Vinyl Lust and Hickory Golf — A Shared Passion

Record Spinning on Turn Table

Deal W. Hudson

July 26, 2015

As I walked into the local Barnes & Noble today, I noticed a sign on the front door, “Vinyl Records are inside.” I had been aware of the resurgent interest in vinyl recordings, but the sign on the front door of a mega-chain of bookstores made me smile.*  I immediately thought to myself that all the golfers, like myself, who have embraced “hickory golf” are caught up in the same passion as those who have developed a lust for vinyl in the place of CDs.

What’s the passion? It’s not hard to understand — a simple desire to return to the immediacy of a great pleasure, whether music or golf, without the “enhancements” of modern technology.  Here are two instances, and I’m sure there are others, where a group of enthusiasts has come to realize the new technology had lessened the pleasure it has promised to increase.

Record Spinning on Turn Table

Record Spinning on Turn Table

In the case of vinyl recordings, there is no doubt in my mind, having never sold or given away my large vinyl collection, that an LP played with a decent turnable and cartridge through any kind of sound system will sound better than a CD. The sound is warmer, richer, and causes no aural fatigue. You bathe in the sound rather than being assaulted by hard-edged recordings with unnecessary spotlighting of instruments and voice, usually mixed to challenge the capacities of a sub-woofer.

The vinyl recording has enabled an entire generation to experience recorded music at its best, without the prophylactic of digitalized sound. (Hey, they can even play the Beatles’ “White Album” backward the way my college roommates did in 1968 at the University of Texas.)

Likewise, the thousands of men and women around the world who have put away their steel clubs for hickory-shafted original or reproductions (such as those of Tad Moore) of clubs from before the 1930s — the kind of clubs used by the great Bobby Jones when he won the Grand Slam in 1930.  Shortly after, golfers would adopt the steel shaft, in part because of Jones’ own set of steel-shafted Spalding irons.

Bobby Jones hitting his hickory shafted driver.

Bobby Jones hitting his hickory shafted driver.

But by the turn of the century, advancements in club and ball technology had morphed into a preoccupation with distance — everyone began to chase after adding another twenty yards to their drives. Professional golfers began to hit the ball so far off the tee that classic golf courses like Merion, Winged Foot, and Shinnecock had to be lengthened by the addition of new tee boxes never envisioned by the course designers. Courses that once played at 650o yards were lengthened to over 7000 yards.

Watching Dustin Johnson’s monster 350 years drives at St. Andrew’s during the last British Open made me sad — he wasn’t playing the “Old Course” anymore and, as a result, the charm, allure, and mystery of the game were being diminished.  Those of us who have joined groups like the Society of Hickory Golfers, the Carolina Hickory Golf Association, and the Virginia Hickory Golf Association, have said, in effect, “Enough is enough!”**

We play our tournaments wearing plus-fours, shirts with ties, long socks, two-toned (preferably) shoes, and a cap.  Vests, jackets, and other 1920s accouterment are always welcome. Walking into a hickory golf reception and “swap meet” is just like visiting a retro vinyl shop — you meet people who are just as crazy as you are, just as enthusiastic, and ready to become friends on the spot.

The author with Tom Mehigan on the first tee at St Andrews

The author with Tom Mehigan on the first tee at St. Andrews

Out on the course, because our tournaments are played anywhere from 5500 to 6100 yards, distance becomes relative and no one is left behind because he or she is not a big hitter.  It’s “drive for show and putt for dough” with a vengeance.

Add the use of the “mesh ball,” a replica of the 1920’s version, without the spin and high compression of the modern ball, and ball striking has to become more precise, meaning swings must remain smooth and marked by steady tempo to meet the ball in the center of the club face.  You might say hickory-shafted golf clubs are the real game improvement clubs! (Take a look at the reproductions of Mike Just at Louisville Golf.)

You also might say that the craving for vinyl records and for hickory golf is a craving for beauty, for the fullness of the pleasure that comes with an immersion in music and abandonment to the sport of golf. Real music lovers are no longer pretending that digitalized sound is better because it’s a new technology. Avid golfers are realizing they have an alternative to mastering the gut-busting drives that have not improved their golf scores at all and have taken their attention away from delight in the precision of ball striking, the knock-down shot, the bump-and-run, and, of course, the vicissitudes of the short stick.

Music is an art; golf is a sport; both art and sport provide us with time away from rigors of responsibility to work and family, renewing us for a return to the world that puts productivity ahead of both play and pleasure.  For too long we’ve allowed the productive world to take over our time away, our space apart, and in both vinyl lust and hickory golf, we are witnessing the beginnings of a revolt.

*More than 9.2 million vinyl albums were sold last year in the US, a 52% increase over the previous year.

**The World Hickory Golf Championship is played each fall in Scotland. The 2015 championship will be played Oct. 19-23 at the famed Carnoustie Golf Club.

By Deal Hudson

Deal W. Hudson was born November 20, 1949 in Denver, CO, to Emmie and Jack Hudson, both native Texans. Dr. Hudson had an older sister Ruth, and eventually, a younger sister, Elizabeth. Emmie Hudson, Ruth Hudson and Elizabeth Hudson now live in Houston, TX; Jack Hudson passed away some years ago. The late Jack Hudson was a captain for Braniff Airlines in Denver at the time of Dr. Hudson’s birth. Later the family moved to Kansas City when his father joined the Federal Aviation Agency. From Kansas City, the Hudson family moved to Minneapolis, then to Massapequa, NY, and finally to Alexandria, VA, where they first occupied a home overlooking the Potomac River adjacent to the Mount Vernon estate. After a year, the family moved to a home on Tarpon Lane a few houses up the street from the Yacht Haven boat docks. Dr. Hudson attended Mt. Vernon Elementary School from grades 4 to 6 and has a special gratitude for the teaching of Mr. Hoppe who first told him was a ‘smart lad.’ Having moved with his family to Fort Worth, TX in 1960, Dr. Hudson attended William Monnig Junior High and Arlington Heights HS. In high school, Dr. Hudson was captain of the golf team, editor of the literary magazine (Guerdon), and performed the role of Peter in the ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ during his senior year. Dr. Hudson graduated cum laude with a major in philosophy from the University of Texas-Austin in 1971 where his undergraduate advisor was Prof. John Silber. His teachers at the University of Texas included Prof. Louis Mackey and Prof. Larry Caroline. Dr. Hudson minored in both classics and English literature. Dr. Hudson lived in Atlanta from 1974-1989, where he attended Emory University, receiving a Phd from the Graduate Institute for the LIberal Arts. He also taught philosophy at Mercer University in Atlanta from 1980-89. In 1989 Dr. Hudson and his family left Atlanta when he was hired to teach philosophy at Fordham University in the Bronx. Dr. Hudson taught at Fordham, and also part-time at New York University, from 1989 to 1994. Dr. Hudson first came to Atlanta in after graduation from Princeton Theological Seminary (PTS) with an M.Div. While at PTS, Dr. Hudson managed the Baptist Student Union at Princeton University and became its first director. Dr. Hudson also was licensed at a minister in the Southern Baptist Convention at Madison Baptist Church in Madison, NJ. Dr. Hudson’s primary area of study at PTS was the history of Christian doctrine which he pursued with Dr. Karlfried Froelich. In 1984 Dr. Hudson was received in the Catholic Church by Msgr. Richard Lopez, with the special permission of Archbishop Thomas A. Donnellan, at the chapel of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Cancer Home in Atlanta. Dr. Hudson has been married twenty-five years to Theresa Carver Hudson and they have two children, Hannah Clare, 23, and Cyprian Joseph (Chip), 15, adopted from Romania when he was three years old. The Hudson family has lived in Fairfax, VA for more than fifteen years, after having lived five years in Bronxville, NY and a year in Atlanta, GA, where Theresa and Deal were married.

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