The Troon Golf Clubs 

The group are not a set they actually consist of:

3 Long nosed Playclubs (drivers)

3 Long Spoons (fairway woods)

A light Driving Iron

A heavy spur toe Iron

The shafts are made from Ash, and the heads of Hawthorn.

The back of the heads are loaded with lead to give weight.

The bottom of the face has a horn or antler insert to protect the base of the club against the impact with the ground. It is fixed with animal glue and four wooden pegs.

Only one wood and one Iron retain their original grips.

 

The Club Head Markings

  

Club Head Markings

One of the most intriguing mysteries surrounding the Troon Golf Clubs is the marking which have been stencilled on or possibly some form of printing. They are now very faded but the content is clear.

 

        The marks on each wooden headed club appear six times and consist of a lozenge containing a royal crown, a thistle, the letters I (or possibly J) & C and a star, usually referred to as a mullet in heraldic terms. No one has yet found an exact match to these symbols anywhere.

The symbols appear four times on the wood heads, and on one of the iron shafts. Giving a total of 40 marks.

It is clear from the content that there is a Scottish royal theme. But what do the letters I & J stand for.

Ian Crowe in his article 'A Theory of Provenance' which was first published in 'Through the Green' Magazine' (The house Journal of the Golf Collectors Society') gives a very interesting theory based upon the markings on the coins of the Stuart Kings & Queens.

I publish his article in full on this site. along with a few other articles/letters of note.

I personally believe that this general theory is true and have found many coins with similar markings. A few are show  below.

No other similar marks, like these on the clubs, have ever been found.

I think that everyone who knows of these clubs accept the Stuart connection but not everyone agrees it signifies ownership.

Later on I publish my own theory based upon years of studying Maister House, the Maister Family and the History of Hull.

I am certain that cracking these symbols will provide us with most of the answers we seek.

 

 
Queen Mary Billon Bawbee 1542
 
James I coin 1603
The year he came to the throne, and unified the Crowns
 

 James I Crown- 1605

 William & Mary

 

This is the latest dated coin I can find showing the crown & thistle - it is dated 1695

William & Mary (Mary died in 1694)

As I noted earlier in this article, it is extremely difficult to date these clubs particularly the wooden headed clubs. The irons are slightly easier as more Iron headed clubs survived than wooded one as the deteriorated very quickly after being discarded.

Most experts believe that the light Iron dated from the first quarter of the 17th century, the heavy Iron from a while later. This is based upon the design and known development of this type of club. But this is by no means certain.

The wooden clubs are something of an enigma. The most important feature is the horn insert. Only a few known clubs have inserts fixed with four pegs. All others have three.

In attempting to date the clubs some experts have very sensibly compared them with the two oldest existing trophies which are made from silver and are hallmarked thus giving an exact date. The comparison shown that they are very similar but by no means identical.

These trophies are:

The first trophy is a Silver Long Nose Club belonging to The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers at Muirfield. The club is hallmarked 1744.

The second is a Silver Long Nose Club belonging to the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews. This club is hallmarked 1754.

Pictures of both these clubs are shown in the section showing an extract from Bob Gowlands comments.

It has been said that as there is a close similarity between the three that the must be approximately the same date. This is clearly not necessarily so, if the design had not changed for say, fifty years before this, the clubs could be much older.

My feeling is that one must keep an open mind. But use the facts sensibly.and the fact that there is a similarity, and the silver clubs are accurately dated. My view is that what this tells us is, not that they date from this time - rather   

'This is the latest that they can date from'

Remember my point earlier that the club only changed when the ball change. No one knows how long the feathery was used for. Many historians say that a wooden ball was used prior to the patenting of the feathery. This is of course possible.

Once again we are in the same situation, no wooden ball exists to give us a clue one way or the other.

We do know that during the war when rubber was in short supply, golfer did indeed use wooden balls, but with a good few problems.

 

 

 Wooden Ball

Besides the ball being very hard and not flying so far, the grain in the wood meant that the ball had to be marked to show the alignment with the grain so it could be struck without it shattering.

I cannot believe that the wooded ball was used in preference to a feathery style ball which has been around since Roman times. although there is a good case for poorer people using a wooden ball on purely on cost.

It is unfortunate that there is no means of dating the clubs other than using destructive methods at this time, but maybe the possibility may not be that far away.

One massive question which remains is - Did the Golf clubs survive the fire of 1743, when Maister house suffered severe damage. Early reports that it was completely gutted are evidently untrue, as most of the brickwork below window level appears to be original. If they were walled up at that time it is certainly possible as they would be protected from the fire by the brick & plaster which concealed them.

The Maister 'Day book ' which is held in the Hull History centre definitely survived although partially burnt. So why not the clubs.

I am one of a very few people who have requested permission to examine the book. It is now conserved and the pages encapsulated however you can still smell the very distinctive smell of burning.

I wonder, as the Troon clubs have spent the majority of their life since discovery in glass cases, do the two remaining cloth grip retain the smell of the fire? One person I discussed this with thought that even if they did carry that smell it could be just as easily be the smell from cigarettes. As a previous smoker I can assure you that there is no similarity with that of a real conflagration. This is one test that could be conclusive if the smell is there but not necessarily if no smell remains.

 I draw your attention to one of the earliest illustrations of golf. I refer to the seventeenth century picture listed below (of which I have a fine copy).

 

               17th Century Picture of Golfers at St Andrews

            Two Caddies & Four Players

                  

 

 Their Caddy appears to be carrying six clubs
 
 
                    
 

 

  The Players carry one club each

                  

 

                  

  In the other group each player has a club & the caddy six

    (possibly seven)

So in this group each pair has a playclub, a spoon, two shared irons, which makes six, and possibly a putter each which are missing in the Troon Group.

In any case it appears that a pair of players would carry around eight clubs.

It is also of note that there does not seem to be a great deal of difference in the style of the clubs.

 

Under construction & not yet edited 

to be continued