The game of golf is steeped in history. Golfers are appreciative of the game’s history, and enjoy learning about the great players of the past, and the memorable tournaments. Just watch any major championships on TV: there are always segments about prior championships played on that course, who won, and what were the memorable shots. Golf’s long history also presents the opportunity for an interesting and potentially lucrative hobby, collecting vintage golf equipment. Displaying vintage clubs or balls can add a lot of interest to any golfer’s home.
Just as anyone who appears on PBS’ Antiques Roadshow program can attest, it is tremendous fun to try to find bargains in antiques, and vintage golf equipment is no exception. Vintage golf items are relatively easy to find, and pursuing this hobby can be a way to learn more about the history of the wonderful game of golf, and how equipment has evolved and improved down the years. It’s fun to grip an old hickory-shafted club form the ‘20’s, set down a gutta percha ball, and imagine trying to actually play with this type of equipment! You quickly gain greater appreciation for today’s forgiving clubs and juiced-up golf balls.
As with any other form of collecting, there are pitfalls, however. You need to make sure items you are buying are authentic vintage equipment, not fakes or replicas. For instance, new clubs can be distressed to look antique. If you are buying items with signatures from great players, you need to make sure the signature is authenticated. These types of collectibles, if authenticated, can enjoy great price appreciation over the years.
You can of course search for vintage golf equipment online. The mega-store eBay has an extensive “Vintage” golf equipment section on their site, often with more than 1000 items. Golf collectibles are not necessarily just clubs from the late 19th or early 20th Century. The original “Ping” putters from the 1960’s are highly sought after collectibles. Items bearing the signatures of greats such as Ben Hogan or Byron Nelson also fetch hefty premiums. Prices for vintage equipment can start very reasonably, $20-$50, and be as high as several thousand dollars for certain rare items.
There are also online sites devoted exclusively to golf collectibles.
Antique Golf Clubs from Scotland describes itself as “the leading online resource for antique golf clubs and memorabilia from Scotland, the birthplace of golf.” http://www.antiquegolfscotland.com/antiquegolf/main.php3
Niblickgolf.com offers clubs and balls from the 1900-1930 period, obtained from a private collection. http://www.niblickgolf.com/antique.html
A vintage driver runs around $125, a Mashie (5 iron) is $95 and a mesh-patterned golf ball in good condition is $75.
Before beginning your acquisition of vintage golf equipment, you should do some research. An excellent guidebook is: Antique Golf Collectibles: A Price and Reference Guide (Paperback) by highly respected golf collector and publisher, Chuck Furjanic. This book includes comprehensive information on literally thousands of collectibles: antique clubs and balls, autographs, signature golf balls, artwork, medals and trophies, as well as trading cards and other collectibles. With more than 500 photographs, this book is fascinating to read as well as an important price guide for would-be collectors.
A few other tips: 1) Try to find items in as good a condition as possible. These are more likely to hold their value or appreciate. “Vintage” doesn’t mean in beaten-up condition. 2) Putters are among the most popular collectibles. 3) When you begin collecting, stick with equipment items, clubs, balls, vintage golf bags, etc. rather than golf artwork, which requires more study in order to make informed decisions.
Brian Hill is the author of several nonfiction books and the novel, Over Time - Love, money and football: all the important things in life. Read his sports blog. He's an avid grill master. Find his grilling tips, techniques, recipes, and menus.