In 1856, when Robert Forgan first began
making his own clubs, he
stamped the top of each head "R. Forgan" in large block letters. In 1863, after
he was appointed clubmaker to H.R.H the Prince of Wales, Forgan began
to stamp each of his clubs with the Prince of Wales plume directly below
his name. The example here has the large letter stamp and the POW plume.
These two elements together identify this club as made between 1863 and
approximately 1870, when Forgan left his large name behind for a
smaller "R. Forgan Stamp. The vast bulk of the Forgan long nose clubs
made have the smaller stamp.
Early large-letter/POW Forgan clubs are hard to come by and
exceptionally desirable. This example is solid overall and still has its
original medium-brown finish. This example is particularly nice as it shows little use and the head is clean and solid. The 43" shaft, however, actually appears to be older than the head. It is exceptionally thick just under the top of the grip and from that point it tapers down to where it is distinctly thin at the top of the whipping. While all hickory shaft woods are tapered from top to bottom, the shafts that are tapered the most, like this club, date well before 1850. The last two images that accompany this lot shows the difference in the top of the grip and the taper. In those images, this Forgan is the club on the right. The club on the left is similar club of similar age (the circa 1870 McEwan long spoon in this auction as lot 34). Zoom in to really see the difference.
In addition, the top of the shaft is cut flat, straight across. The edges are not beveled like they are on all Philp and other woods made during the early 1800s and thereafter. A shaft cut flat across the top is a characteristic found on old clubs made in the 1700s and before, provided somebody in the 1800s or later did not shorten a club by sawing the end off quick and dirty. But even then, the butt of the shaft is not nicely finished an will look cut off.
Yet another indicator of the great age of this shaft, the shaft is neither hickory nor is it symmetrical. When clasping one hand around the middle/lower portion of the shaft and turning the grip with the other hand, a person can really feel the "sides" of this hand-made shaft. To create this shaft, the clubmaker split out a length of wood from a thicker piece of wood, then worked its circumference down and rounded it by hand. Generally speaking, the older the club, the more crude the workmanship. The shaft is definitely not hickory. The long, parallel ribbons of grain indicate that the shaft is likely ash, which was used much more before 1850 than after. Possibly the wood is white ash since the grain is not prominent, lighter than it is on the typical ash shafts from the early 1800s.
The face is clean showing no use. The sheepskin grip is old, likely as old or older than the head, and is missing a few small pieces. The club has an upright lie best suited to a tall golfer.
This 43-inch long spoon looks much like a Hugh Philp club. The head is long and graceful, reminiscent of those made
by Philp, and the face measures only 1 inch in depth. The similarities
between Philp's work and Forgan's work are not surprising. In 1852
Forgan went to work for Philp and had the opportunity to learn from the
master clubmaker. After Philp died in 1856, Forgan took over Philp's
business and made clubs under his own name.
This club is fifth from the left in the group image that accompanies this lot. For more
on Robert Forgan and his early long nose clubs, see TCA2 Vol 1, p 70-73.