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Antique Clubs: In Hickory Veritas

Attempting a Resurrection
A true relic deserves respect, even reverence. You may be tempted to spruce up an old stick, make it shine and hang it on your wall for all to admire. But that way danger lies.

"The more you do to a club," Ellis warns, "the less it's worth." As Rand Jerris, director of the USGA Museum and Archives, explains: "The club should have an appropriate patina for its age. You risk ruining its value if you impose your twenty-first-century ideas of what it would have looked like." A case in point appears in The Clubmaker's Art: a photo of a 1906 putter with a brass backweight/soleplate that shines like a hood ornament. "It's overkill," Ellis says. "I put it in as an example of what not to do."

Good intentions keep repairmen busy. "I get a lot of work undoing what others have done," says Eric Wolke, a New York City-area collector and craftsman. Take a word from the wise men: If you think an objet de golf might be valuable, get thee to an expert.

But handymen, take heart: In the first three decades of the twentieth century millions of hickory-shafted clubs hit the market. Most are classified as "commons" today. They are handsome, nostalgic and inexpensive—perfect fodder for the novice fixer-upper, who can merrily ply the old trade, then play a round with his rehabbed cleeks and niblicks. (The architect Dr. Michael Hurdzan and his son, Chris, a student at Ohio State, buy commons by the hundreds for $10 to $20 a club, fix them up so they're playable and sell them for $30 to $40 apiece.) Once you determine that those clubs in Dad's attic are commons, not Royal Troons, you can settle for discovering a fascinating hobby: recreational restoration. If you've got a couple of commons and an itch to work on them, read on, and avail yourself of the resources listed on page 132. But be warned: Like golf itself, the hobby can become all-engrossing. It takes over basements, garages, even living rooms, until a wife puts down her foot. Like Mrs. Snow in the musical Carousel, who wed a fisherman and eventually decided "fish is my favorite perfume," a restorer's spouse learns to love the smell of varnish and tolerate sawdust and Elmer's under his fingernails.

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