The following is an interview with Bill “Ernie” Ernst, Society of Hickory Golfers Board member and a coordinator of the Wisconsin Hickory Golfers.
How did you get introduced to hickory golf? What year did you start playing hickories?
Ken Holtz and Joe Guerard introduced me to Hickory golf back in 2002. Both had been collecting and started playing with the Hickory clubs. I was interested after my first round but really got hooked when I started looking for Hickory clubs to start my own set and working on those clubs.
What is your fascination with Hickory Golf? Why do you think golfers should try playing hickories?
I currently enjoy the hunt for the next club. Finding a good club and fixing it up to make it playable gives me great enjoyment. The playing part I enjoy is the feel of the club and the contact when you swing these clubs.
You have not hit a pure shot until you have hit one with a hickory club. Try it, get with a current hickory player who has a backup sett and play a round of golf. You will know immediately if you enjoy it.
What advice would you give to a new hickory golfer? Or a new hickory golfer looking to put together a playing set?
Just try it. Find a current hickory player and pick their brain. Get on the Society web site and read some of the articles. A current Hickory player can really help your learning curve. Look for clubs everywhere you go. They are all over the place.
As far as a play set, find one club and start building your set. You will change clubs in and out of your set as you progress. My current play set has been built over 10 years of playing but you can do it if you are committed to it.
What clubs make up your current playing hickory set?
Wright and Ditson BeeLine Brassie
Stewart 2-3 Iron
Gibson Stainless Jigger
Stewart Mashie, Mashie Kniblick and Kniblick
Very excited to have just added a Stewart Roll Back putter.
What is your favorite club in the bag and why?
Its my Stewart Kniblick. Good from a 100 yards and in. Its my most trusted club in the bag and everyone should have one of those. Broke the shaft in half a few years ago and it was glued and whipped all the way up the shaft and works like new. I call it the piece pipe because of all the whipping on it.
What golf ball do you traditionally play with hickory clubs?
I currently like the Bridgestone E6 and the McIntyre Mesh Quimet ball.
What is your most prized hickory club, hickory era memorabilia or most interesting find?
I’m not a collecter of clubs, however I’m very excited to have found a great Stewart Roll Back putter. My most prized item is a Gutty golf ball we made out of a sheet of Gutty and a 1895 ball press. After making the ball we went out and actually played it. Very cool experience.
What is your most proudest accomplishment on/off the golf course?
My Family of course but i enjoy finding clubs and getting them in the right hands. Winning Belvedere will always be one of my playing highlights along with just playing in the Scottish Hickory Championship.
What is your favorite hickory golf course?
Lawsonia Links in Green Lake, Wi
Belvidere is a fun course to play.
But Royal County Down in Ireland is something very special.
What is your most recent addition to your hickory golf bag? Why?
The Stewart Roll back putter. Its a Stewart and I have not found one liked until now. I hope a month from now I still like it.
Dream foursome? (living)
If you could go back and play a round of golf in the hickory era, who would round out your dream foursome?
Tom Morris Senior
Do you have a golf course, trip or adventure on your hickory bucket list?
Back to Ireland to play Royal County Down and any course in Scotland that I can find a pub afterwards for a pint of Belhaven Best Beer.
What golf associations do you belong to?
Society of Hickory Golfers
Wisconsin Hickory Golfers
Arizona Golf Association
What is your must have 19th hole drink/dish?
A cold beer
18 Rapid Fire Questions
Caddie or no caddie?
Your last round played, did you play modern or hickory clubs?
The last course played with hickory clubs?
Desert Trails in Arizona
What percentage of your rounds are played with hickory golf clubs?
Long Par 3 or Long Par 5?
Long par 5
Are you more of a Hickory golf collector or Hickory golf player?
Shorts, Knickers or Trousers?
St. Andrews or Pebble Beach? (or somewhere else?)
Royal County Down or an early morning round at Lawsonia
Just off the green. Jigger, Niblick or Putter?
All three but usually Jigger
With hickories, round of life or hole in one?
Round of mylife.
Play for fun or play for something?
Play for a signed dollar bill
Early morning or twilight?
Early morning always
Favorite hickory-era golfer? (Jones, Sarazen, Hagen, ???)
Drive for show or putt for dough?
Go where the money is made – Putting
Canvas bag or leather bag?
Leather grip color/style preference?
Black over lapped cowhide
Patina or polished clubs?
Patina – Let them show their age
Broken shaft. Fix it myself or call an expert?
Fix it myself