Willie Park Sr. won the first British Open, held at Prestwick in 1860. He won a total 4 Open titles, the same number as Tom Morris Sr., and established himself as one of the greatest names in golf's storied history. The Park's of Musselburgh will ever be honored by the game of golf. Offered here is a club made by that 4-time Open champ Willie Sr., but it is not your ordinary club.
Given the relatively short length of this club and the unlofted face, it would be easy to think this club is a putter. The head, however, is clearly not as upright as a putter, and the club's 37-inch length is longer than the typical 19th century putter.
In 1896 Willie Part Jr. defined a driving putter as being like a driver but with a "short stiff shaft and a deep face, more upright than an ordinary driver and flatter than an ordinary putter, and it is used for playing long putts and also for driving against a head wind; The shortness and stiffness of the shaft ensure accuracy..." (See TCA2 v1 p 82-82)
The short shaft in this club is thicker than most, and it is not cut down. The butt end is properly finished and the shaft itself is old and hand-split. The asymmetry of the shaft is easily felt when grasping the middle of the shaft with one hand and then turning the grip end with the other hand. Also, while the lie of this club is flatter than that of a putter, it is not as flat as that of a full-size play club.
In 1897, James Balfour commented that driving putters were about the length of a middle spoon, which typically would be somewhere around 39 inches, but that measurement was not set in stone. Iti s not surprising to find driving putters of various lengths. The primary aspect being that the club would not approach a driver in length, as it was to be used in part as a putter. And if the golfer was short to begin with, the club would likely be a little shorter as well.
There are a few other interesting aspects about this club. Two lead buttons in the sole in addition to the lead backweight make this club exceptionally heavy as it is. If this head were to be affixed to a 43-inch shaft, the swingweight of this club would be extremely heavy, making it very difficult to swing.
While the auctioneer believes that this club was originally made as a driving putter, he also believes that, early on, it suffered a broken shaft with some minor damage to the tip of the neck; the club was then reshafted with the neck damage hidden under the new whipping. The spot where the tip of the neck broke off is easy to locate as the existing whipping "steps down" at that point as it continues its way from base of the neck to just above the top of the neck. Also, the sheepskin grip is old but has either come loose or is a period replacement. The counter-wound whipping added to the length of the grip is modern, but it fits the era well enough.
The head is neatly double-stamped "Wm Park," and the face, at some point, has been lightly sanded smooth. The horn is original. The head measures 1 1/8" in face depth, 5 5/8" in length, and 1 15/16" in width.
To view a Wllie Park Sr putter with three lead buttons on the sole and the same "Wm Park" stamp with the wide letters, see TCA2 v1 p80.
This club is the middle club in the group image that accompanies this lot.