History is Bunkers

Tony Thorncroft on the sale of golfing memorabilia.

A golf ball for £2,000? A golf club for £3,500? And the certainty that acquiring such items would ruin your game. That is what Sotheby's is offering at its Bond Street auction rooms on July 21st when it disposes of clubs and balls from the distant past.

Unlike cricket, where the history of the game is preserved in aspic in the Long Room at Lords, golf seems to attract little nostalgia among its enthusiasts. There are no great collections of the past at St Andrews or Royal St George's.

Yet relics of golf survive and Sotheby's has developed a successful market in selling off golfing memorabilia, mainly to Americans and Japanese who feel that a memento from the past might possess some useful secrets. Its summer sale includes particularly choice items.

Perhaps of most interest is a golf ball which was produced by W. Gourlay around 1840. It is composed of goose feathers – enough to fill a top hat – and carries a £1,800-£2,200 estimate. It has never been used, and if the dollar had been in better health Hilary Kaye, who heads this department at Sotheby's, would be expecting transatlantic bids around the record for a golf ball – £2,500.

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