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Q500 - 500 holes with one hickory golf ball.

Side by side: New pearly white and the "Q500" after 126 holes.

A follow up to the recent article Hickory Golf balls - Why, a McIntyre Ouimet golf ball attempts to defy all odds and survive for 500 holes!

This article exists because I was eager to put the cracking issue experienced with the previous generation mesh ball (The Victor) to a full test. That first go around with the earlier McIntyre ball ended in disappointment when the covers cracked unexpectedly. The problem was widely reported and eventually diagnosed as due to the first generation Wilson Duo covers being too hard for the ultra low compression core. This was a flaw that originated with Wilson's R&D and had nothing to do with the secondary process of creating a hickory ball.

The McIntyre Golf Company didn't wait for Wilson to rectify its cover issue (the Duo has since been re-engineered) and used an entirely different ball for their 2nd generation mesh ball labeled "The Ouimet".

I have been anxious to hit the links with the classic looking ball once again and finally got my chance. After 8 rounds and 144 holes of banging around the same ball, I am happy to report, that the cracking issue is history. ;)

But then why stop here? The idea to see just how long one golf ball can survive seemed like a fun experiment and goofy Don Quixote like quest to try. So the following is an ongoing account of the trials and tribulations of one McIntyre Ouimet golf ball. I tried to add a little humor to the journey, but it's probably best to keep my day job. :lol:

When and where will the final whack lead to an eternal resting place? What sorts of highs and lows will be recounted? What will the ball look like towards the end? Can it survive for 500 holes? ...Updates and pictures to follow.

Weed Golf Course - Mt. Shasta California

The Q500 Diary
First Round - Sharp Park - Pacifica
1st Par - Sharp Park - #1 Par 4.
A Bob Hope swing and the first whack of adventure left about 140 yards. Ball sitting down a bit in an old divot was a sign of the challenge that lie ahead. Missed green, but a good chip left a formality of a tap-in and a promising start.

1st Bogey - Sharp Park - #4 Par 5.
A 3 putt from 6' above hole... oops!

1st Birdie - Sharp Park #5 Par 3.
A nice bounce back after 1st bogey.

Pajaro Valley GC - Watsonville
Manged to shoot one under par for 18 holes = 71. Good times! 8-)
Total = 36 holes.

The Q500 after 28 holes and a crisp logo. :)

Santa Teresa GC - San Jose with Michael and Jimmy
1st Double Bogey - #13 Par 4 - golf is hard!
1st Eagle - #17 Par 5 - a "chip in" from just off the green. - golf is fun!
Total = 54 Holes.

A toast to surviving 54 holes and to a chip-in eagle! The McIntyre logo is sadly showing signs of fading away. :cry:

Dairy Creek GC - San Luis Obispo
This course is not very suited for hickory play with extreme slopes on blind shots that roll into junk after a well struck shot. The ball was "lost" and then found at least a half dozen times on the narrow hazard lined corridors, but somehow it survived. :o Not a single birdie on this day from the entire group. This little course ate my lunch. :lol:

I took on a few daring shots with danger lurking everywhere that had me holding my breath and on the edge of my seat. Fun to feel so much pressure when it's just a casual round. This challenge might be a newly discovered practice drill to sharpen one's focus. More likely, it's a good way to ingrain the complete conservative wuss approach every time a mildly risky challenge presents itself.
Total = 72 Holes.

Spring Hills GC - Watsonville
Another dubious hickory course. A close call on the wacky #12. Was giving up and about to pull the plug, when a faint off-white speck caught the corner of my eye, signaling a sign of hope from the abyss.

"We are here, we are here, we are here!" ... Horton hears a Who.

The McIntyre Logo on the cover has almost completely vanished.
Total = 90 Holes.

Pacific Grove GL - Pacific Grove
A rare solo twilight round at the links makes you appreciate the many fantastic options to choose from in the greater Monterey Bay. Started at 5:30 pm and dove across the finish line at 8:45 on a routinely crowded course! Was waved through on #6 and #10. Joined a 2some for last 3 holes.

Was caught off guard when a niblick from 80 yards disappeared into the hole for an eagle on #11 and can't help but let out an exhilarated, but yet somewhat subdued cheer. The chatter from a young group on the nearby 15th green is being carried by the wind. I can hear one of them retorting my celebration with a chuckle and the familiar "nice par, dude".

The off-white faded ball is clearly distinguished from my playing partner's pearly whites. The "Quest for 500" idea is born. :)

Total = 108 Holes.

... to be continued as replies/comments below.

Hickory Golf Balls - Why?

"Ouimet" reproduction golf ball - Mesh Pattern circa 1920 @ McIntyre Golf Company

Let's start with the obvious and some basic physics. If you alter a modern computer engineered ball cover to that of a design used 100 years ago, the result is going to be a ball with diminished ball flight performance.  No rocket science is needed here.  You can't improve on something that is already the best at what it does.  A McIntyre mesh ball that costs $40+ a dozen plus an additional $7 or so in shipping is going to under perform the very same $12 a dozen ball that it is re-molded from. It simply won't be as “good” as the ball you can conveniently pick up while shopping for a 6-pack and ammo at your local Walmart.

The science of dimples

So why use it?  Is the ball just a novelty?  Is it a toy?  Is the principal of playing with a period appropriate looking ball worth the added costs, hassles, and performance sacrifice?

While launch monitors never existed back in the day and there's very little documentation on how old balls played, we do have cover patterns to analyze and replicate.  Maybe a sophisticated and expensive campaign could recreate the antique ball with the exact winding, materials, and compositions that were used in the day, but that's unrealistic.  And remember, it was a dentist's x-ray, that proved just how irregular and off center balls were, to spark the evolution and modern controlled process of manufacturing balls.

X-ray showing off center and irregular core.

The next best thing is to use modern manufactured, low compression, soft core balls to resemble, on the outside, that of the period.  The aerodynamics and data derived from testing these replica golf balls, demonstrates that the ball most certainly flew differently than today's highly evolved modern dimple design.

Robotic testing along with hands-on experience from accomplished players confirm that while there is a performance drop, again, no rocket science needed to understand why, the deviation is of marginal difference mostly seen at higher velocities and the resulting lower trajectories.  In other words, the reproduction ball is a darn good golf ball!

Chris McIntyre - The Ball Completes Me @
... we have the option to play with a modern material old look ball that is tested to be 97% as good as the best ball on the market at swing speeds in the common realm of hickory golfers

Robotic testing summary @ - hickory golf balls vs modern spreadsheet.

There is an annual Spring tradition that returns to a certain Mackenzie & Jones masterpiece.  A golden era design that was a result of a direct influence of the play characteristics of that time period known as hickory golf.  A concept that was based on generous width, strategy, and a homage to the ancient St. Andrews, who both Jones and Mackenzie so fondly admired.

Fast forward to the modern game and the beginning of “tiger-proofing” the course by lengthening, adding trees, rough and re-plotting bunkers to accommodate today's professional golfer.  For 2017, ANGC is set to purchase a strip mall so they can add length to the 5th. More land is being acquired from the neighboring golf course for an even further back 13th tee.

Early Aerial photo - Augusta National Golf Club

The last 2 Opens at the home of golf have seen such madness as well with the renting of a parking lot for an extended 17th tee and in 2015, the bulldozing of a green and bunkers.

There are far too many wonderful golf courses around the world with rich, fascinating history, played by legends of the game, that are now obsolete thanks to modern technology.  Or worse yet, undergoing extensive face lifts to keep them "relevant".

Alterations to accommodate for the modern "pro" game that visits for 4 days once every 5 years.

We play hickory golf for many different reasons, but one common element, is that we are looking to recreate that era when golf wasn't ruled by the latest and greatest technology.

Many experts will agree that the modern game lost its chance to curb technology and preserve the game and its courses, but it's too late to go back.  The ball genie is out of the bottle.  Hickory golf is at the same crossroads.  While it is still a relatively new and niche sport, it's moving forward.  There are millions of potential players who may take an interest in hickory golf at some point in the near future.  Many aren't even born yet.

Fantastic, inspiring, and gratifying golf can be played with a period appropriate ball.  Wouldn't it be much more rewarding to show your peers and those just discovering the joy of the game, a ball that represents the sport and matches the rest of your equipment rather than an ordinary ho-hum modern dimpled ball?

Alister Mackenzie and Marion Hollins - #16 Cypress Point GC circa 1929. What once required a full Brassie, might be as little as a 7 iron for today's longer players.

When players defend ideas such as “my playing of a reproduction ball has the potential to devalue my advantage.”  That every single yard and inch that might be potentially lost by playing a lesser ball, is carrying over the same modern technology driven and competitive attitudes into the sport that the modern game has produced and led us to.

Chris McIntyre:
It would be a better hickory world if it (reproduction ball) were accepted and acknowledged as having different characteristics than modern aerodynamic balls as a positive thing in re-enacting the game.

The future of hickory golf should include a universally adopted ball that represents our sport and offers the unique experience that matches the rest of the equipment we are associated with.  The more people that play this ball and get behind the genuine motives, the faster it will improve in production quality (not to be confused with performance & distance), have more options, and eventually cost less.

If everyone is playing the same type of ball, then it is an equal field and there is no “performance drop” issue.  The game will be better for it.  Hats off to the organizers of events like the World Hickory Match Play, the Belvedere and local groups such as APNational for requiring the use of the ball.  We at NorCal Hickory are in transition and following suit as well when we tee up at our annual Monterey Hickory Classic at Old Del Monte GC.

Visit the McIntyre Golf Company to order replica golf balls representing each of the various eras of hickory golf.  Personalized and custom logos available as well.

NorCal Hickory Rule - putting

"The Stymie", by Artist J. C. Dollman, Circa 1899

I'm not advocating the return of the stymie for medal play, but would like to propose that the USGA rule of 2 penalty strokes for hitting another ball on the putting surface, be lifted for hickory play so as to encourage more players to keep their golf balls on the green rather than automatically mark, lift and clean, out of habit.

The SoHG instructs us that we should play hickory golf with modern USGA rules with a few exceptions:
  • No range finders or distance measuring devices
  • 14 club limit lifted
  • Equipment exceptions such as concave faces, "BakSpin" grooves, etc allowed as per SoHG equipment guidelines which includes approved reproduction balls, reproduction clubs, and a host of other equipment exceptions.
I always strive to be authentic to the hickory experience as I can, by not marking my ball just because it is on the putting surface. I have put a lot of effort into weaning myself away from the habit and process of marking my ball, cleaning it, (which often means licking the pesticides and fertilizers - yuckie!) and then aligning some label at the hole.

Recently I found myself in a tournament about 6 feet above the hole on a fairly steep green. The three of us in the group this day, all prescribed to the authentic experience and only marked our balls when they were an obstruction. The golf balls of my fellow competitors lay off to the side of the hole and below it about 4 feet. They weren't in any way an obstruction, a distraction, nor even on the through line in any danger of being hit should I miss, but I insisted they mark them. Why? Because if my ball should happen to lip-out, there was a good chance it would be redirected and potentially hit one of theirs. The result would have been a 2 stroke penalty according to the USGA rules (19-5) governing the tournament as per SoHG guidelines.

USGA rule 19-5a:
If a player’s ball in motion after a stroke is deflected or stopped by a ball in play and at rest, the player must play his ball as it lies. In match play, there is no penalty. In stroke play, there is no penalty, unless both balls lay on the putting green prior to the stroke, in which case the player incurs a penalty of two strokes.

On an August afternoon in sunny California a group arrives at a green. There are no pitch marks, the green is firm, and all lay 20 feet from one another. What is the first thing everyone does? Marks, lifts their ball and places it in their pocket. When it's their turn to putt, they squat behind the ball, and then go through the ritual of lining up some distinguished marking on their ball with the hole. The marking can be anything from a simple stamping on the ball to an ugly permanent marker around the circumference. If the ball finishes anything further than a tap-in, the process is repeated. With everyone within close proximity of the hole, the threat of a penalty for hitting another ball justifies marking, but a lot of times, the ball is in no way an interference. And that is what I'd like to see change; the penalty lifted.

Everyone would agree this is UGLY!

I'm not advocating the return of the stymie for medal play, but would like to propose that the USGA rule of 2 penalty strokes for hitting another ball on the putting surface, be lifted for hickory play so as to encourage more players to keep their golf balls on the green rather than automatically mark, lift and clean, out of habit.

Are there situations where this rule change may gain an unfair advantage such as a speedy downhill putt racing further by? Of course, that is why the rule was adopted, but I think the spirit of hickory play, outweigh the potential for gaining a slight advantage in those circumstances. AND there is nothing that stops the good-spirited hickory golfer, to ask fellow competitor to mark ball in such instances out of respect for fairness of play.

What do you think?

Mashie Niblick - My work horse club


When I started building my play set a while back, I read a lot of information on hickory forums and resources. Also talked with a few long time players, several suggested finding a good mashie and building your set around that. That wasn't exactly my experience, but it did get me to thinking about the club I use the most...and for me it's a mashie niblick.

This club doesn't have the largest span of distance. I can hit a mashie reasonably from 120-170yds, but typically use it only from 150-170yds. The mashie niblick for me is my first (and usually only) choice from 130-150yds. When a shorter approach into the green provides for a lower shot where I can count on a longer "on green" run out, I find myself occasionally reaching for the mashie niblick instead of a niblick (remembering advice from Bobby Jones who liked to get the ball on the green as soon as possible and run it up). But the most common use for my mashie niblick (especially as someone who misses a fair amount of GIR) is the 25yd and less green side chip shot. Unless I truly need a lofted club to get up quickly and stop ASAP, I opt for mashie niblick pitch and run out.

Distance chart - hickory

Thinking about this got me interested enough to map out the general distances for each of the clubs in my playset. I don't always carry a driving mashie, but included it for reference. I tried to pick a range of distances and chart each of my clubs, and what really stuck out was the mashie niblick. For me it's by far the most played club in my bag. 36.2" in length, 42 degrees of loft, and a D3 swing weight make a super versatile club.

Hickory play from modern bunkers

Bob Jones - "How I Play Golf no.3 - Niblick"

I suppose one has a lot of time to think about bunker play when you spend as I much time in them as I did yesterday :curse:

So I got to thinking a bit and thought I'd throw some ideas out for discussion. I may have just gotten lucky (knock on wood) but I found my sand play has really improved over the last few months. It's a challenge to adjust from modern to hickory sand clubs because, well there is no hickory sand club (unless you are one of the fortunate few to have a wide flanged niblick). I haven't come across such a club in my price range, and I'm not willing to buy a repro (no judgement, just my personal feeling). So I've had to adapt my strategy to fit the rather narrow flanged, low to no bounce, hickory niblicks.

As with most things, keeping it simple works best for me. I've reduced my bunker swings to two options: thin and spin or chunk and thunk.

For the thin and spin shot, I take a flatter back swing and strike the ball with less sand between the club face and ball. The obvious risk here is getting too close resulting in a skulled shot. However with some practice it has become my go to sand shot. The ball comes out higher with more spin and has actually gotten predictable.

NorCal member Jim Norris demonstrates a good blast - San Jose

For the chunk and thunk shot, I take a steeper back backswing with more sand between the ball and club face. The difference between this shot and a modern shot is that my "no bounce" niblick will dig into the sand. It produces a sort of dig-blast that takes a huge amount of sand along with the ball that results in a lower "knuckle ball, no spin" shot that thunks on the green and then runs a bit. I like this shot where the thin and spin is too risky or where I'm short sided to the pin with little room to work.

There are many other approaches to take, but so far limiting my options to these two shots has helped save me strokes around the green. So until I find a good deal on a wide flanged niblick, I'll continue this approach.

Curious to hear what others use out of the sand, and what type of shot(s) you like to play.