Specializing in Fine Antique Golf Clubs and Historic Memorabilia

Lot # 11: Willie Park Jr., 1896 Royal Gutty Ball Purchased Directly From Willie Park w/Letter of Provenance

Category: Golf Balls

Starting Bid: $5,000.00

Bids: 15 (Bid History)

Time Left: Auction closed
Lot / Auction Closed

This lot is closed. Bidding is not allowed.

Item was in Auction "Summer Golf Auction 2019",
which ran from 7/3/2019 12:00 PM to
7/20/2019 8:00 PM

Other than feather balls and smooth gutta percha balls, all golf balls have either dimples, brambles, or lines of various shapes and designs that create elevations in the surface of the golf ball.  Even this Royal golf ball has lines and designs on its surface.  However, the Royal has one other feature not found on a single golf ball ever offered for sale and use: It has FLAT SIDES, and lots of them. By my unofficial count, there are 64 hexagon-shaped sides to this ball.

Willie Park Jr's British patent No 11.761, dated May 30, 1896, covered this ball.  It was engineered with sides so that it would roll slower, and thereby be easier to control when putting downhill or when charging the hole from level ground.  Even though Park's design worked (the ball would roll slower be it downhill, uphill, or on level ground) the ball was ill-suited for the game of golf for a variety of reasons even if used only for putting. In a brief review published in the September 1897 issue of Golf, the ball was called "somewhat of a freak."  The reviewer got it right.

However, the fact that the Royal is so different, so impractical, and few were made, it has taken its place among the top echelon of golf balls a collector can collect.  A number of years back, at the height of the market, I saw an example sell at auction for approximately $40,000.

Willie Park Jr. is a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame, and the WGofF website acknowledges his Royal ball and its rarity: "There are only six known Park Royal golf balls – a ball Park patented in the 1880s – left in existence."  While the WGHofF got the year wrong, the "six known" sounds about right. <http://www.worldgolfhalloffame.org/willie-park-jr/>

This ball appears to have been used once, and then just for one or two shots. There is a single cut in this otherwise beautiful ball.  It is quite likely that the golfer back in the 1890s cut the ball on one of his or her first shots, then removed the ball from play, never to return.  Bad news for the golfer back then—fabulous news for today's collector! The ball will display as perfect with the cut down.

This Ball—originally purchased directly from Willie Park Jr—was purchased a few years back by the current owner from Rosemary Watt, the granddaughter of clubmaker James Watt, the same James Watt who once worked for Willie Park Jr.  Ms Watt provided a letter of provenance which recounts how her grandfather purchased this ball from Park, his employer: "This Park Royal ball is from the collection of my grandfather, James Watt, who was a golf professional and golf club maker in North Berwick, East Lothian, Scotland.  My grandfather bought this ball from Willie Park, for whom he worked in North Berwick, before he started his own business."  The letter will be included with the purchase of this ball.

I have included an image of the cover of Kevin McGimpseys "The Story of the Golf Ball."  Notice the beautiful Royal ball in the center.  To create his cover shot, McGimpsey went for the most interesting and valuable balls in existence.

July 14, 2019: Correction.  The consignor of the Park Royal ball purchased it years ago from the collector who bought it from Rosemary Watt. The consignor is currently unable to locate the original letter, but does have a copy of that letter shown in the images.  If the original letter is not found, a copy of the original letter will be included with the ball. The auctioneer has communicated with the original buyer and he acknowledged his purchase from Rosemary Watt and his sale to the consignor. The provenance of this fantastic ball is now accurately understood and in tact and will be passed on to the new owner.


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