Golf is one of the ultimate individual sports where it’s you and your clubs against the vast open golf field. It requires precision and patience to master this sport and get that perfect hole in one go.
Most individuals who are interested in golf sport are also a fan of collecting antique clubs.
If you are such avid golf player who appreciates high-quality clubs with a bit of history attached to them, then you have arrived at the right place.
We have presented you with a detailed guide regarding the history and value of antique golf clubs and where you can find these antique gems.
Origin of Golf Clubs
For decades, Golf is considered to be an elite sport since its grounds are accessible to only with power and wealth. But that does not mean that a common man cannot enjoy and play this exclusive sport.
Reflecting on the origin of Golf as a sport, games involving a ball and a stick have existed in many cultures, from ancient Greece to China.
The fundamental rules of these games always indicate the ball being hit by the stick to reach or strike a specific target. Thus, it is hard to determine how golf might have actually come into being.
Historians have estimated that golf as a sport has been around for over 500 years. The game may have evolved from a cross-country stick game like “Chole” which was popular in 14th-century Scotland and is considered to be golf’s predecessor.
The first proper record of the game dates back to the 1457 statute of King James II, who seemed to have forbidden the game of “Golfe.”
From there, the sport and the clubs have undergone numerous evolutions which can be divided into various eras.
Antique golf clubs were made around the 15th century using primitive methods. They were handmade and had unique designs to prominent its manufacturer.
Since industrial revolution hasn’t hit the world by then and mass production was not a thing, each club was custom-made for its user.
Scottish shepherds from the 17th century were the main manufacturers of these clubs. However, sadly these clubs are no longer accessible.
Only a few clubs made between the 17th to 18th centuries can be found in private collections, many others in museums.
Antique golf clubs dating back to the 1930s and World War II hold significant value. It was the time in golf when steel shafts and matching golf sets were being mass produced by the golf club manufacturers.
Before the 1930s, golf club shafts were made of hickory. The iron heads were made of forged steel. The wood for shafts would be carved of persimmon wood.
Some of these clubs that were produced before the 20th century hold much value, especially if they were made by prominent golf club makers and are in good condition.
Golf clubs by famous twentieth and nineteenth century players like Old Tom Morris or Laurie Auchterlonie in St. Andrews can catch a reasonable price of around $20,000. The cost can fluctuate depending on the condition of the clubs.
What Is The Oldest Golf Club Brand?
There’s a heated debate among experts as to which is the oldest golf club brand in existence. It is commonly agreed upon that a Scottish company named Ben Sayers is the oldest golf company.
Unfortunately, the brand has gone out of business, and its operations have been shut down.
The above-mentioned brands are Scottish, showing the country’s bond with the sport that also houses some of the other legendary golf club brands like George Nicoll.
McGregor, a U.S.-based company, is considered the second oldest golf manufacturer in the world but the oldest in the United States.
Are Any Old Golf Clubs Worth Money?
You might ask why one should look into old golf clubs in the first place? Are they worth any money or value?
If you are a true connoisseur of the sport, then you do care because these are memorabilia of the sport.
Some older club sets can value around hundreds of dollars, but some can cash for value in thousands. It all depends on the model, club makers, and authenticity.
Clubs in good condition can be reused on the field, and you will surely be the envy of the other players.
However, some antique enthusiasts only like the collectible value. They might only want to play the sport to enjoy and go by old rules. So, identify yourself. What kind of a golf enthusiast are you?
Common Clubs Versus Rare Clubs
The price of your golf clubs may vary based on their rarity. Most vintage golf clubs you’ll find in antique shops or yard sales may only have decorative value.
If you want clubs that hold some monetary value and can also be used to play golf, then look for limited edition pieces or clubs made by renowned brands.
Common Golf Clubs
Standard antique golf clubs are usually valued at around $10-$20. On their hay day, they may have been valued at approximately $40-$50 due to the expanding international market.
These golf clubs were mass-produced to meet the demands of new buyers.
The Internet has greatly expanded the search for antique items through sites like eBay. So, it is no surprise to golf enthusiasts. Serious collectors prefer to buy hard-to-get and rare items instead of common golf clubs.
Common golf clubs were usually mass produced by companies such as Wilson, Spalding, Burke, MacGregor, Kroydon during the 1900s.
Common golf clubs have certain identifiable traits that they can be determined by, such as:
- Aluminum caps on the end of the handles
- Nickel, chromed, or stainless-steel heads
- Dots, lines, hyphens, or other face scorings
- Stamps on the back for yard ranges
- Phrases on the back such as accurate, superior, aim-rite, and other common-sounding names
Rare Golf Clubs
Golf club manufacturers made custom golf clubs for a special client before the 1900s. These valuable vintage golf clubs are one of a kind and can grab quite a price.
Clubs that have some history to them or were used during a critical tournament also hold a lot of value regardless of their vintage status.
The 1920s produced some of the rarest golf clubs one can find. The 1920s, with its art deco and novelty phase, saw a lot of innovation in non-standardized club designs. This means that one can find interesting and weird pieces from this era.
Clubs made of unusual material and parts were seen in 1920s. Some clubs had moveable heads, and others had multiple striking faces.
These unique qualities took away the functionality of the clubs. However, these clubs are sought after because of the rarity of their designs.
Once the sport was standardized, these oddly shaped golf clubs were outlawed. Because only a few of these putters were produced, their rarity made them become highly valuable and sought after.
Here are some features of rare antique golf clubs.
- Unusual head shapes and wood heads
- Unmarked faces or unusual markings
- Unusual patented features for players’ improvements
- Thick-necked wood clubs covered with several inches of string whipping
- Smooth face irons made by golf club makers such as Army & Navy, Dunn, Forgan, Gray, White, Carrick, and Anderson
- Deep groove wood shaft clubs called rakes or waterfalls
What Are The Most Valuable Golf Clubs?
It is not surprising that the rarest and most valuable golf clubs come from lesser-known indie brands.
Brands like Titleist, TaylorMade, PING, and Callaway are the most well-known brands that are on par in quality with the lesser-known brands.
Here are some of the most valuable golf clubs:
1. Callaway Epik Forged Star Irons
This exquisite black steel finish club costs an average of a whopping $2,599.99. The rice range proves that it is an item for elite golfers.
Callaway constructed the core with suspended tungsten to make it consistent with launch and distance. The body of the club is made with 1025 carbon steel along with an ultra-thin face.
This helps the clubs maintain top speed and optimal distance. Proper C.G. placement and lightweight construction also ensure lower spin and a faster swing.
2. Ichiro Honma Gold Commemorative Edition (Golf Set)
The Honma gold club is bathed in luxury due to the 24-carat gold plating taking its value to new heights with the cost of $3,634.17, almost double that of most Callaway iron.
This gold golf set is constructed out of dedicated graphite shafts that allow low weight and maximum flexibility for that perfect putt.
3. Bentley Golf Complete Set
Bentley Golf Complete set is one of the most expensive sets to be ever made. This club set will cost you a tiny amount of $11,999.99
A Carbon steel/graphite finish accompanies the golf set. It includes one putter, two hybrids, one driver, six irons, three wedges, and one fairway wood, all stacked in high-premium mild carbon steel from Japan.
4. Ben hogan Club set
During the 1980s, a man from Texas, USA, happened to stumble upon a Hogan-1 iron from a bargain basket in a yard sale. The buyer noticed a small wear mark on the sweet spot and wondered if the set belonged to the actual golfer Ben Hogan.
Ben Hogan used a similar model during a playoff in the 1950s U.S. Open championship. The man contacted the United States Golf Association and the golfer Ben Hogan to authenticate his find.
It was revealed that Hogan had lost a club before his legendary performance on the field. The club had been missing for around 30 years, only to end up in a garage sale.
The man was offered a hefty sum as clubs like these were responsible for famous shots recorded in sports history. This club was also loaned to be displayed in the United States Golf Association’s Golf History Museum.
Authentic Golf Club Identification
Just like any other antique, vintage golf clubs have their own identification markers that one can use for authenticity.
Iron clubs made by certain brands such as Tom Stewart of St. Andres, are not difficult to identify. It is hard to date them back to their manufacturing date.
Patent numbers were not printed on most clubs prior to the 20th century, if even then. Beyond that, slight variations in design and imprint from year to year make it nearly impossible to identify clubs by year.
To authenticate a club as one particular player used for a particular shot is even more difficult as memories fade and time passes. The Hogan club, for instance, was identified by Hogan himself only to the best of his recollection.
To really confirm that your golf clubs are vintage, make sure that they are made of real wood. Many golf shafts are made of metal with a wood grain finish. To confirm the material, use a magnet to check if it’s made of wood or metal.
Check with the magnet thoroughly along the shaft as some 1930s wooden shafts have a metal core.
Value of Wooden Golf Clubs
The important question is: Are these antique and old golf clubs worth anything?
The answer to that is yes, depending upon the several characteristics that add to their value.
Several factors, such as high-quality imported woods and the evolution of the golf ball, influenced the types of wood to be used to make club heads and shafts.
Wooden shafted clubs and original shafts are sought after by collectors. Golfers play with hickory shaft clubs in special programs such as “hickories.”
1. Early Era Golf
During golf’s founding era in early Scotland, golf club makers used hardwood, such as beech, to make club heads.
Ash and hazelwood were mainly used for the shafts. Troon Clubs or long nose clubs were made of six types of wood and iron components.
Around this time, golf balls were also made of wood to balance out the weight of the wooden shafts.
2. American Influence on Old Clubs
American imports to Scotland changed the type of wood used to make clubs: hickory wood for club shafts in 1826 and persimmon wood for club heads in 1900.
American imported hickory was used by woodworkers in Scotland to make hand tools in place of ash. According to the Antique Golf Club website, this change in wood compelled the golf club makers to use the same wood for shafts to maintain consistency.
Because clubs with shafts made of ash are rare and hard to find, collectors mostly focus on clubs with hickory shafts.
3. 20th Century Golf Clubs
With the regulation of golf in the mid-20th century, the United States Golf Association and R&A announced that steel shaft clubs would be used in tournaments.
Wooden heads were used to make drivers and fairway woods, while steel was used to make club shafts prior to the 1970s. Persimmon was used for wood club heads because it’s harder than maple or oak, and it’s heavy.
4. Antique Golf Clubs
Some antique golf clubs are worth thousands of dollars.
Certain club makers from Scotland were and are still revered for their craftsmanship on antique golf clubs. Identifying the value and age of antique golf clubs can be very challenging. Thus, it is always ideal for gaining an expert’s opinion.
5. Evaluating Value of Old Hickory Shaft Clubs
“Hickory golf,” where golfers use hickory shaft clubs, is popular with many golfers. Hickory shaft clubs are scarce, even though thousands of them were made at the time.
Ralph Livingston III recommends on his website, HickoryGolf.com, that hickory golfers assemble the following clubs:
- mashie niblick
- niblick and putter
Some companies make modern clubs with persimmon wood heads, and some sell and make clubs with wood shafts, wood heads, or both. Here’s a video on further information about Hickory golf clubs:
Research The Clubs in Books
If you are new to buying or selling antique golf clubs or a collector who wants to improve on their repertoire, then there are various resources available.
These resources can help you determine the value of antique golf clubs you may have or are considering buying. Books on the subject that may help include:
1. Antique Golf Collectibles, A Price and Reference Guide by Chuck Furjani
This is one of the older books on the list, but it is very detailed and provides a good description of various types of clubs and the factors that might affect their value.
2. Antique Golf Collectibles Identification & Value Guide by Peter Georgiady
This book has a lot of visual material that can help identify various golf clubs, golf balls, and sets.
3. Wood Shafted Golf Club Value Guide by Peter Georgiady
This is a good book for starters who are interested in learning about wooden golf clubs.
4. The Vintage Era of Golf Club Collectibles: Identification & Value Guide by Ronald John
This specialized book focuses on the sets produced between the 1920s and the 1940s. If you happen to be in possession of a set from these time periods, then this book is for you.
Research Antique Golf Clubs Online
There are many great resources for antique golf clubs and memorabilia. Many options are available for enthusiasts and collectors, from websites to yard sales. Consider checking out these sites:
1. Timewarp Golf
Timewrap Golf is run by Gavin Bottrell, a golf enthusiast who collects, deals, and plays with antique Hickory golf clubs. The site is great for research, and it also presents you with a vast collection of antique golf clubs to buy from.
The site also provided refurbishing services like re-gripping, re-shafting, and re-whipping.
2. The Golf Heritage Society
The Golf Heritage Society offers useful tips for antique enthusiasts and collectors regarding information about the history and value of various golf clubs. The site provided a piece of good background information on your interested purchase.
3. Collectors Weekly
Collector’s Weekly offers a great history of golf clubs, including descriptions of some of the oldest models. The site is easy to use and also allows you to look into various sellers and connect with them.
eBay is a one-stop for all where you can find anything antique, and the same goes for antique golf clubs.
However, be careful when buying from eBay because many counterfeit copies and scams are also prevalent on the site.
If you happen to come across a great club set in a yard sale or a flea market or happen to inherit a vintage set from your grandfather, then there is a high chance that the clubs are to be cared for.
These clubs are probably worth more to you as items with sentimental value than they would be worth on eBay or antique sites.
If, by chance, you have inherited a set of rare vintage golf clubs, then don’t sit still. You are holding an avid collector’s dream of getting their hands on a rare golf set. It may certainly be worth your time to find out the history behind your clubs.
Why are old golf clubs still worth anything? Because these vintage golf clubs set the foundation in stone for the technology of the newest designs. They provide an evolution of the sport. It’s the same with modern golf courses, which are designed inspired by the older courses.
We cannot stress enough how much you should authenticate your clubs because not everything vintage is worth the value. Be thorough with your research because, who knows, you might have struck gold.
Finally, if you happen to have one that has all the important traits, and are interested in selling it, then you may be able to fetch a few thousand for it.
Worth The Time To Find Out Value
Antique items may be seen as investments, and a luxurious sport like golf is worth the money. Listed above are all the details you need to know about the identification of antique golf clubs and where to find them.
We hope that all of your questions concerning antique gold clubs and their value have been answered.
If you still have any queries, you can reach out to us via the comment section below or contact us on our email. We are looking forward to hearing from you.