Classics Are Back
By Bob Georgiade
Collecting items related to the game of golf has existed as long as there has been an interest in playing the game. Collectors have always identified closely with the implements of the game, clubs, as they are the most readily available and the easiest to procure artifacts to collect. Before the introduction and general acceptance of perimeter weighted irons and metal headed woods in the 1990’s there existed simply forged irons and wooden head real woods. This is what the pro’s of the day played with and, of course, golfer’s wanted to be like them back then. The “be like” part has not changed as people still want to play, and perhaps collect, what Tiger, Rory, Dustin, Ricky, etc, use today.
Many modern day golfers have become disillusioned with the current state of the game. Hitting the new irons with no feel and the large headed woods that look like soup bowls on a stick has taken much of the enjoyment out of golf. Much the way seriously playing with hickory clubs has grown, playing with the old blades, wooden headed woods and putters with feel is also seeing a resurgence. There are sites on Facebook dedicated to classic putters, persimmon woods and forged blades and a number of our GHS members collect them.
During the 1970s, 80s and early 90s, the earlier years of the then GCS, players and collectors alike sought out what came to be known as the “classic” clubs. Iron sets, wedges, 1 irons, putters and woods all had a collector following. The pros themselves were always in the market for a backup or different model persimmon wood or putter to put in their bag. There actually existed a network of individuals who scoured the countryside for clubs for touring pros to purchase at the Tour stops. Dealers from the past include Bobby Farino, Bob Kent, Guido Ianni, Roger Cleveland, Jim Butler, Bobby Grace, and even Jeff Ellis had a sales publication that included the classics.
While the early GCS readily accepted members whose primary interest was the classic clubs, most club interest was in earlier equipment. Another organization dedicated to golf collecting but more aligned to the classics, the now-defunct Golf Club Collectors Association (GCCA), was formed and thrived. This alternative collecting group had their own publication with informational articles, meetings and trade shows. If you are lucky enough to locate their old publications you will find some interesting and informative reading about classic clubs. This was long before the internet and cell phones, so much information was gleaned from the various “Buy, Sell, Trade” publications that existed. The most prominent of those were The Golf Club Exchange and The Golf Club Monthly. The new Golf Heritage Society welcomes and embraces all collectors.
The same rule applies in collecting classics as with every other collecting interest – condition is paramount. The better condition the item, the more its value. You will spot them at garage sales, pro shops, auctions, flea markets, antique shops… all the usual places that collectors know to hunt for items on their lists.
Look through the books below and online sources to determine a list of desirable patent clubs. There are websites, such as the Eternal Summer Golf Society, that are devoted to persimmon headed woods and other classic clubs. If you find other such websites, please let us know and we’ll share them here. As well, if you are a classic club collector who would like to contribute to this page and to The Golf journal on the subject, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are several out-of-print publications that will help you get started in identifying and learning about the old school clubs if you are so inclined – and if you can find a copy. They can be quite rare.
The Golf Club Identification and Price Guide II by Wilson and the GolfWorks is very helpful in identifying the exact year a club was made and also has some interesting golf manufacturer’s history.
The Ironfinder Scrapbook by H H Jones has numerous pictures identifying various different irons woods and putters.
Classic Golf Clubs by Joe Clement is a pictorial guide to woods irons and putters.
Golf Classics Price and Identification Guide by Mike Doherty pictures and prices of many classics.
Putters of Distinction by Dalton Daves lots of classic putters.
Guide to Collecting Rare Ping Golf Clubs by Bobby Grace lots of rare Ping clubs.
American Golf Classics Golf Club Collectors Handbook by Bob Farino, classic woods, irons, putters and even some hickories.
The Ping Identification and Collectors Guide by Dalton Daves, Ping clubs only.