05 Sep 2023 | Amateur golf |

Hickory champions emerge on Sandbelt

by Golf Australia

Hickory champions emerge on Sandbelt
Richard Macafee and Catherine Palmer: 2023 Australian Hickory Shaft Champions

By Patrick Taylor

Over the last two days, the historic fairways of Woodlands and Kingston Heath have been graced by impeccably dressed golfers keen to experience the Sandbelt courses as they would have been played over 100 years ago.

Players from Australia, New Zealand and Japan came together to enjoy the renowned Melbourne layouts as, for the first time, the Australian Hickory Shaft Championship was held in conjunction with the Asia Pacific Championship.

After 36 holes, New Zealand’s Catherine Palmer, playing with hickory clubs for full rounds for the first time, and local Richard Macafee were crowned champions, with Macafee setting a new scoring record of 148 across the two days play.

Macafee, a long-time member of Kingston Heath, has a fast-growing passion for hickory golf.

“I finally got my own [hickory] clubs, and to play with my own set was unbelievable… I’ll be doing it a lot more now”, he said.

If playing with hickory clubs wasn’t challenge enough, players were faced with fierce wind and rain on both days, making course management more important than ever.

“On the Sandbelt, you’ve just got to stay out of the bunkers,” said Macafee.

“When you’re using hickory mashies, the bunkers are real hazards. You haven’t got 60-degree lob wedge to get it out.”

The first day at Woodlands was Palmer’s first full round with hickory clubs, but she didn’t let that stop her take out the women’s title with an impressive score of 169.

“Back home in Christchurch, I’d just been playing nine holes, and on these fast and firm courses, it made it a lot more challenging,” said Palmer.

While Macafee benefited from the home course advantage this week, Palmer has her sights on the New Zealand Hickory Open at her home course in Christchurch next March.

This week marked another successful event organised by Australian Golf Heritage Society and the Golf Society of Australia, alongside the Society of Hickory Golfers, who continue to celebrate golf’s origins and rich tradition.

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