Talk about Magnificent!!! Everything (and I mean everything) about this c. 1830 club is not only original, crafted and configured in the St. Andrews shop of Hugh Philp, it is in fabulous unused condition. Even the polish of the finish on this head is just as it was when it left Philp's hands.
Not only is the head made from fruitwood, such as apple or pear, it has a few noticable knots in the top of the head near the toe. These knots are prized features! Just as visible hammer welds on the base and side of an early iron hosel is wonderful evidence of its great age and hand made nature, knots in a wooden clubhead also indicates the great age of a club—made before clubmaking evolved to where clubmakers would no longer use a piece of wood if it had a knot.
Not only is the grip the original sheepskin grip, it still has the
original counter-wound whipping that Philp installed across its entire length.
The head has a nice amount of face loft and a 46" shaft, which is crazy long when you grip and then sole this club as if you were going to hit a shot. Long spoons of this length are rarely found, but when they are they are most often old, real old. Furthermore, the lower portion of the shaft is exquisitely thin and delicate. Shafts were never made like this after the unforgivingly hard gutty ball was born. (Clubmakers saw the damage that gutty's inflicted on wood clubs, so they quickly beefed up the necks and shafts.)
The neck is extremely slender and the lines of the club are as sleek and graceful as can be. The shape of the head, which measures 5 7/8" in
length, 2" in width, and 29/32" in depth, exudes elegance. The shallow face is textbook Philp.
not only retains its original finish, the finish and strong name stamp are perfection. The polishing of the head is, as mentioned earlier, just as it was when Philp completed the job. About the only "flaw" on this club is the shaft has just a slight bow near the top. But it is of no significant consequence.
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
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)
Consider the words from an 1859 Chambers Journal article titled Hugh Philp The Master: "Could
the past be relived, you might enter Hugh's shop with me; as it is, do
so in fancy. It is not a very commodious habitation, being a small
square box erected on the convenient brink of the course at the
commencement of the links....Hugh himself is polishing and stamping his
name on some clubheads. For many and many a year to come these letters
which he is branding on the clubs will serve for Hugh's best epitaph,
and golfer's yet to be will sigh for the "touch of that vanished hand."
This club demonstrates with great clearity why Hugh Philp has long been considered the "Stradivarius of Golf," and why Philp's work is still considered the pinnacle of the clubmaker's art. If you can afford this club, just buy it.
For more on Hugh Philp, see TCA2 v1 p54-58
One final note: The auctioneer was in the Chrsties auction tent set up in St. Andrews on July 20, 1990, and he saw this and a companion Philp sell that night. The two clubs were offered as added lots—#537 and #538. Even as added lots without any images in the catalog, they sold with strong prices: £9,350 & £15,400 respectively (£1 averaged $1.78 that year). As the prices demonstrate, both clubs were seen as prime examples. There really wasn't much difference between the two. Both were clean, all original, pretty much unused and a bit dusty was all. The second club brought more because it was the last one, and the people who dropped out of the bidding on the first club were left to duke it out on the last club—they no longer had the luxury of hoping that the "next one" would sell for less because there was none left. The auctioneer knew the individual who bought this particular Philp that night. A number of years later that buyer allowed the auctioneer to broker this club to the current owner, and he has now consigned it to JEGA. The auctioneer has never owned this club, but it is nonetheless a thrill just to have it around even if only for a few weeks.