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Lost in Cyberspace

Sporting tradition on the Web

This article was originally published on June 15, 1999 by SignOn San Diego and Copley News Service.

Last week, I tried to get one of my father's golf clubs repaired. He gave me the set when I turned 12 and he quit the game in frustration. It's the only set I've ever owned and, as badly as I play, it seems foolish to invest in a new set of clubs.

But none of the repair shops I visited would even try to fix it; vintage 1958, the clubs are simply too old to get parts for. And my grandfather's clubs, from the 1930s in their white canvas bag? The niblick and mashie and mid-iron? Forget it.

So, rather than give up on the clubs, I went to the Web to see if I could find a business that would be able to repair them. And I discovered a whole community of folks who collect – and play with – even older clubs, the wood shaft clubs from the early part of this century.

A wonderful site dedicated to wood shaft clubs is Hickory Golf. There are pages on identifying antique clubs, how-to pages on restoring them, and advice on where to purchase them. There's even a list of wooden-shaft tournaments held around the country. (Two golf courses actually rent wood shaft clubs!)

Heritage Golf of St. Andrews makes playable replicas of both the old clubs and the balls of the various eras. They're not cheap, but still less expensive than a new set of modern high-end clubs.

Going to and searching their antiques section turned up dozens of auctions for historic golf equipment, from old balls to wood-shaft clubs. Most were pretty reasonably priced, too.

Finding so much info on old golf equipment – and folks who still play with it – got me curious about what other kinds of historic sports might be on the Web. There are a many.

When golfers at St. Andrews were still hitting featheries (feather-filled leather golf balls), here stateside folks were playing a game called townball – an early predecessor of baseball. The Leatherstocking Base Ball Club not only keeps those memories alive, but still has a league for playing townball.

A British cousin of baseball, rounders, is still alive and well, with leagues throughout Great Britain. The National Rounders Association has a colorful site where you'll find rules, schedules and yet more links to other rounders sites.

Then there's what's called vintage base ball – teams play by the deadball rules, with no gloves, no pitcher's mound, no strikes called. The Colorado Vintage Base Ball Association has a well-organized site that serves as a nice starting point for learning more about these neotraditionalists with gnarled hands (hey, gloves came into vogue for a reason).

Old-time variations on bowling can be found on the Web, too. Candlepins, a version that uses smaller pins and coconut-size balls, is still popular in New England. The International Candlepin Bowling Association has its own Web site with rules, equipment description, history and more. A similar game popular in Baltimore, duckpin, is explained in great detail at The Unofficial Duckpin Home Page.

Yahoo's bowling page also has links to sites dedicated to lawn bowling, bocce and petanque.

An early version of lawn tennis, now known as "real tennis," has its own page: Rules, diagrams of courts, a history: it's all here, and pretty interesting for anyone with a passion for the game.