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Who will start the bidding?

Gi’s auction-room expert, Kevin McGimpsey, selects the best of your recent letters, rare items this issue including an original Tullcoch book on the life of Old Tom Morris and a pair of Victorian leather horse slippers...


I found this strange wooden device in an antique shop in the Cotswolds. I was told it was to carry golf clubs – and priced at £50. I always enjoy reading your feature in Golf International and thought I would send in this photograph for your consideration. Ralf Douglas, Swindon, via email

What were golfers in the early 1930s when their hickoryshafted clubs started bending?

Well, the Spalding Company in the USA came up with a rather clever solution in the shape of this wooden apparatus that they marketed as a ‘wooden shaft straightener’. Measuring 14 inches long and 2½ inches in diameter it could hold a maximum of six hickory shafted clubs.

Spalding patented their design in March 1928 (I know that because they stamped that date on the straightener!). Quite simply, the idea was to place the bent wooden shafts into the two sets of grooves and then tighten them in place with the two heavy fabric straps. After a few days in situ the kinks began to disappear!

Who would buy such an item today? Any one of the growing band of hickory enthusiasts is the answer! One of the strongest sectors of golfing memorabilia currently is run-of-the-mill wooden shafted clubs. Why? Because more and more golfers are keen to get them refurbished so they can play in hickory tournaments or at golf club centenary events.

VALUE: Condition is important (broken ones are worthless). Here the Spalding transfer is complete; each of the two straps is securely attached to the wooden body with its two original tacks; both fabric straps have little or no wear and the strap buckles are clean and rust free. There are no splinters or cracks to the wooden body. At auction £100 plus.


Are these horse shoe covers anything to do with golf in ages past? Richard Hurst, Hove, West Sussex

Our reader’s photograph shows a pair of mid 19th to early 20th century leather horse slippers complete with straps and buckles (these are the front pair – our reader also has the pair for the rear hooves). During the Victorian and Edwardian era, before the advent of petrol-engine cutting machines, the ‘keeper of the greens’ and his team would harness horses to pull the gang mowers up and down fairways and across the greens. To stop the horse’s hooves from cutting up the turf – especially on the greens – they were shoed in these leather slippers. In other sports, horses were used in the cutting of tennis courts.

VALUE: The use of horse-drawn machinery in course maintenance ceased in the early 1920s. It is rare to find a matching set and at auction these quirky Victoriana items would fetch £250-400.


I have been collecting Ryder Cup memorabilia and have a full set of cloth badges as given to the USA players between 1937 and 2006. I keep looking out for missing ones! Any indication as to their value? Brad Walton, Boston, USA

The accompanying photograph shows only a small selection of our reader’s collection of 30 cloth badges, all embroidered in gilt and silver wire and featuring the Ryder Cup trophy or crossed flags. It really does make a striking display.

There are usually two ways of starting and completing such a collection. One is to trawl through auction sites looking for the rare occasions when a player (or more likely the family of a deceased player) has consigned badges and other personal belongings to auction. Usually these come with a history of the player and hence a good provenance. An alternative way would be to come across such badges as the supplier to the Ryder Cup samples. These would be genuine in every way although they wouldn’t have any associated player’s history. I have checked through my records and find that on three occasions a ‘full’ collection of such Ryder Cup badges have been sold at auction within the UK and once in the USA.

VALUE: Whichever way they are bought they will be reasonably expensive, averaging out at £100 each with the older ones fetching a little more than newer ones. If our reader’s collection were to be consigned to auction I would expect it to sell for at least £3,000.


Does this rather dilapidated book jacket detract from the value of this old book on Tom Morris? Angela Sayer, Gibraltar

I will come to the book jacket in a moment; first, let me tell you something about the book itself. Although a publishing date isn’t shown anywhere in the book, it was published in 1908. William W. Tulloch, the author, was a good friend of Old Tom Morris and enjoyed full access in researching the career of one of the game’s all-time greats.

Although its title is rather verbose (The Life of Tom Morris With Glimpses of St Andrews and its Golfing Celebrities), it was, until just a couple of years ago, the definitive book written on the great man of golf, Old Tom Morris. Comprising 334 pages of usually uncut thick paper, there are some 27 illustrations using photographs scattered throughout the book. And while it may not be the most gripping of reads (the author relies heavily throughout on holeby- hole match reports), it was/is regarded as being the cornerstone of every good golfing library.

At auction, prices have remained steady, ranging from £800 for a mint example of the book (without the usual fox stains and having a dark coloured cover) to £300 for one that has seen much better days.

VALUE: When I first saw the reader’s photograph I assumed that I was looking at a ‘just above average’ example of a Tulloch. Closer inspection revealed that there was a dust jacket, one that was the same colour and design as was reproduced on the front cover. In all my years in this business I have never seen a dust jacket – and to be perfectly honest I never expected to. Yes, there is slight damage to it and it is not complete but who cares? That dust jacket alone is worth more than a mint copy of the book! It could well be entered into an auction without a book and I would expect it to fetch over £1,000. If it were to be sold with its book, then £2,000-3,000.

[Note: The new ‘definitive’ book on Tom Morris that I refer to is called Tom Morris of St Andrews, written by Peter Crabtree and David Malcolm – a great reference for every student of the game’s history.]


A friend suggested I contact you with images of a 1928 Silvertown Hole-in-One silver trophy and certificate which we purchased recently. I’d be grateful for any information you might be able to provide. Tom Burgess, Llandudno, North Wales

Throughout the 1920s and early ’30s the Silvertown Company, based in the Silver Town district of London, presented these sterling silver golf trophies in the shape of three golf clubs on a plinth to players who achieved a hole-in-one playing one of their golf balls. In this case it is a square dimple patterned Silver King (Black Dot). A silver plaque engraved with the player’s name, the hole, the course and date of the event was attached to one side of the plinth. On the other side is a plaque giving details of the Silvertown Company.

On closer inspection of the plinth I am intrigued to discover that the golf club in question was Great Orme. Readers not familiar with the history of golf in North Wales will be unaware of the huge lump of rock that protects Llandudno, once a booming Victorian seaside resort. The Great Orme feature is a massive limestone promontory and looking at the site today it is difficult to visualise a grassed golf course once being there.

Founded between 1904 and 1906, the original course was laid out by John Morris of Hoylake. In the early years the old Telegraph Station (where messages were relayed between Holyhead and Liverpool advising of the arrival of cargo ships) was used as the clubhouse but this proved to be inadequate. A new hotel, ‘The Summit’, was built and the clubhouse formed part of this building from 1908, at which time Sunday play was also permitted. The course closed for the duration of World War I but reopened in 1919 and enjoyed great success for the next 20 years. A proud boast in 1923 stated that ‘The Great Orme Hotel adjoins the Great Orme golf is undoubtedly the finest holiday course in Wales, the hotel entrance just 15 yards from the first tee.’

In 1940 the clubhouse and hotel was requisitioned by the RAF (it became the RAF Great Orme Radar Station) and the 18 hole course fell in to disrepair. It never reopened after the war and the original site is now a sheep farm.

The plaque on the trophy’s Bakelite stand reveals the player in question, Mr. A. Wright, achieved his feat at the 6th – a hole that measured 230 yards. Our reader also mentions a certificate, which was issued by the Johnnie Walker organisation – a smart parchment made out to Mr. A. Wright.

VALUE: Although such hole-in-one trophies are relatively common they remain popular – especially when they have retained the original ball. I would also anticipate interest from collectors of artefacts from defunct golf clubs. Consequently, I could see this trophy selling for £150-200 and retailing in a local antique shop at £250 plus.


What value would you put on this please? It measures 9 inches tall (and I don’t think the lid is silver!). Tony Carothers, Luton, Bedfordshire

Our reader’s sugar jar is part of Royal Doulton’s prolific Series Ware range which comprised the basic cream-coloured stock that was then decorated with transfers and hand tinted in various themes – one of these being golf. The golfers are often described as Round Heads from the 17th Century English Civil War, or Quakers or New World pilgrims. They are always to be found in humorous and/or unlikely golfing situations.

Produced between 1911 and 1932, the most prolific pattern number was D3395. Other pattern numbers include D2296, D3394, D3395 and D5960. Shapes include bowls, serving dishes, platters, jugs, large 2-handled vases, punch bowls, tooth pick holders, sugar shakers, candlesticks and ashtrays. Each piece also featured a proverb in ‘ye olde style’ English. In this case it is ‘All fools are not knaves but all knaves are fools’

VALUE: The jar’s lid and rim is made in white metal. On rare occasions Royal Doulton included sterling silver attachments and these add considerable commercial value to the object. Even so there would be plenty of interest in the jar at auction especially as the reader has confirmed that it is free of cracks or damage. Est. £300-400.


I have obtained a long nosed driver and would be grateful for your comments. Colin North, Brigg, North Lincolnshire

The ‘long nose’ refers to the long elegant shape of the wooden head; it was only by the late 1890s that the head shape had become rounder and squatter.

Our reader has measured the head and records that it is 5 inches long, 2 inches across and its face measures 1¼ inches deep. The 3-inch horn is intact, as is the neat lead back-filled weight. The club, which dates to the 1880s, is in fact a ‘Play Club’, not a driver, because its shaft measures 43 inches in length. It was a club used to begin play at most holes, hence the term ‘play club’. The characteristics of a Play Club would include a long, usually 43-45 inches tapering, flexible shaft, with an elegant head having around 10 degrees of loft.

The glued spliced head and shaft join has been strengthened by a wrapping of thick twine instead of the more usual black pitch covered whipping. The maker’s mark on the club’s crown (which our reader describes as looking ‘like a tree...or maybe a lighthouse on a small island...’) is hard to decipher it because it is a little worn – maybe it is an inverted thistle?

VALUE: Prices for long nose clubs are not as good as they were five years ago, but there is still a demand. This example could hit the £300-400 mark at auction and more when we determine the maker.

Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine



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