The following is an interview with .Dennis “Marty” Joy II, PGA Professional at Belvedere Golf Club.
How did you get introduced to hickory golf? What year did you start playing hickories?
In 2005, Ralph Livingston came to Belvedere Golf Club to scout out a new venue for his Northern Michigan Hickory event. He feel in love with Belvedere and felt it was a perfect hickory venue as the routing of the course hadn’t changed since it was first started back in 1925. In 2006, Ralph brought his tournament to Belvedere & we hosted a small gathering of hickory aficionados – really only about 10 players. In 2007, the event returned to Belvedere with a larger field & I was asked if I would like to try hickory golf. So with help from Chuck McMullin & Roger Hill, I assembled a manageable set of clubs with which I practiced the evening before the tournament. With no real expectations (other than not breaking a club & not losing a ball) I went out and mustered a reasonable 79 for my first adventure into the hickory world. To my astonishment that score put me into the final group the next day. Although I didn’t have the experience that the eventual seasoned hickory champion Fred Muller had (PGA Professional from Crystal Downs), I did have home course advantage & that was just good enough to take home the runner-up prize. After that I was hooked. Chuck McMullin lent me a second bag hickory clubs and invited me to play at Mid Pines in Southern Pines that November. That field was much larger and filled up the entire course. After two days, I overachieved again and tied for first place. Following the Mid Pines tournament was the Hickory Golf Collectors show & that is where I purchased my first set of hickories spending over $2000.00 – probably didn’t need all of those clubs but I was hooked.
What is your fascination with Hickory Golf? Why do you think golfers should try playing hickories? Two fold answer:
1. The historic aspect of the game. It is very interesting playing with the exact same equipment as were played in the 1910’s – 1930’s (all of my clubs are authentic) & playing on some of the same courses that Hagen, Sarazen, Armour, Hutchison, Jones, Shute, Barnes etc. played on. I love reading about the golden age of golf and it’s special having the opportunity to play some of the old great courses with the same pre-1930 equipment.
2. From a PGA teaching perspective – hickory golf reveals your swing flaws pretty quickly. If you are able to consistently play solid hickory golf, you can pick up any modern set of clubs and have guaranteed success. Going from hickory clubs to modern clubs is like cheating.
What advice would you give to a new hickory golfer? Or a new hickory golfer looking to put together a playing set?
Lower your expectations & enjoy solid shots. At Belvedere Golf Club, we have assembled the largest group of authentic hickory players at one single club than any other club in the Untied States. Belvedere Golf Club currently has 41 hickory golfers (6 ladies) who play authentic pre-1935 clubs & that number grows every year – usually right before our Annual Belvedere Hickory Open in June. Anyway, we always tell new players to slow their swings down and enjoy bogeys. Lowering your expectations eliminates a lot of pressure. If I get a new player that has a modern handicap of 15 I’ll tell them, “let’s try to break 100 the first time out.” You are going to hit poor shots & knowing this right of the bat help them to set reasonable goals.
What clubs make up your current playing hickory set?
I basically have two sets. My tournament set consists of:
– George Sayers Driver, R. Forgan Brassie, Jack Stait Bulldog, Tom Stewart Spade Mashie, two Tom Steward Mashies, Bernard Nicholls Mashie, R. Forgan & Son St. Andrews Niblick, R. Forgan Niblick & a Buckrabel Special Putter.
– Second set consists of all George Nicoll clubs which usually is used by a prospective new hickory participant at our Belvedere Hickory Open.
What is your favorite club in the bag and why?
The Jack Stait Bulldog! It is by far my most versatile club in my bag and the one I trust when I need to pull off a clutch shot. I can knock it down into the wind at 160 yards or let it fly to 210 yards.
What golf ball do you traditionally play with hickory clubs?
Only because I’m use to the feel of the Pro V collection of golf balls do I use these Titleist products. I like the feel around the greens especially when we go to these old Golden Age of Golf clubs that were built with green speeds of 5-7 in mind – not the modern conditions of 11-13 green speeds.
What is your most prized hickory club, hickory era memorabilia or most interesting find?
Two items –
1. A 1899 smooth faced William Watson iron built in Minneapolis, MN. Minneapolis was the first place where Watson went after arriving from St. Andrews, Scotland in November of 1898. He was hired to build The Minikahda Club and then 26 years later would build the Belvedere Golf Club.
2. A personally autographed photograph of Bobby Jones. It reads, “To My Belvedere Friends, Best Wishes – Robert T Jones, Jr.”
Jones played Belvedere after completing the Grand Slam of championship golf in 1930. I haven’t figured out who Jones played with at Belvedere. I’ve narrowed it down to three possibilities: Sam Snead, Ty Cobb, Hord Hardin or a combination of all. Hardin (Long Time Master’s Chairman) was a member and 3 time club champion at Belvedere. Cobb, a Detroit Tiger, was a friend of Jones – both from Georgia, both members of several golf clubs including Augusta & East Lake and both enjoyed northern Michigan. Snead just loved Belvedere, the membership and the small town of Charlevoix where he was twice the Grand Marshall for the Charlevoix Summer Venetian Festival.
What is your most proudest accomplishment on/off the golf course?
I guess everyone has highlights along the way. First hole-in-one (yes, I have nine), first tournament win, back to back tournament wins – all worthy considerations.
But I’ll narrow it down to two:
1. The first is something called the Hickory Hundred – a charitable event that I do every August. I play 100 holes of hickory golf (fully dressed with knickers & ties) in one day in an effort to raise monies for the Charlevoix Junior Golf Program. The Belvedere Membership is largely responsible for financially sponsoring me in this effort which, over the past 15 years, have sent over 140 kids to Ferris State University Golf Camp, sponsored 100’s of kids with free passes to our local city golf club free of charge for the entire summer & have given 1000’s of kids positive life lessons for both on & off the course. I usually finish the 100 holes in a little over 8 hours & have raised between $10,000 – $14,000 for the past several years. It really is a great thing for our community and for our young golfers but selfishly it is really the only opportunity I have to play golf during the season because I’m do busy with the membership.
2. The second was being invited to play for the United States Team last October in the Hickory Grail Cup. This is a biennial Hickory Golf Tournament pitting the United States team against the European team in the hickory version of the Ryder Cup. The event was played at Baltusrol Golf Club in New Jersey site of the 2016 PGA Championship & it was an honor to go undefeated for Team USA.
What is your favorite hickory golf course?
I’m a little biased as the Head PGA Professional at Belvedere Golf Club. I think it is the perfect hickory experience and the original William Watson design is still in tact with the original routing and, believe it or not, the original greens.
I would like to play Merion Golf Club with my hickories. I worked there in the mid-1990’s before I had hickories & I’d love to play it again like Bobby Jones did to complete his Grand Slam of 1930.
What is your most recent addition to your hickory golf bag? Why?
Actually, after my initial spending spree at Mid Pines in 2007 and subsequent purchases through about 2013, I haven’t acquired a new club for years. I just try to keep what I have in great shape and solid condition. I actually sell more now to my membership and consult on their new purchases.
Dream foursome? (living)
Rush Limbaugh, David Feherty & Gary McCord.
If you could go back and play a round of golf in the hickory era, who would round out your dream foursome?
Walter Hagen, William Watson & Bobby Jones
Do you have a golf course, trip or adventure on your hickory bucket list?
Unfortunately, I haven’t been to Scotland, Ireland or England. I’d love to take a month and hit them all. Dornoch, Muirfield, St. Andrews, Carnoustie, Royal St. George, Royal Country Down etc. I’ll have to bring Feherty along. He can drive & McCord and I will drink in the back – we’ll call the trip “Caddies, Cocktails and Bad Lies.”
What golf associations do you belong to?
Professional Golf Association of America, Society of Hickory Golfers, British Golf Collectors Society, Michigan Golf Course Owners Association & Golf Association of Michigan.
What is your must have 19th hole drink/dish?
Ice, three fingers Jack Daniels & a splash of coke – It’s only the 19th hole, way too early for food.
18 Rapid Fire Questions
Caddie or no caddie?
LOVE Caddy golf. At Merion we were all caddies all the time & at Belvedere we are trying to reestablish a working caddy program. There is something special about walking the course and planning your game strategy while walking to your next shot – especially if it mean something like playing for your country in the Grail Cup.
Your last round played, did you play modern or hickory clubs?
Except for inclement weather say in April or October in Michigan, I always play my hickories.
The last course played with hickory clubs?
Being at Belvedere Golf Club every day it was Belvedere. Before that the Kingsley Club outside of Traverse City, MI.
What percentage of your rounds are played with hickory golf clubs?
90% of my golf is with hickories. I do play a couple of events at the end of the season (in Michigan this means October) that require modern clubs because of the length of the tournament and the inclement weather.
Long Par 3 or Long Par 5?
Long par 5’s are better for me…I’m longer than most players with hickories and thus can get home in three without much difficulty. Long par 3’s usually means me getting home in two (missing right or left) which is no advantage as the shorter hitters are getting home in two as well.
Are you more of a Hickory golf collector or Hickory golf player?
Hickory Player right now. I do have a few nice hickory collector pieces but I’d rather spend money on the old playable clubs.
Shorts, Knickers or Trousers?
Knickers at every event. Just out with the membership I’ll wear my normal golf attire but if it’s an event it’s full garb – ties to knickers. Can’t stand the guys who wear Adidas pants, Greg Norman golf shirts and put on a Ben Hogan style cap and call it a day at a hickory tournament. Find it insulting & put that GPS device away too.
St. Andrews or Pebble Beach? (or somewhere else?)
Of the two – St. Andrews. Hopefully with a crusty old caddy, a little wind & a light rain, a wee nip hear and there & a ghost of Old Tom Morris sighting.
Just off the green. Jigger, Niblick or Putter?
Depends on the lie but probably the jigger – odds are.
With hickories, round of life or hole in one?
Haven’t had that Hickory Hole-in-One yet (one inch on Mid Pines hole #13) but I’ll pass on one good swing for about 65 solid swings. Lowest so far is a 68.
Play for fun or play for something?
If my foursome includes Kate Upton, Paula Creamer & Jennifer Aniston let’s play for fun.
Hard getting those three together now a days so let’s play for something & make sure to press.
Early morning or twilight?
Both of these times are bad. They either are affected by or affect happy hour….But I’ll get up early rather than missing out on the 19th hole.
Favorite hickory-era golfer? (Jones, Sarazen, Hagen, ???)
By far Sir Walter Hagen – Motto to live by…”I didn’t want to be a millionaire, I just wanted to live like one.”
Drive for show or putt for dough?
Never have won a hole on the tee – putt for dough.
Canvas bag or leather bag?
Leather – see Sir Walter’s Motto above.
Leather grip color/style preference?
Just be on there strong and a little tacky – smooth side up & black.
Patina or polished clubs?
Have both – just keep them clean and rust free.
Broken shaft. Fix it myself or call an expert?
This is one of the aspects of hickory golf I like to share with my membership. Learn about the history of the clubs, the game and how to repair them. If you have hickories, they will need constant love and care. Learn to whip clubs, repair shafts, replace grips, add/subtract swing weight & care for the shafts. Once you learn you not only will like doing it but you will become a teacher for someone else.