Lot # 23: c. 1860 J. Wilson (Phiilp's Assistant) Driving Putter

Category: Putters

Starting Bid: $1,250.00

Bids: 4 (Bid History)

Time Left: Auction closed
Lot / Auction Closed

This lot is closed. Bidding is not allowed.

Item was in Auction "Spring 2022",
which ran from 3/3/2022 12:00 PM to
3/19/2022 8:00 PM

James Wilson learned clubmaking from the illustrious Hugh Philp, serving as his assistant for twenty-three years. Wilson eventually opened up his own shop in the golfing mecca of St. Andrews, and eventually became friendly business rivals with Robert Forgan. (Forgan was Philp's nephew and began working for Philp just before Wilson left. Forgan took over Philp's business in 1856.)

Wilson's clubs, dating after 1852 when he struck out on his own, were made at the beginning of the gutty ball era. The stylistic changes employed in club construction to accommodate the increased hardness of the gutty ball were only beginning to take shape when Wilson was making his own clubs prior to his death in 1866. Consequently Wilson's clubs continued to be made in the manner of Philp's clubs, which make Wilson's clubs most significant and highly desirable.

This club measures 5 3/8" in head length, 1" in face depth, and 2" in width. The lead backweight is large and protrudes out the back. Because the lie is quite flat for a putter, the shaft is longer than normal for a putter plus made from greenheart (which is stiffer than hickory), and the head is heavier than normal for a putter, this club could easily be considered a driving putter. Such clubs were used when driving against a stiff wind or on long putts.

Today, clubs bearing Wilson's name are few and far between, but the known examples demonstrate that Wilson was a craftsman of the first order. The lines and stylistic qualities of his clubs are among the best, as this particular club demonstrates. Furthermore, this clubhead is solid and the face is tight. The original 37 5/8" greenheart shaft is Wilson's work. So is the original sheepskin grip.  Even the neck whipping was installed by Wilson. His name stamp is clear. 

This is a not just another great club, it has a direct connection to Philp and reflects his work.

One final aspect to notice in the image that shows the sole, there is a screw that is set into the back of the head that runs through a short crack extending out the toe side of the back of the lead.  When lead was poured, the head could crack the head.  This screw was set in place to keep that short crack from going any further.  And it hasn't. You have to look carefully to even see the screw, let alone the crack. What beautiful work! Wilson was good.

For more on Wilson, see TCA2 V1 p69.

A group shot that shows many of the long nose clubs in this auction is included with the images that accompany this lot. The Wilson club is third from the left.

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