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
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.
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 club demonstrates. The finish on this club is original, as is the 41" hickory shaft, sheepskin grip, and neck
whipping. Face depth is 1", head length is 5 1/2", head width is 1 7/8". Nice thick pegs in the sole indictate that this is likely one of Wilson's older clubs. So, too, does the shaft. It is exceptionally thin across its lower half, like many a feather-ball club.
This is a not just another great club, it has a direct connection to Philp and reflects his work.
For more on Wilson, see TCA2 V1 p69.