French Lick Resort is transported back to the golden age of golf this week as the historic resort destination in southern Indiana hosts the largest field ever for the U.S. Hickory Open Championship. The U.S. Hickory Open, which is run by the Society of Hickory Golfers, will be held on the resort’s historic Donald Ross course. Golfers will be transported back in time to a day when the game was first brought to America in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s including the era when the Donald Ross course was created at French Lick Resort in 1917.
The event this year will be the largest ever, as 81 hickory golfers from 27 states, as well as Canada and Australia are entered. In addition, two women will join the field including Mary Ellen Harkins from Morgantown, North Carolina, and Claudia Aaron from Atlanta, Georgia. Alan Grieve from Queensland Australia will travel the furthest for the competition.
“Having the largest field ever coming to French Lick Resort is a testament to the growing popularity of hickory clubs across the country”, said Chris Deinlein, President of the Society of Hickory Golfers. “We are also excited to have two women join the field as well as players from Canada and Australia.”
Golfers participating in the Hickory Open are also encouraged to look the part, with knickers, plus fours, dress shirts and ties straight from the 19th century. Together with old-fashioned hickory-shafted golf clubs, this event will truly be like going back in time.
Matt Dodd's, a marketing executive, has been a passionate hickory golfer since 2003. He noticed that many of the country’s classic courses were being rendered obsolete due to the modern equipment and began playing hickory clubs as a way to have a deeper bond with the game.
“Playing hickory clubs is very liberating and special, especially when playing the old classics like a Donald Ross links-style layouts”, said Dodd's. “These courses really come alive when you're playing with hickories as they were laid out for hickories. Very fair in that the course opens up to give you great opportunities when you come in on the intended line of play, yet highly punitive when you don't. No gimmicks or forced carries. The set up at French Lick for the United States Hickory Open is ideal in this sense.”
French Lick Resort, situated among the rolling hills of the Hoosier National Forest, is the perfect site for such a historic event. Since the early 1900’s, golf has been an integral part of this resort area. Tom Bendelow designed the first course here in 1907 followed by the great Donald Ross ten years later.
The historic Donald Ross course underwent a recent $4.6 million restoration project that has brought the course back to Ross’s original plans. The Ross course brings a rich history to the French Lick Resort. The course was site of the 1924 PGA Championship won by the legendary Walter Hagen and hosted other golf greats and celebrities such as Gene Sarazen, Chick Evans, and Bing Crosby.
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