THIS MAN HAS BALLS

And if you want to see them, you'll have to visit the Golf Museum at Wiederkehr Village. In Your Host's estimation, this is one of the top five collections in the state, probably THE top collection if you take into account that the items were collected with an eye toward presenting a thorough representation of the subject matter. Hurry on down, though, because Dusty Helbling's lease runs out in October of '97, and he hints that he might be taking his collection to greener fairways.

That's Dusty in the photo top left, and if he doesn't know 'bout everybody and 'bout everything 'bout the game of golf, then he's got me snookered. He tells me he was once on the pro rodeo circuit until he broke his back in California. Medical professionals advised him to take it easy, so he became a professional race car driver. Throughout, he always maintained a love of the game of golf, which he has played since he was three years old. He got that early start because his dad was the pro at Rolling Knoll Country Club in Fort Smith. He got his first hole-in-one at age five, and caddies would win bets with newcomers based on his ability to hit the ball without looking at it.

Dusty has well over a thousand items in his golf collection, which has followed PGA Tournaments and Pro-Celebrety events for many years. That kind of touring takes a toll, though, just like a rock-and-roll road show; and in April of '96 he rented this building at Wiederkehr Village and made it the permanent home of his mightily impressive collection.

Okay, so what's in the building? First, there're clubs, clubs and more clubs. Inventive clubs. Illegal clubs. Ladies' clubs. Children's clubs. Modern "high tech computer-designed ergonomically sculpted" clubs which are actually rip-offs of antique designs. He has a ventilated club designed for hitting out of shallow water, a club with a sharpened leading edge for hitting out of tall grass, a club with a stumpy little head for hitting out of wagon ruts (that was a common hazard when courses were typically on public land).

He's also got balls. He has balls with pimples rather than dimples. He has a wooden ball that was used during WWII when rubber was in short supply. A point on the wooden ball was marked so that it could be oriented so as not to fracture when hit. He's got a ball made of leather and stuffed with feathers. He's got just about every dimple variation imaginable.

He's got tees. Wooden tees, weighted rubber mat tees, plastic tees, double tees, celluloid tees, historical tees and hysterical tees. He has tee molds, too. In the olden days, at the tee box you would find a bucket of sand and a bucket of water. A golfer would mix a bit of sand with a bit of water and form a little pedestal to prop up the ball while teeing off.

Much much more. Interesting for the non-golfer and for the enthusiast. Go and see. You get a lot for the price of admission.

RTJ--8/17/97



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