Vintage Golfing Collectibles


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Golfing Collectibles

By the late 19th century golf had become widely popular and the resulting wealth of equipment and memorabilia are eagerly sought after by golfing enthusiasts today.

 Golf was nurtured in Scotland, where the first mention of it was in a Royal Decree of 1457, when James II forbade the playing of football and golf to encourage young men to concentrate on archery practice.

 The cost and popularity of golf changed dramatically in the middle of the 19th century with the advent of cheaper balls. At the same time, the middle classes were beginning to enjoy increasing income and more leisure.

 Early balls, made of leather stuffed with boiled feathers, were expensive, but the gutta-percha hall was introduced in 1848.

 Gutta-percha is a resin from a Malaysian tree, and golf halls made from it proved to be both durable and waterproof.

 They were also cheap, and this helped set in motion the golfing explosion. In 1870 there were about 30 golf clubs in the United Kingdom; by 1890 the number had increased to over 300; and by about 1905 there were some 3000 clubs.


 With the gutta-percha ball and the rubber cored Haskell ball, which appeared at the start of the 20th century, golf balls had undergone great changes.

 Clubs progressed at a more leisurely pace.  During the 19th century there had been various refinements in shape and construction, and an increasing use of iron headed clubs, which did not destroy the gutta-percha ball, as they did the 'featheries'.

 By Edwardian times clubs could be bought relatively cheaply, since they were virtually mass produced. A few club makers were still at work, producing superb clubs by hand, as they had done for many a long year.

 As golf entered the popular imagination, its influence spread into other realms. Songs and books were written about the game, golfing cartoons were drawn, and silver and porcelain mementoes were made. Golf had truly arrived.

 Today, golfing mementoes are much sought after, though the pleasure of collecting them need not coincide with a passion for playing the links.

 For those infected with the golfing bug, there is no better way to get involved with the history of the game than by collecting some of its artefacts.

 Buying clubs, plates, figurines or pictures is a reasonably affordable investment. Once displayed, they make good conversation pieces.

 To promote the pleasure of collecting and the exchange of information, a golf collectors' society was formed in 1970. Membership is now spread over 19 different countries and there is an annual meeting in the United States as well as one during the British Open.

 Golf is one of the most popular of all games, both for participants and for spectators. An Edwardian golf bag and clubs evoke not only past sporting glories but also the charms of a more leisurely age.


 Although 19th-century golf clubs are expensive, those from the Edwardian period are less so.  By this time there were many thousands of golfers; each would have had about ten clubs and many of these have survived.

 Prices should be very reasonable, except in special cases. By the early 1900s most wooden clubs were mass produced and irons had factory forged beads.

 There were several means of attaching wooden heads to shafts, and a complete collection should contain clubs with the older seared (spliced) joint, as well as the more modern socket joint.

 Wooden heads and shafts should be inspected for undue wear and tear, and of course for woodworm; irons should be checked for excessive rust.

 Golf balls are also very collectable. Feathery balls are rare and often damaged. Gutta-percha balls are easier to come by.

 Early 'gutties' were smooth, but when it was found that slightly battered balls flew better, the balls were textured, at first by hand, and then in the moulds in which they were made.

 An interesting little selection of golf balls, showing manufactured 'gutties' (perhaps accompanied by a mould), smooth and hand textured gutties, an early Haskell, perhaps a modern ball and - if possible - a feathery, would be well worth collecting.

 Together they would make an attractive display, encapsulating the history of this fascinating game.


 The best idea with golfing memorabilia is to specialize in a particular period - perhaps the Edwardian - or a particular theme.

 Books are popular and can be highly valuable. Many of the classic golf books of the early 19th century are fairly rare and expensive.

 Sir W G Simpson's The Art of Golf is one of the best known.  Prices for Edwardian classics can reach three figures, but it is possible to pick up attractive old golf books in second-hand shops for much less.

 Postcards and cigarette cards on golfing themes are attractive but not as cheap as they once were. Golfing postcards can cost a few pounds each.

 Expect to pay quite high prices for complete sets of cigarette cards of 'Famous Golfers' or 'Golf Instruction'.

 Auctions are a good source for clubs, bags and memorabilia. Some antiques dealers specialize in golf; they will be listed in antiques dealers' handbooks.


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