthusiasts are welcome at the event as spectators.

 For further tournament information, click HERE

 For further information contact.

Glenn Bongartz (027) 222-5590


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