An Ode to Musselburgh I don't know what overcame me when I first visited the ancient links of Musselburgh. Whatever it was, it endeared me to that hallowed ground forever. There is something about those ancient holes which truly takes you back to a time when golf was more than just a game.
There is only one other place in the world which gives me the same feeling and that is Oakhurst Links, the oldest golf course in the United States. Home of American Golf, home of the National Hickory Championship, I try to honor both by playing clubs which were handcrafted in Musselburgh prior to 1900. In the 2010 National Hickory Championship I brought both worlds together by playing my Musselburgh pre-1900 play set and wearing my Musselburgh Old Course Golf Club Red Members Golfing Jacket. These red jackets were quite popular prior to 1900. They were a warning of sorts, "Golfing, beware of ill struck shots." My current pre-1900 play set for the National Hickory Championship includes: Willie Park, Jr. Long Nose Driver: Loft = 9 Degrees Struck under optimal conditions I can max this driver out around 200 yards. The longest drive I have hit is a whopping 211 yards! Not much to a non-gutty era player, but I assure you that ís quite a poke in pre-1900 golf. Willie Park Cleek: Loft = 19 degrees A well struck shot should be around 170 -180 yards. At Oakhurst Links the fairways are rough, so a cleek off the fairway would give you questionable results. I use the cleek on 4 of the 9 tee shots at Oakhurst Links. F.A. Carrick General Iron: Loft = 30 degrees I have a Wm Park Iron, which fills out an entire Willie Park pre-1900 play set, but the weight on the Park is near D2. I have found that an optimal swing weight for a pre-1900 club at Oakhurst to be around an F2. This F.A. Carrick General Iron was a Godsend, it is responsible for two of the best shots I have ever hit at Oakhurst. Off the gravel road on the Par 5 Second Hole to a foot off the green, and my second shot approach on the Par 5 Eighth Hole to 4 feet. A well struck full shot: 155 yards. Willie Park Mashie: Loft = 35 degrees A club that does not see a lot of swings at Oakhurst, but a good club none the less. A well struck full shot: 140 yards. Willie Park Lofter: Loft = 40 degrees This Willie Park Lofter was a new addition to my bag in 2010. It has a longer head heel to toe than my previous lofter, and has a slightly unusual shape. That being said it has an ideal weight which allows the club to dig the ball out of all kinds of awful lies. A well struck full shot: 130 yards Willie Park Niblick: Loft = 50 degrees I picked up this Wm Park Niblick from Randy Jensen. It is essential to my pre-1900 play set. It has a heavy swing weight which will dig me out of trouble and yet is quite versatile for opening up the face and producing higher softer shots into the small greens at Oakhurst. A well struck full shot: 110 yards. Willie Park Rut Iron: Loft = 45 degrees This beautiful club didn't make the cut in my first National Hickory Championship, but in 2010 I made a great discovery. While my regular Park Niblick has a dig sole and is nearly worthless out of bunkers, the Rut actually has enough bounce to produce great shots out of greenside bunkers. If you see this club in my hands I'm in trouble. A well struck full shot are you kidding me? Willie Park Junior Splice Neck Putter: Loft = 6 degrees This club is also a new addition to my pre-1900 play set in 2010. In 2009 I used a Wm Park Patented Bent Neck Putter, which was fine, but Oakhurst nearly begs you to putt with a long nose putter. I searched for two years and finally found one about a month prior to the 2010 National Hickory Championship.
Notibles: Wm Park Patented Driving Cleek (Prototype?) This unusually shaped possible prototype Wm Park Patented Driving Cleek was added to my set just prior to the 2010 National Hickory Championship. Unfortunately I did not have enough time to stress test the shaft and judge the club's playability prior to the tournament. Musselburgh Open Championship Set (bottom image) Here is another set that will hopefully make the cut one of these years. I call the set the Musselburgh Open Championship set because each club dates within the era that Musselburgh hosted its 6 Open Championships (1874-1889). The set consists of a McEwan Long Nose Driver, Carrick Cleek, Carrick General Iron, Carrick Lofter , a Carrick Rut Iron and finally a Wm Park Sr. Long Nose Driver. Ball of Choice: When at Oakhurst play the Oakhurst. For authenticity the McIntyre Gutty. Clothing:
For the NHC I prefer to play in a four piece golfing suit with plus two knickers. The Musselburgh Red Golfing Jacket seemed like an ideal fit for the occasion. Tee: Find sand.. add water. If you haven't played in the National Hickory Championship, I would highly suggest it. It might be the most fun you'll ever have on a golf course.