Any club from the featherball era is a great club. Among the rarest from this era, however, are juvenile clubs, those clubs made for kids. Made with the same craftsmanship as an adult size club, these delicate clubs have a charm and sweetness all their own.
On a juvenile club, both the head and shaft are made smaller. The head on the club offered here measures only 5 inches in length and the shaft only 37 inches. The sheepskin grip is shorter, measuring only 10 inches not counting the whipping at the base of the grip, plus it is slightly thinner in diameter than an adult size grip. On the shaft, just under the base of the grip is an "M" or "W" depending on which way you orient the club. This initial has been crudely carved into the wood most likely by the child who once owned this club.
This juvenile play club shows little to no use. Everything is original, from the neck whipping, the shaft, the sheepskin grip, grip whipping, and the lead backweight to the two-dowel rams horn slip.
The club is easily recognized as made during the feather ball era. Chief among the age identifying characteristics is the early shape of the head, which matches up much closer to a number of clubs made in the early 1800s as opposed to the 1860s or 70s, etc. Additional evidence of the great age of this club is the blonde finish on a fruit wood head, the significant amount of hook given to the face despite the face/head being so much shorter than a full size club. Plus the face (which has a depth of 1" in the center) and the sole run slightly "beyond parallel" to each other—the tip of the toe being the tallest point on the face. This is a characteristic that is only sometimes found on really old clubs. By 1850 most all heads/faces were crowned in the middle.
Another feature about this club is its lack of a
maker's name. This is evidence of the clubs great age, because the further back in
time one looks, the fewer clubmakers there were who marked their work.
David Denholm, Archibald Sharpe, William Ballantyne, Colburn, Polk, and
Beetson are just a few of the clubmakers working in the early 1800s that
left no evidence that they marked their work. The number of golfers were small, so most clubmakers did not bother with advertising their name atop a clubhead.
One additional feature is the thickness of the head as it transitions into the neck. This area is broader than is found on a Philp or Jackson or any club made by later clubmakers. Or this broad area could have been included to help fortify the club against the wild swings of a young golfer. The auctioneer, however, has seen a few really old full size clubs with a broad area behind the heel.
The John Jackson middle spoon shown in the final image is not part of this lot. It is included to show both an adult and a juvenile featherball-era club side by side. The Jackson club is also in this auction as lot 4.
In every respect, this juvenile club is a fabulous piece of golf history! For more on Juvenile long nose clubs, see TCA2 v1 p 73. This page shows and describes a c. 1865 juvenile Forgan play club—the oldest juvenile club the author was able to locate for inclusion into the book. The exceedingly rare juvenile play club offered here, is much older.