Michael Cruz is a 10-year-old home schooled student living in Westminster. He is an avid antique collector and is an appraisal apprentice for Gizmos Art. He has been collecting antiques since he was 6 years old.
Cruz began to play golf with his grandfather when he was 4. He became interested in hickory golf clubs when his grandfather gave him a hickory golf club two years ago. It is a 45-degree Mashie Niblick made between 1900-1905. The word mashie derived from the word massue or club. The word niblick is short for neb or nib meaning little nose.
The first golf clubs were made in the 1400s in St. Andrews, Scotland. Mary, Queen of Scots, played it. In 1457, King James II banned the game because it was so popular.
Hickory golf clubs were used from 1826 to 1935. At first, they used ash wood for the shaft but it was too stiff and did not bend. They replaced ash with bendable hickory. “When you swing the club, you do not want it to be stiff. You use a lightweight club that you can swing fast,” Cruz said.
Until 1900, golfers used rut clubs with plain metal club face. From 1900-1910, they punched dots into the club face so the ball would have more back spin. According to Cruz, “Back spin is important because it helps create lift on the golf ball and the ball will go higher into the air.”
Cruz has one rut club in his collection that was made between 1870-1880 by A. G. Spalding and Brothers, later Spalding, the first American company to make its own brand of golf clubs.
“We searched the internet to find someone to regrip my clubs,” Cruz said. “We were put in touch with Peter Yogi, a golf enthusiast in Washington state. He was happy that such a young person loved antique clubs that he sent 11 vintage clubs to Cruz as a present.
In 1910, they started making grooves in the club face. Cruz has examples of all three types of clubs. The grooves increase the back spin. About that time, they stopped putting just names on the clubs. They began to combine names and numbers on the clubs and later used just numbers.
The reason they are called irons is because the heads were originally made of iron. Woods are called woods because originally the handles were made of wood.
“Before the used of golf bags, golfers laid their clubs against a wooden bag stand.” Cruz explained. In the 1800s, they used golf bags that were completely made of canvas. They also made a round canvas bag at that time but they tipped over because of the shape. They had to use a wooden stand for their bags to keep it out of the wet grass. In 1910, they put metal supports in round golf bags and they have been in bags ever since.
Cruz has a rare canvas bag in his collection. He uses it for his hickory sticks golf clubs.
Cruz explained that tees have changed as well. Until 1899 they used sand to hold the golf balls instead of tees. The caddy built the tee from sand in the boxes kept on the tees.
“In 1899, a man was trying to invent a toothpick and invented a golf tee instead. Early handmade tees were called reddy tees because they were painted red. The top is not perfectly round and somewhat oval. It is fatter at the tip,” Cruz said.
Until the 1930s and 1940s, they made tees that were still red and longer than modern tees. In the 1950s, they started making a variety of colors. Tees are made of plastic today.
The first golf balls were called feathery golf balls and were made with three pieces of leather of sewn together. They used a top hat as a measure by filling it with feathers and filled the golf ball with that number of feathers.
“Golf balls have also changed over the years.” Cruz said. “From 1860-1880 they used golf balls with tiny convex circles. In 1880 they changed to the gutty golf ball which has square dimples. The dimples to increase the back spin and catch the face of the club. In 1921-1970 they started using round dimples. In 1970, they changed to balls with dimples that were small and not as deep. In 1980, the dimples changed again. They are five-sided pentagon dimples.”
In 1935, they began to make golf club shafts from solid steel or yellow pyratone on steel (a type of hard plastic). They were Cruz’s first golf clubs. Today, clubs are made with graphite shafts or very thin steel.
Cruz is a member of the Society of Hickory Golfers. The club was established to preserve the original game. Cruz and his grandfather, Thomas Taylor, have founded the Westminster Hickory Golf club. Cruz built an early style golf course (Cruz International Golf Club) on his property. The course has shorter holes for use of the hickory stick clubs that do not send the ball as far as modern clubs.
Cruz and his grandfather play golf at the McDaniel College golf course continuing a fine family tradition. His great-grandfather, Woodrow Preston Taylor, played at the Western Maryland College (McDaniel) golf course with Cruz’s grandfather.
“It is one of the oldest sports around and I have family history in it. It is also fun,” Cruz said.