Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
Dr. Bern Bernacki is a community-based, self-employed family physician of 35 years, who loves the game of golf. He plays golf in a variety of ways: with hickory, steel and modern-era shafts – of course, always with a period-appropriate ball.
He is also active in youth development and drug prevention activities, having recently completed a leadership role with First Tee Pittsburgh. Bernacki serves the membership of the Golf Heritage Society (GHS), currently as president of the organization.
The Bernacki Story
I was always interested in science and intrigued by why people do what they do. The background I acquired in biology and psychology made primary care the natural choice of specialty.
I am very blessed to have had a career as a community-based family physician. I actually work in the neighborhood of my youth.
I especially enjoy working with advanced aged seniors and their families supporting them as they make difficult choices. Nothing is more important than redirecting youths in finding their right path. A community-based doc has opportunities to make a difference.
For all of this I am forever grateful.
What was the genesis of The Golf Heritage Society?
What is now the Golf Heritage Society began in 1970 as the golf collectors society. Bob Kuntz from Southern Ohio and Joe Murdoch from Eastern Pennsylvania were golf interested friends. Bob Kuntz was focused on golf play equipment such as balls and antique golf clubs with Hickory shafts. Joe Murdoch was a historian and a book collector.
Both maintained extensive collections and had a deep knowledge base. They frequently collaborated and exchanged notes. They eventually decided to form a society and named it the golf collectors society, the GCS.
There are approximately 1000 members across all the States and there are international members as well. The mission is to promote the game with an appreciation for its history and traditions, and to foster friendships through the game of golf and its many opportunities for personal growth and enjoyment.
Total size of the current membership is what and what is the approximate split between men and women?
We are approximately 1000 members. We are 90% male however we are rapidly gaining interest and new female members. Soon we will welcome our 10,000th unique Golf Heritage Society member.
What was the tipping point that sparked your interest in the topic?
I began collecting cool old golf artifacts some 30 years ago. When I discovered the GCS, and learned that the members played with their authentic hickory golf clubs, I was “all in”, as they say. I was mentored by several GCS greats and was always welcomed to help out. Leadership is a way to give back and pay it forward, so here we are.
If someone is interested in becoming a member -- what's the process they should follow and what is the cost?
At $50 per year, the GHS membership is the best value in all of golf. The best way to become a GHS member is to join online @ golfheritage.org and become an “instant member”. Paying online gives you immediate access to our amazing website and menu of benefits, including all 52 years of our journal archives.
How often are golf auctions held and what advice would you give to those interested in both buying such items and finding them in their travels?
There are 5-7 auction houses operating independent of the GHS. They conduct periodic auctions so there’s always some excitement for buyers and sellers alike. One always learns during the acquisition process, be it on line or in person. A benefit of GHS’ membership is access to the knowledge base of our society & friends. In person meetings provide opportunities to acquire golf artifacts, but more importantly, friends who can offer guidance and direction, as well as personal friendship and enrichment.
Why is golf's history so important?
Golf history is important for any number of reasons. It’s pride, it’s also reverence for the Game and its heroes, its sacred places and events. The short version is it’s a record of the people, places, events and artifacts that matter. By the way, that’s all fun like crazy.
Has enough oversight been carried out by the USGA and R&A regarding golf equipment? What would you advise they do given how technology has rapidly influenced the sport?
Our traditional leaders have given the Game so much: standards, the rules for play and preservation of golf history. Economic influences are many and likewise powerful. Sometimes I feel like oversight and advancement compete in this unique, complex and ever-changing environment. It’s complicated, but fortunately, we’re still functional.
If you could change one thing in golf unilaterally -- what would it be and why?
That’s simple. I’d invite all the golfers to enjoy the Game from a new and different perspective. We might have some fun playing Hickory Golf and Classic Era Golf in addition to our Modern Era equipment. Also, we would gain enjoyment and learn much about this great Game by hearing the perspective of all our golf interested, like the artists and writers. We will grow from appreciating their love of the Game through its art and its literature and its many artifacts.
The Society will hold its 2022 Convention in late September in Indianapolis. What are the main agenda items taking place for that gathering and is the meeting open to the general public?
Yes, we are all excited to visit Indiana. We traditionally gather to see our friends, to play golf, and to conduct interesting, educational seminars. We will host a trade show, a banquet and conduct side tours. We will swap possessions and expand our holdings.
Our golfers now play a “heritage” golf event, with both for-fun and competitive golf play opportunities in each Era of the Game. In this new way, we can compete, have fun, gain a new golf experience and honor all eras of the game.
For more info go to: