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Brown, who represented Blackheath in the first Open in 1860 at Prestwick, finishing fifth, owned the former premises of Hugh Philp at 6 Pilmuir Links, St Andrews, eventually selling them to Tom Morris in 1867.

There he made hand-hammered gutty balls in some number but his long-nosed clubs are extremely rare – the example at Lyon & Turnbull being one of only seven known, including the three in the R&A collection.

Always expected to do well, it was estimated at £6000-8000 but did rather better than that, selling at £13,000.

Pre-1870 clubs by key makers are what the handful of collectors operating at this level of the market really want.

Also in Edinburgh was a c.1840 long-nose spoon by Hugh Philp (1786-1856) with a thorn head and well-lofted face, lemonwood shaft with good patination and owner’s initials JWHA and also one of six known long-nose putters by A. Grieg, a fellow St. Andrews golfer and club maker who played in the 1867 Open at Leith.

The Philp spoon, carrying hopes of £9000-12,000, sold at £9500 and the Greig putter, estimated at £3000-5000 made £5500.

These successes helped offset the failure of two early 19th century irons estimated at £5000-8000 apiece. Also rather disappointing was the reaction to a curious Hardingham’s patent putter. Having sold one last year at £8000, the auctioneers settled on an estimate of £4000-5000 for the example here which had suffered some damage and had a later shaft.

These factors were more of a handicap than had been expected and the club sold at £3500. However, buyers responded with more enthusiasm to The Pambo, a rare aluminium cylindrical-headed club designed for all shots which went above top hopes at £2300.

According to Bob Gowland, some established collectors are running out of patent clubs to collect but if something really unusual does turn up it will still spark competition.

His best find was a J.S. Caird wry-necked putter, the first of its kind to come to auction. This unusual club had two arms connected to a wide blade – an idea that Caird first used in a patented club of 1896 – thus allowing the golfer to see the whole of the ball when playing the shot – particularly useful for holing out over a short distance.

Entered for sale with an estimate of £1000-1500 on behalf of a vendor from Newcastle who is to put the proceeds into schooling for her new great-grandson, it was competed to £6000.

So far so good, but lower down the price scale – where the much-needed new generation of collectors can be expected to compete – it was a different story.
Golf as a sport may be more popular than ever but there are currently few signs that the Tiger Woods generation has quite the same enthusiasm for the heritage of the game as the collectors with first-hand experience of iron and hickory.

One saving grace may be the small communities in both the UK and the States who are casting aside titanium drivers and playing the game with pre-war clubs,. But for now, said Mr Gowland, “bunches of clubs, unless well restored or in excellent condition, are back to 1985 prices”.

Lyon & Turnbull, Edinburgh,
July 13
Number of lots: 338
Number of lots Sold: 157
Sale total: £142,020
Buyer’s premium:
17.5/10 per cent