Golf clubs are much sought after by enthusiastic collectors. While very early clubs no longer survive, those still obtainable date from the nineteenth century. The game itself is believed to have originated in Scotland.
A short history of golf clubs
Firstly, there is a theory that the game stemmed from a sport traceable to the Romans called paganica. Players hit a stuffed ball over a distance with a bent stick. Secondly, Dutch traders may have introduced a similar game known as ‘kolfe’ to Scotland. However, the official reference to ‘golfe’ appears in an Act of King James II in 1457. Concern was expressed that the army was favouring the games of golf and football instead of concentrating on archery. Subsequently the game obtained a royal seal of approval from King James IV in 1502. Popularity spread to England in the sixteenth century when King Charles I introduced the game there. Mary Queen of Scots took the game to France during her studies there. For instance, the term ‘caddie’ comes from the name of her military aides, known as cadets.
Official recognition of golf clubs
In 1603 William Mayne became official royal club-maker for life to the court of King James VI. Sadly, none of these clubs survive, though his original style is believed to have lasted up to the late nineteenth century.
From earliest times golf clubs were made of wood, with a long shaft and pear-shaped striking head. The shaft and head were joined with glue and sealed with tar-covered twine. The grip was made of leather and colours varied according to the type of wood used. Many famous makers’ names were stamped on the head, thus facilitating information on relative age. Clubs stamped ‘H. Philp’, a skilled craftsman, are dateable to the early nineteenth century and are particularly desirable.
Early iron clubs
Around the 1820s the first iron-headed clubs appeared, since wooden clubs were far more prone to damage. The design of golf clubs gradually changed between 1850 and 1890. The design evolved with the introduction of a resilient ball known as ‘gucha-percha’. These originated, in fact, with the use of a hard rubber-like material originating in India and Malaysia.
Wooden shafted clubs
There was a shift back to wooden shafts when it became clear that these were cheaper to produce. Moreover, modification was applied to the shape of the head. Specifically, the heads became much shorter in length. Meanwhile, with the advent of the Industrial Revolution and the birth of the railways, games appeared all over the country.
Names of different types of golf club abound. Such as mashers, cleeks, putters and niblicks.The game of golf itself has a vast terminology of its own. Many books have been written on the subject from memoirs by well-known golfers to instructions on how to play the game.
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Some of the most famous golf courses are still in Scotland. For example Gleneagles, St. Andrews and Prestwick. The first permanent golf club in North America was founded in Canada in 1873. In 1894 the North American Golf Association appeared. Soon more than a thousand clubs existed throughout the country.
Golf clubs on sale can reach quite high figures. Such as a Hugh Philp of St. Andrews club dateable to about 1840, priced at 700 pounds. Whereas there is a great number of cheaper models available from 50 pounds upwards. The exciting part is the hunt for that long-sought-after club.