The Heart of a Hickory Believer

Dedication to the Grand Ole Game is never in short supply when it comes to hickory golfers. But few personify it quite like William “Bill” Reed. He is a Director-at-Large for the Golf Collectors Society and a member in good standing of the Society of Hickory Golfers. He is the Tournament Director of the Heart of America Tournament, the longest continually running hickory event in the United States, as well as the Iowa Hickory Classic. And, most recently, he became one of the driving forces behind the recent ad hoc committee formed by the Society of Hickory Golfers and the Golf Collectors Society.

This new working group will explore the potentials and benefits of sharing resources, cutting expenses and improving communication within and between these two venerable Societies. And while some in both Societies hope for a merger while others prefer otherwise, joint recommendations will be forthcoming later this year, with future action scheduled for 2017.

We can all thank Bill’s wife Penny for starting him on this happy path. Thirty-one years ago, she gifted him a hickory shafted mashie.

“That was the seed,” says Bill, “the cultivation, I did on my own.”

“Cultivation” is a most appropriate word. Because, after Penny’s fateful gift, Bill eventually introduced vintage play to their whole clan.

“Everyone in the family is exposed to hickory golf,” he says, “even the youngest of grandsons –ten and twelve- have their own hickory play sets.”

Safe to say, then, that many in the family have embraced Bill’s motto, “Old wood is good wood.”

It was also Penny who seeded Bill’s involvement with the Golf Collectors Society, the oldest and largest organization dedicated to preserving the treasures and traditions of the game of golf. The GCS unites those who love the game and all things pertaining to golf’s storied history.

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Find the Golf Collectors’ Soceity at

“Penny introduced me to one of her Depression Glass antique dealer friends,” Bill says. “That lady was Alice Olson, the wife of Warren ‘Ole’ Olson, a Past President of the Golf Collectors Society. Ninety seconds after meeting Warren, I was a new member of the GCS. Although I had been playing and collecting on my own, it was nice to learn that there were others with the same passion.”

One aspect of hickory golf that particularly hooked Bill is that “there’s always the correct length tee lying on the tee box in front of you,” he says. “No need to buy ‘em.”

And, like most golfers bitten by the hickory bug, Bill gets in as much play as weather and his pocket book allows.

“I post eighty to ninety individual rounds of hickory play each year,” says Bill, “plus team and scramble events. I’ve played about two thousand rounds with hickories in the past thirty years. I play in fifteen to twenty hickory events each year, all over the map. I would like to play in more, but I’m old and have limited resources.”

Bill’s dedication to hickory play has earned him tourney victories, as well. Ever a gentleman and modest, he tells us, “I was never a Championship Flight player. But winning a couple of Senior [sixty and up] and a couple of Statesman [seventy and up] hickory events did bring a lilt to my step and a smile to my face.”

We can imagine the ghost of Walter Hagen cheering him on from the green’s edge.

“[Hagen is] my all time favorite player of the ages,” Bill tells us. “If you have to ask why, I’ll answer over a single malt or two.”

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Bill Reed doing one of the many things he does best: Being a great tournament host.

In Bill’s home town of Des Moines, Iowa, the majority of his social rounds are at the Hyperion Field Club, a 1910 Tom Bendelow design. It is a course he knows well. He started there as a caddy in 1958, and joined in 1977. Another of his favorite Des Moines courses is the Grandview Golf Course, a 1902 design where Bill played his very first round of golf.

But if you ask Bill what his true favorite course for hickories is, he will tell you, “The course that I’m playing when asked that question. However, I do prefer traditional courses of the hickory era design. Forced carries are an abomination. The ball is round. Let it roll.”

So, what kind of set does an ardent hickory player like Bill keep in his golf bag?

“The best my set could be called is ‘eclectic’. Nothing matches, but the shafts are as frequency matched as possible, and the lofts are graduated the way I want them. It’s nice being able to do my own work. Also, having master club craftsman Russ Fisher in the same community is a big bonus. If I can’t fix it, Russ Fisher can.”

He also loves jiggers.

“I have four in my bag,” he says, “with different lofts and shaft lengths for different hitting properties. The putter…although instantly changeable if three-putting occurs…is a Harry C. Lee sole licensee Schenectady. I also have an original hickory shafted Dynamiter sand wedge that’s often confused [by some] as having a Pyratone shaft. I love proving the difference, and that club is not for sale at any price.”

As with his play set, his preference in golf balls is eclectic.

“Any white, soft covered, low compression ball,” Bill says. “I use McIntyre’s mesh pattern, the Volvick Crystal, and last year’s hole in one with a T. Stewart mashie-niblick saw a Callaway Super Soft Chrome go into the cup.”

While on the topic of favorites, the subject of favorite hickory tournaments is also mentioned, and Bill can’t resist being a little cheeky. “My stock answer is that my favorite [tournament] is any event that I don’t have to plan, conduct, or direct. Just show up, drink up, and repeat.”

All teasing aside, however, Bill says, “Being the Tournament Director of both the Heart of America and the Iowa Hickory Classic, [his true favorites are] obvious. The Heart of America originated in 1978 by Warren Olson and is the oldest continuously held hickory tournament in the world. Considered a GCS Region 7 event, it draws a ‘Who’s Who’ of hickory players from all USA time zones, plus occasionally some International players. I inherited the Tournament Directorship over a dozen years ago to honor the game and to honor the originator.”


The Heart of America is one of the stops most anticipated by hickory golfers during the playing season.

Of course, Bill isn’t alone in counting the Heart of America tournament as one of his favorites. Its historic significance certainly helps draw in players from near and far. But it is Bill’s careful attention to the courses selected for each year’s competition, the value he and the GCS packs into the event and the camaraderie of the players that makes the Heart of America one of the most anticipated stops during the hickory season.

But there is one more thing that is greatly anticipated by so many in the hickory golf community:

The opportunity to spend a beautiful day on a hickory-era course in the company of Bill Reed, followed up at the “nineteenth hole,” of course, with a single malt or two, discussing the finer points of Walter Hagen’s game. Hickory Golf Hub covers as many wood shafted golf events as we can shake a stick at.