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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Bottrall

Mackinac Island Golfing

Updated: Aug 24, 2021

The penetrating notes of a bagpipe called golfers to battle at Wawashkamo Golf Club last Saturday. From the far corners of Mackinac Island, men and women alike donned their turn of the century golf gear, grabbed their hickory sticks and made their way to WaWa. Already at the course, plopped:men in Plus Fours (or knickers) and plaid stockings practiced putting. Nearby, women in lace skirts and broadbrimmed hats checked the wooden shafts of their golf clubs. A pair of children skipped across a practice green trying to keep time with the bagpipers music. The only indication we hadn't somehow drifted back in time was the red and white stripes that flapped at the top of the flagpole across the blue sky.

It's the 2021 National Hickory Stick Classic at Wawashkamo Golf Club on Mackinac island. The yearly contest is a four person scramble that requires competitors to use authentic antique hickory golf clubs. No clubs produced after 1935 are allowed. This year competitors were piped onto the field by Alma College Professor, Drew Duncan. Encouraged by his mother, who is also a piper, Drew began playing at age eight. He has competed around the world and been ranked among the top three pipers in the world. He is currently teaching the

only college credited bagpiping and drumming course at Michigan's Alma College. See the video's for wonderful samples of his wistful tunes.

Wawashkamo Golf Club on Mackinac Island is a true historic course. An actual battlefield of the War of 1812, players standing at the top of the 1st tee are standing at the very spot where the British fired their canons at American soldiers in 1814. Little has changed since the historic battle and one can almost picture the regiment of soldiers, bayonets at the ready, marching down the long hill. At least a dozen US soldiers died that day and most are buried between the fifth and sixth fairways.

Almost a century later, in 1898, the battlefield was transformed into a golf course. No heavy machinery was used to layout the course. Everything was done by hand or horse. Today, 123 years later, no heavy machinery has ever been used to change it. The links style course is noted as “One of America’s Historic Golf Landmarks” by Golf Digest, and it has recently earned wonderful recognition in the July 30th edition of the Wall Street Journal.

Registered as a hickory stick golf course and open to the public, players can actually borrow old fashioned hickory stick clubs and play 18. Click here to get more information on playing WaWa. A fun part of playing with hickory clubs is that each stick is given a name rather than a number like we know them today. Back in the 1800's for example a 1/2-iron was known as a cleek and a 7-iron as a mashie. So when Ed Saylar, guest of WaWa member Lee Finkel, hit an eagle with a niblick, his story became that much more interesting. The list of old-fashioned club names is included in the pictures below.

First in their flight was Mike Gidle, Phil Navarre and Dale Rahn. Second in their flight was Steve Horvath, James Gizzo, Ed Saylar and Lee Finkel. Thank you to David for all the lovely pictures and videos. He did a great job this week. Make sure and double click each picture to see it fully and get details.

This years game was followed by WaWaHop - a sock-hop themed fundraising dinner at the Mackinac Island Yacht Club. Friends and family joined the golfers dressed as their favorite 50's characters. The committee, (Eugenia Murray, Sandi Steensma, Martha Cousineau and Michelle Stuck) went all out on their outfits, dressing as the Pink Ladies from Grease, complete with cats eye glasses and pink silk jackets. See the picture below courtesy of Sandi Steensma.

Board Member Steve Rilenge emceed the event dressed as Ed Sullivan and local historian Phil Porter gave us a bit of Club History and also treated us to a fun game of golf trivia. The Mackinac Arts Council even got in on the fun this year and treated the crowd to a rendition of Summer Nights from the movie Grease featuring Philip Rice and Anne Hoyle as Danny and Sandy.

The crowd especially loved dancing to the old tunes from the 50's. There are a couple of quick videos below so you can be part of the fun.

If you enjoyed this blog post you might also enjoy the Golf & Silver Birches post or the post about the Mackinac Associates Event.

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