The Richard Begg Hickory Golf Club Collection
Theodore Bruce Auctions offers 560 lots over 2 days | 19-20 June 2022
“If you’re caught on a golf course during a storm and are afraid of lightning, hold up a 1-iron. Not even God can hit a 1-iron.”
Anyone who is a regular player of the game is familiar with the rules of golf as published by R&A (Royal & Ancient). Far from being “a good walk ruined” as many would have it, golf is a game of skill like no other. It’s elements include the course, the weather, the player’s ability and temperament, and finally, the equipment allowed the player in order to complete the task – from tee shot through to putting out, a sequence repeated 18 times in order to complete the challenge.
Mr. N. Johnson, on www.historicuk.com, provides an excellent brief history of golf which I would encourage all who follow or play golf to read.
Within the rules of golf as provided by the R&A, rule 4 deals with the player’s equipment.
The equipment allowed a golfer from ball to club has changed over the centuries and our two part auction allows the enthusiast to secure their own piece of golfing history in the form of a hickory shafted golf club, or set of clubs, as offered over the 560 lot sale.
Richard Begg, our vendor, is an enthusiastic golfer and has been a member of the Royal Adelaide Golf Club (RAGC) for nearly 70 years. The RAGC was originally founded in June 1870 in the Adelaide Parklands and then re-founded in 1892 at its present site at Seaton near the Adelaide beachside suburb of Grange.
The RAGC conduct an annual hickory shafted golf competition, keeping the traditions pre-1935 alive and well, for it was in 1935 that the steel shaft golf club was introduced and hickory shafts were quickly retired from the game.
Richard Begg was taught using hickory shafted golf clubs as the professionals of the day believed that “wood worked best for the beginner”. It was thought the stiff shaft slowed the enthusiastic learner’s swing to a point where a straight hit, albeit without distance as we know it today, was more highly valued than a longer shot that concluded its flight in the rough.
In 2003, following a trip to Wellington, New Zealand, Richard was presented a hickory shafted putter by his son, Dr William T.E. Begg, and his interest in the clubs was piqued.
Richard continued visiting op shops and he advertised in the local newspaper for hickory shafted golf clubs. Many members of RAGC delved into their attics, cellars and garages, locating ancient clubs and presenting same to Richard, through which his collection quickly grew.
Doug Jordan, a collector residing in the Adelaide Hills, sold Richard 80 clubs in 2004 and this was the first collection to be integrated into Richard’s own.
In 2008 Richard visited the United Kingdom with the express purpose of purchasing the entire collection of hickory shaft golf clubs from the famous retired surgeon, David I Stirk, who was, at that time, the world’s leading expert on early golf.
Richard went to David Stirk’s home and the two men “hit it off”, to the point that, by the morning’s end, David had offered Richard his collection of 206 clubs. Richard, not wishing to embarrass the great man, accepted the count and a price was agreed upon. Richard asked Mr Stirk whether he may take the clubs and, upon his return to Australia, wire payment for the collection, for which Mr Stirk heartily agreed. He went even further by taking Richard to his home club being “The Royal North Devon Golf Club”.
The golf clubs purchased from David Stirk continue to bear original tags and references and many will be able to be cross referenced in his books on golf.
Richard has in his collection many of Tom Stewart’s clubs. Stewart was considered the Dean of cleek makers (club makers) and some players use his approach irons to this day.
Also in the collection are clubs by Cann & Taylor. John Henry Taylor was the Open Champion in 1894, 1895, 1900, 1909, 1913, and 2nd in the US Open 1900. He combined with George Cann, the greatest club maker of the day. Many examples of Cann & Taylor clubs are included in the sale with the maker’s name on the shaft proving the club is in its original condition.
In the United Kingdom during the “early days of modern golf”, there were only two cleek makers that received the Royal Warrant of Appointment. They were Robert Forgan of St Andrews and Andrew Heard Scot of Earlsferry, Elie, both of Scotland. A third cleek maker, Sir William Mills, trading as the Standard Golf Company, held “Under Royal Patronage” and many examples of these clubs are held in Richard’s auction.
I recommend this magnificent auction to those of you who wish to secure a piece of golfing history, either to display a club on a wall or have a set of clubs in a canvas bag hidden in the corner of your library. What I would most enjoy hearing post auction is that clubs have been purchased to be used once again on the course and I would imagine the 8 and 9 irons, as well as putters, being suitable for that purpose.
James Bruce AM CLJ
Adelaide May 2022
Theodore Bruce Auctioneers & Valuers is delighted to offer the Richard Begg Hickory Golf Club Collection for auction over two days on 19 and 20 June. Browse the catalogues and bid online now.