CHARLEVOIX COUNTY (WPBN/WGTU) -- ”It’s heaven on earth up here,” said Florida native Ross Hays as he took in his surroundings at Belvedere Golf Club in Charlevoix. "People come from all over the country for this tournament, and I think the main reason is the beauty of northern Michigan.”
The tournament he's referring to is the Belvedere Hickory Open, which is one of the 4 Major Championships in Hickory Golf.
“A lot of us like this better than modern golf,” said Hays. “When you hit a good shot, holy mackerel is that great.”
Hickory golf is just like golf, except it's played with hickory shafted clubs made before 1935.
“I don’t play modern golf anymore,” said participant Chuck McMullin, who's love for history led him to the game of hickory golf. “I’m a historian, I'm a collector, and when you're a collector you have to study history. And I enjoy the history of golf.”
“This club is probably from 1915-1920,” said golfer Bill "Ernie Ernst, as he showed off one of his clubs. Ernst made the trip from Wisconsin, and believes that the Belvedere Open is one of the best hickory tournaments in the country. "The key to a good hickory tournament is going where they want you. And Belvedere, the members of Belvedere here, treat us so well."
While players travel across the country to compete in hickory tournaments, it’s not the competition that drives them, but the friendships made along the way.
“We always say that golf is the greatest friend making machine ever invented," Hays said. "I’ve met a lot of good people playing golf, and playing hickory golf.