Last week, the Jeffery B. Ellis Antique Golf Club Collection was sold at
auction by Sotheby's for $2,166,210, the highest total for a golf memorabilia
collection. Ellis, 55, a golf historian from Oak Harbor, Wash., and runner up
in the 1982 U.S. Mid-Amateur, was a full-time collector for 30 years and
gathered almost 800 items spanning four centuries, from the 1600s to
the end of the hickory shaft era in the 1930s. Why sell? "It's been so much
stress to maintain," he says. "When I'd leave home, I used to wonder if
there'd be a fire." Ellis described seven of his favorite items.
2 of 8SI
Club: Square toe light iron
Built: Circa 1600s
Sale Price: $151,000
Ellis: The oldest club in the sale and one of the dozen surviving iron heads from the 17th century. The second-most-expensive item in the auction, behind the 18th-century Andrew Dickson long-nosed putter ($181,000).
3 of 8SI
Club: Grant patent center-shafted approach club
Built: Circa 1892
Maker: George Grant
Sale Price: $11,250
Ellis: The only one of its kind that I've ever seen. Designed to play out of trouble spots, like from rocks or a wall. If the head didn't have a shaft, you wouldn't know it's part of a club.
4 of 8SI
Club: Bromley & Brickley Golf Club trophy club
Sale Price: $43,000
Ellis: Visually stunning because it's all gleaming sterling silver except for the wooden shaft. Only 10 or so of the trophy clubs that were built in the U.K. around the turn of the century still exist, and this is one of two that are privately held.
5 of 8SI
Club: Cochrane super-giant niblick
Built: Early 1920s
Maker: Cochrane's Ltd.
Sale Price: $11,250
Ellis: The head is a monstrosity it weighs more than two pounds and is six inches wide. When you stare down at the head, it looks as if you could cook a pancake on it. Probably never intended to be used, but rather to show off the clubmaker's skill.
6 of 8SI
Club: Roy Water iron
Maker: James Anderson
Sale Price: $25,000
Ellis: The first club designed to play out of casual water, which was a key skill because back then the rules didn't allow free drops from casual water.
7 of 8SI
Club: Tom Stewart backwards putter
Built: Late 1920s
Maker: Tom Stewart
Sale Price: $3,438
Ellis: Simply looking at the wand makes you feel the passion and frustration Stewart must have felt on the greens to have created something as wacky as this.
8 of 8SI
Club: Hugh Philp presentation/prize putter
Built: Circa 1840
Maker: Hugh Philp
Sale Price: $37,000
Ellis: Philp was known as the Stradivarius of clubmakers. The engraving includes a Celtic cross, the symbol the Scots carried into battles, and crossed clubs and balls, symbolizing war of a different sort. Most likely the club was an award at a golf tournament.
Click here to see how the new owners of these clubs can put them to good use
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