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Taking a step back in time at The Greenbrier’s 130-year-old Oakhurst Links

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The Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia, home to the PGA Tour’s Greenbrier Classic, is no secret to golf enthusiasts the world over.

In addition to the Greenbrier Faldo Golf Center, the resort offers five challenging tracks including The Old White TPC (home to the Greenbrier Classic), The Greenbrier (site of the 1979 Ryder Cup and 1994 Solheim Cup), The Meadows, The Snead (exclusive to members of the Greenbrier Sporting Club) and Oakhurst Links.

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Oakhurst Links offers visitors a unique golf experience, in essence transporting players back in time.

First, a little history.

The original owner of the property, Russell Montague, arrived in the West Virginia area back in 1879 and relocated his family from Boston a few years later.

When one of Russell’s neighbor’s golf obsessed cousins came to visit from Scotland a group including Montague built a nine-hole course on his property for their own enjoyment.

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Completed in 1884, the nine-hole course was used for more than a decade before the group of Scotsmen moved back to Scotland. Once they left, the course went unused and became overgrown with clover and wildflowers.

Years later in 1938, Sam Snead visited the site and for fun blasted a golf ball out over the Oakhurst’s overgrown fairways. Impressed with the property, Snead convinced friend Lewis Keller to purchase the property when it went up for sale in 1959. The Keller family restored the course in 1990 with the help of golf course architect Bob Cupp. In 2012, Greenbrier owner Jim Justice bought Oakhurst Links and it became part of the resort.

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Today, Oakhurst Links plays host to 300-to-500 rounds a year. A $75 greens fee includes use of clubs and two golf balls. That’s right, no need to lug your Callaways over to the course because you won’t need them. In fact, you can’t use them.

In keeping with the Scottish golf tradition the course was created for, players today choose from two types of clubs – smooth-faced irons (pre-1900) and irons with scoring lines (post 1900) all with hickory shafts. Woods are post-1900 with hickory shafts. No tees are permitted with players making their tees from sand. Golf bags are also not permitted. Players carry their clubs under their arm and period golf attire is encouraged, but not required.

“Players receive a wooden putter that would have been used back in the 1890’s, a Niblick which is like a modern day 9-iron, a mashie which is like a modern day 5-iron and a spoon which would be your driver,” said Burt Baine, Greenbrier golf club general manager. “Players also receive replica gutta-percha golf balls that are made the same way as they would in the 1900’s just with modern materials.”

By using the equipment, Baine says, players are given a real sense of where the game has come from and makes them better appreciate the modern equipment, golf balls, and course conditions they experience today.

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Oakhurst – which has been played by the likes of Snead, Tom Watson and Bubba Watson just to name a few – hosts several events each year including the National Hickory Championship held annually in June, the Fall Match Play Tournament, and numerous corporate and group events.

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Baine says a wide range of players come to experience Oakhurst, but overall the demographic falls in the 40’s to 50’s.

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“These people are the ones that might have started using some wooden shafted clubs and just want to try it out again,” Baine said. “We have also had a lot younger player who are curious as to how the game was played back then.”

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John Lahtinen is a Connecticut-based writer with nearly 20 years of experience involving news, media, communications, higher education, PR and marketing. He has been playing golf forever and is still finding unique ways to ruin a good round. Adding to his confusion, he plays both right- and left-handed.

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11 Comments

11 Comments

  1. JIMMY

    Oct 9, 2014 at 2:45 pm

    Every year 4 groups get together and we play a mini-tournament with Forged Blades and actual woods. Alot of fun.

  2. Keith

    Oct 9, 2014 at 11:39 am

    Google Jeremy Moe, he’s one of the top Hickory players in the country and the pro at nice little place in Ft. Smith AR called Hardscrabble CC. He won the Hickory World Match Play in July and won last year US Hickory Open by 11 shots. Two day score of 141. He has an extremely smooth swing and a flatter angle of attack. Hard for a digger to do well. He also very rarely hits woods, hits a driving iron and sacrifices some distance for accuracy.

    Our club plays his club every year in a Ryder Cup event and our pro and myself are always matched up against Jeremy and one of his members in AS and BB. He actually putted with his hickory putter and broke it off in us in BB to the tune of 5-4 (we squeezed by them in AS 2-1). Pretty sure he could take his hickory’s out and beat my a$$ around the course.

  3. ben

    Oct 9, 2014 at 10:29 am

    would love to do this, though not in the attire of the age.

    question, what would a 6 handicap expect to shoot with this old equipment? i wonder if i could break 90.

    • Ryan

      Oct 9, 2014 at 12:26 pm

      We did this same thing at Old Bandon golf Links. We had played 5 rounds over the prior 3 days at Bandon Dunes. All of us shot within a few strokes of our cap, and comfortably similar to how we played on the 7000 yard courses with modern equipment.

      We played with gutta percha balls which was an experience and took quite a bit of getting used to on the greens (they are very light and lose pace very quickly). After a bit of time warming up it was comfortable to see that I good stroke appears to be rewarding regardless of the era of the equipment.

  4. Kevin

    Oct 9, 2014 at 9:46 am

    We have a course and the equipment here in Fife at Hill of Tarvit just outside Cupar. Believe it’s called Kinggarroch

  5. bradford

    Oct 9, 2014 at 8:58 am

    Cool, and I agree-This goes on the golf bucket list.

    • dot dot

      Oct 9, 2014 at 9:33 pm

      75 bucks to play nine holes! This sounds like just another gimicky way to commercialize golf and grab a few bucks from your wallet.

  6. Nevin

    Oct 9, 2014 at 8:27 am

    Wonderful place. I’ve played it several times. If you have haven’t been there it is worth considering. I found the clubs to be easier to hit than I thought they would be.

  7. Ken

    Oct 8, 2014 at 9:40 pm

    Gotta love this event! I only wear kilts when I’m home alone sipping something Irish. This would be, yet, another use.

  8. Hellstorm

    Oct 8, 2014 at 8:44 pm

    I wanted to play there when I was at Greenbrier last year but didn’t make it out. The way I was playing, I would have needed more than two balls though.

  9. Philip

    Oct 8, 2014 at 6:36 pm

    That is cool. Have to put it on my golf todo list.

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pga tour

Andrew “Beef” Johnston WITB 2017

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Equipment is accurate as of the 2017 RSM Classic (11/14/17).

Driver: Titleist 917D2 (9.5 Degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Tensei Orange 70TX

3 Wood: Titleist 917F3 (15 Degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Tensei Orange 80TX

Hybrids: Titleist 816 H2 (19 Degrees)
Shafts: Mitsubishi Kuro Kage 90HY TX

Driving Irons: Titleist 718 T-MB 2 & 3 Iron (17 & 20 Degrees)
Shaft: True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 Tour Issue

Irons: Titleist 718 MB (3-9)
Shaft: True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 Tour Issue

Wedges: Titleist Vokey SM7 (46-10F, 50-08F, 54-10S)
Shaft: True Temper Dynamic Gold S400 Tour Issue

Putter: Scotty Cameron Circle T Super Rat I GSS Inlay
Grip: Scotty Cameron Standard Pistol

Putter: Scotty Cameron Circle T Newport 2
Grip: Scotty Cameron Standard Cord Pistol

Putter: Scotty Cameron Circle T Super Rat II GSS Inlay
Grip: Scotty Cameron Standard Cord Pistol

WITB Notes: Beef was testing a variety of putters ahead of The RSM Classic. We will update this post when his choice is confirmed. 

Related:

Discussion: See what GolfWRX members are saying about Beef’s clubs. 

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Equipment

The hottest blade irons in golf right now

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As we’ve written before, the decision to put a new driver in the bag is usually obvious. Better numbers at testing, perceptibly longer distance, and as long as your bank account allows, you have your new gamer.

The iron switch, however, is a trickier beast. Comfort with the variety of shots one needs to hit is key. Confidence from one’s long irons through the higher lofts is critical. Thus, even the greatest enthusiasm for a new iron release isn’t always followed by a mass exodus to gaming said irons. This is doubly true at the professional level, where the tools are critical to a player’s livelihood.

That said, the combination of forum chatter, GolfWRX member enthusiasm, and what we’re spotting in our WITB photos from tour stops are a reliable indicator of the hottest irons in the game.

And judging by the response to our recent Instagram post, we’re confident that these four models are the hottest blade irons in golf right now.

Callaway Apex MB

Buzz built steadily for the Apex MB iron when we first spotted them in Tour players’ bags at the beginning of 2017. The irons are the product of direct feedback from the company’s Tour staffers, according to Luke Williams, Director of Product and Brand Management at Callaway. Forged from 1025 Carbon Steel, these irons have the shortest blade lengths, the thinnest soles and the smallest overall heads in the vast line of Callaway irons. They’re designed for maximum workability, and for tour-desired turf interaction.

Related: Callaway (finally) launches new Apex MB and X Forged irons

Mizuno MP-18

The pioneers of Grain-Flow Forging, Mizuno went back to its roots with the MP-18 iron model. A throwback to the great muscle backs in the company’s history, Mizuno was shooting for the look of an iron that could have been forged a century ago. Shorter blade length, cambered top line, sharp, compact wedges, all combined with the most minimal badging make the MP-18 an instant classic that set the GolfWRX forums afire.

Related: Mizuno brings the MP family closer together

TaylorMade P730

TMag’s P730, particularly in its prototype incarnations, made quite a splash on the PGA Tour. Building on the heritage of the TP-MB irons, P730 was developed in collaboration with the very best players in the world. The 1025 carbon steel irons irons feature a smaller profile and crisper lines than the MB series irons. The combination of the clean look and a deep rear groove have players drooling. Discussing working with Dustin Johnson and Justin Rose to design the P730, TMag’s Senior Director of Irons, Tomo Bystedt said, “What these players need is a very low-inertia club that they can [manipulate] easily, almost like a surgeon’s scalpel.” Behold the scalpel.

Related: Taylormade expands forged offerings with P730 and P790

Titleist 718 MB

“For the purist there is no substitute for a one-piece, muscle back iron. The 718 MB is the modern choice for those desiring a traditional forged look and feel,” says Titleist in the 718 MB marketing materials.

It’s hard to argue with that statement from the “appearance of a classic forged iron” standpoint. Purists appreciate that the 718 MB maintains Titleist’s traditional lofts (the 6-iron is 31 degrees, the pitching-wedge is 47 degrees), thin top-line, minimal offset, and limited badging. In short, if it ain’t broke…

Related: Titleist’s 718 irons offer endless possibilities.

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Whats in the Bag

Austin Cook’s Winning WITB: The 2017 RSM Classic

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Driver: Ping G400 LST (8.5 Degrees)
Shaft: Fujikura Speeder 661 Evolution TX-Flex

3 Wood: Ping G400 Stretch (13 Degrees)
Shaft: Fujifuke Motore Speeder VC 7.2 TX-Flex

Hybrid: Ping G400 3 Hybrid (19 Degrees)
Shaft: Matrix Ozik Altus Tour H8 91X

Hybrid: Ping G400 4 Hybrid (22 Degrees)
Shaft: Matrix Ozik Altus Tour H8 91 X

Irons: Ping S55 Orange Dot (5-PW)
Shafts: KBS Tour S-Flex

Wedges: Ping Glide 2.0 SS (50-12, 56-12), Ping Glide 2.0 WS (60)
Shaft: True Temper Dynamic Gold S400 Tour Issue

Putter: Ping Sigma G Tyne 
Grip: SuperStroke Mid-Slim 2.0

Golf Ball: Titleist Pro V1

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