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Player And Horschel Try Different Eras Of Clubs

Forbes' Michael Noer explains what happened when Gary Player and Billy Horschel hit the Slammer and the Squire at the World Golf Village with clubs and clothes from three eras.

Horschel is out this morning to play a unique round with a titan of the game: Gary Player, the 77-year-old South African champion who is one of only five players ever to win golf’s career grand slam, capturing titles in all four majors. (The others are Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Gene Sarazen, and Ben Hogan.) The twist? The two players, young and old, will play with three sets of clubs: the replicas, sets of vintage Pings from the 1960s, and some fresh-from-the-machinist 2012 Callaways. They aren’t planning to keep score, but they are eager to experience, over a single round dressed in era-appropriate clothing, how time and technology have changed the sport.

Horschel is pumped. “I’m a big fan of the history of the game of golf and seeing the way it has been played by different generations,” he says.

Player was not a fan of the hickories or the 70s era stuff.

Player loves the jazz age duds: “Looks neat, doesn’t it? Hell of a lot better than how we dress today.” But the hickory shafts? Um, not so much: “It feels terrible. It’s like holding your wife’s hand with a glove on.”


After the sixth the duo changes into all-black outfits, commemorating Player’s long reign at the top of the golf world as the “Man in Black.” Even better, they are changing clubs, loading their bags with steel-shafted irons and persimmon woods.

“Still feels terrible,” grumbles Player.


The modern clubs are a relief. Player launches a rocket off one of the last tees. “For me to stand here and to be able to drive the ball within 25 yards of this young man, when I’m getting close to 80, is such an enjoyment,” he says. “I wouldn’t play golf if I had to play with hickory sticks.”

There is a short "making of" video accompanying the story as well.

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Reader Comments (11)

The Man in Black is only 25 yds shorter than Horschel?
12.18.2012 | Unregistered CommenterKevin part deux
I just picked up some playable common hickories to see and feel what it is like. I am enamored with the click and very much enjoying the reduced margin for error! But I am half as old as Gary. FYI there are two major hickory events coming to the Philly area next summer...
12.18.2012 | Unregistered CommenterArdmoreari
I am always highly suspect of Gary's statements. However, as I age I, too, want to play whatever club allows me to hit it higher and farther with less effort.
12.19.2012 | Unregistered CommenterTaffy
Soft is an understatement. Forget about the luxury of having a reliable car, assuming you could even afford one. Ever wonder when or where the next decent meal was coming from? A famous couple were thankful to have a bag of oranges. Sad that Gary can't recall that nothing feels as good as balata on persimmon. There is one other thing but he's pushing 80, so it's probably a lost memory as well.
12.19.2012 | Unregistered CommenterD. maculata
I suspect the persimmon would summon great platitudes from Gary if he caught it on the screws...these were the tools of his winning era, and without a week or so of range work, the persimmon is a fade turned into a slice, or a draw that quacks.

And then we get to the irons, where the 1-4 are much smaller than the ball at address! Ah but how sweet thr feel of catching a 3 iron and watching it sail, a feat Player must not have had.
12.19.2012 | Unregistered Commenterdigsouth
As a contemporary of Gary Player, I totally agree with his sentiments. I played a 9 hole course in Scotland this summer with hickory-shafted clubs and a ball from the same era and it was fun but not something I would enjoy doing regularly, although I did so through the 1950's. Nor would I care to go back to the era of persimmon-headed drivers. Modern technology enables me to play courses up to about 6400 yards long and still score in the 80's. With my 460cc Ping K15 and high-tech graphite shaft I can hit it as far as I ever hit my beautiful Ben Hogan red-painted persimmon driver.

By the way, I followed Gary for most of a round during a tournament in Scotland in the early 1960's. He shot 66, and chatted to the half-dozen of us who were there throughout. I've been a fan ever since.

"He says he’s played for at least 65 years,
Is there anyone left among his peers?
He claims he remembers Jack as a kid
And St. Andrews costing a couple of quid,
When metal shafts were the latest thing,
Long before Karsten had thought of Ping."
12.19.2012 | Unregistered CommenterBardolinks
Mr. Bardolinks
Why would you want to play 6400 yards with persimmon & hickory?
Why not a course that was 5200 yards? - 2.5 hours easy - assuming the course was 6000 yards long - and very good
12.19.2012 | Unregistered CommenterMike
When I 'connect' with my 1981 Toney Penna persimmon driver, I am not THAT far behind my Titleist 910 (soon to become a 913.) When I connect with my 1920s, hickory stick, I am 60-70 yards behind but love the sound and feel. I am just as likely to hit my Tom Stewart mashie onto the green as a modern 7-iron. The biggest difference is the lack of shot saving wedges around the green - a niblick is a very limited instrument on a modern golf course. 6000-yards is about the limit - anything above that is a struggle with hickory.
12.19.2012 | Unregistered CommenterIvan Morris
Mike, I meant that I can play up to 6400 yards e.g with my son, not that I prefer to. My preference is around 6000 which gives me a shot at shooting my age!
12.19.2012 | Unregistered CommenterBardolinks
So is Gary getting senile? Or can he just not make up his mind? I thought (according to him) that modern equipment was ruining the game...

I call B.S. on the whole distance debate. Scoring records are not falling left and right. Well designed green complexes are still difficult. You have to master the game within the game. Bombing the ball prodigious distances does not in any way, shape, or form guarantee success. Particularly on well designed golf courses.
12.19.2012 | Unregistered Commenterkduerr
gary doesn't want to play without modern clubs, but he thinks OK to make people who have anchored putted their entire careers must be made to change
12.20.2012 | Unregistered Commenterrmp

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