Hugh Philp was born in 1783 and died in 1856. In 1819 he was
appointed the official clubmaker to the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of
St. Andrews. He set up his shop next to the 18th hole of the Old Course (which shop Tom Morris eventually took over and used). Philp's reputation as an outstanding clubmaker was quickly
established, and he became renown for his work during his lifetime. His penchant for being meticulous was legendary. His clubs were the gold standard.
in 1897, Harper's Weekly published the following comments about Hugh Philp: "It was Hugh Philp who first departed from these primitive models of the
stone age and began to make golf clubs that looked as though they were
intended for some gentler work than the crushing in of an enemy's skull
or the manufacture of broken flint for road-building. Philp had an eye
for graceful lines and curves, and his slim, elegant models remain
to-day things of beauty, though their usefulness has long since
departed…. The few specimens that sill exist are acknowledged 'old
masters' and are only to be exchanged against much fine gold." (Harper's Weekly, October, 2, 1897)
Decades after his death, Golf Illustrated acknowledged
Philp's continuing reputation as the finest clubmaker the game had ever
seen: "The Prince of putter makers, by common consent, was Hugh Philp,
flourished at St. Andrews more than 50 years ago. This genius made such
beautiful and perfect wooden putters that he has come to be regarded as
the Amati or Stradivarious of Golf, and a genuine 'Philp' to-day is
worth untold gold. The long narrow faces of these clubs and their
perfect balance are well known to connoisseurs." (Golf Illustrated, Oct. 6, 1900)
Today, Philp clubs remain highly sought after, and his clubs still
command "much fine gold!" The genuine Hugh Philp grassed driver offered here is wonderful example. Grassed drivers were the same length as play clubs and, like play clubs, used from the tee. Both play clubs and grassed drivers could be employed through the green
if the ball had a particularly good lie and maximum distance was needed. Grassed drivers, however, had slightly more loft than a regular play club, to help the golfer get the ball up in the air.
hickory shaft, sheepskin grip, whipping, lead, horn, pegs, name stamp,
and finish, are all original. The head itself, which measures 2"
wide, 1" deep, and 5 1/2" long, has a most attractive shape. The lower portion of the shaft is quite slender as is typical of clubs made towards the end of the feather ball era. The bottom one-fourth of the sheepskin grip is missing as is a small portion of the grip at the top of the shaft. The grip itself, however, still looks good as the brown underlisting directly under the sheepskin is of similar color. Also interesting is that you can see that Philip used a black underlisting directly under the brown underlisting.
The head has a small number of woodworm holes. After zooming in, you can see 3-4 of them right along the top line of the face and a few others are scattered about. The holes are mostly smaller than a pin head and remain as evidence to the 180 year antiquity of this masterpiece. In real life they are hardly noticeable. When considering that this club looks exceedingly attractive and all its elements were created by the hands of Hugh Philp—and remain in their original condition—the small number of worm holes fade well into the background.
For more on Hugh Philp, see TCA2 v1 p54-58