'The most creative implement in sport'... Jeffery B Ellis's antique golf club collection


2015-06-26 12:34:15


'The most creative implement in sport'... Jeffery B Ellis's antique golf club collection

Ellis's collection set a World Record price for the most expensive club ever sold, at Sotheby's

Sporting memorabilia is often highly valuable, and whilst golfing memorabilia doesn't tend to hit the dizzy heights of the top football or cricket collectibles, it sometimes comes within putting distance.

The chief golf item which has fascinated collectors is naturally the golf club, due to its extraordinary variation over the years.

Jeffery B. Ellis bought his first lot of antique golf clubs at a Goodwill store in 1974 and has been fascinated by the evolution of their design ever since, noting, "In the world of sport, there is really no more creative implement."

Over the years, he has handled literally thousands of clubs of various materials, from various dates since the game's inception. The Ellis Collection came to document every aspect of the golf club in all its variety at every point in history between 1600 and the early 1930s.

Philp Celtic Cross golf clubWorth its weight in gold: the Philp Celtic Cross golf club

No other collection presented the amazing evolutionary odyssey of the golf club in such fascinating and exacting detail.

The history of these clubs is detailed in three books that Mr. Ellis spent twelve years researching. His first book, The Clubmaker's art: Antique Golf Clubs and Their History, is the industry's bible for antique golf clubs.

Featuring more than 600 clubs and their individual histories, this tome was selected by Golf World magazine as one of the top 10 golf books of the 20th century.

Travel & Leisure Golf magazine included it in their list of the top 25 golf books ever written. In 2003, Mr. Ellis released its sequel: The Golf Club: 400 Years of The Good, The Beautiful & The Creative.

In January 2007, Mr. Ellis released his most comprehensive work to date, a two-volume set, The Clubmaker's Art: Second Edition Revised and Expanded. This book, detailing every club in his 800-club collection, is now the industry standard.

The clubs from the collection date all the way back to the dawn of the sport around 1600, including a very early and important square toe light iron - a first generation club that was designed primarily for use when the ball lay on sandy ground or among small stones.

Prior to 1890, golfers used clubs that had long, wooden heads, naturally called 'long nose' clubs. In the late 1700's, clubmakers began to mark their work. After 1700, long-nose clubs began to be marked by their makers for the first time.

Ellis put together sixty clubs with famous and elusive clubmakers, headed by an 18th century Long Nose Putter stamped "A.D." attributed to Andrew Dickson, the oldest known clubmaker to mark his clubs.

Then there were four Philp clubs. As the official club maker at the prestigious Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews from 1817 until his death in 1856, Hugh Philp was recognized as the Stradivarius of clubmakers for his meticulous craftsmanship.

Even a hundred years ago golfers advertised to collect his clubs and Golf Illustrated reportedthat a Philp club was worth untold gold. Notably, the Ellis collection included presentation putter with a carved Celtic cross.

The collection included some curiosities too.

For example, there was the Trophy Club,with sterling a silver clubhead and two dozen sterling silver golf balls fastened to 24 sterling shaft bands, was presented in 1903 to the Bromley and Bickley Golf Club of London, one of only two presentation clubs that served as perpetual trophies

Trophy golf clubIt doubles as a Christmas tree... The trophy golf club

Ellis sold his collection at Sotheby's in 2007. The sale broke records with the Andrew Dickson club becoming the most expensive club ever sold at $181,000, whilst a square-toe iron sold for $151,000 and a long-nosed scraper (spoon) brought $91,000.

In total the collection achieved $2.17m. On the eve of the sale, Ellis commented on the joy that collecting had brought him over the years.

"The experience of assembling this collection was completely absorbing. I did not want one of everything, just one of everything that was truly creative, unique, or historical. Consequently, I enjoyed the clubs I collected, but I lived to acquire the next great piece."

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