The early game of Scottish golf did not develop in a vacuum. There were a few other "stick and ball" games that historians believe played a role as precursors in golf's development. One in particular is the game of Colf. The name golf is a Scottish corruption of the Old Dutch word colf, meaning stick or club.
Offered here is an ancient colf head or "sclof" made from a lead-tin alloy and most likely used in the 17th century. It measures 3 inches in length and approximately 240 grams in weight. Because it is slightly smaller than the average size, it was likely made for a teenager or small man. There is a tear in the metal along the front of the sole and along the bottom of the toe. But as these heads go, this one is in remarkably good condition. It still has a remnant of its wood shaft in its head.
For reference, I have included a few images with this lot that show other colf clubheads from the 1600s. The image of the clubhead with part of its shaft sticking out bears a number of similarities to the colf head offered here, in both color and how the back of the head was formed, etc.
To document this lost game and its artifacts, Geert & Sara Nijs wrote a series of three books titled Games for Kings and Commoners. These books are full of information on colf and a few other stick and ball games such as chole and mail. To order these wonderful books directly from Sara's website, Click Here.
In Games for Kings and Commoners, a number of colf heads are illustrated, and it is pointed out that colf was played on both land and ice, and it grew in popularity beginning somewhere around the thirteenth century. By the end of the 17th century, colf had evolved into kolf which was an indoor game with different clubs.
Jamie Patino, the famed collector whose early golf collection was arguably the best in the world right before he died, included 8 colf heads in his collection.