Lot # 8: c. 1850s Willie Dunn Sr. Play Club

Starting Bid: $750.00

Bids: 17 (Bid History)

Time Left: Auction closed
Lot / Auction Closed

This lot is closed. Bidding is not allowed.

Item was in Auction "Fall 2023",
which ran from 11/2/2023 12:00 PM to
11/18/2023 8:00 PM

Marked "Wm. Dunn" on the crown with Dunn's early large stamp, this 43-inch circa 1850s driver is an brilliant club! The shapely head—measuring 1 15/16" in width, 5 1/2" in length, and just under 1" in face depth—has an elegant profile with terrific lines all around. The shaft is hand-split as can be felt when turned slowly in a closed hand.  It is exceptionally thin, as was a characteristic of many clubs made when the featherball was still in use. In addition, the shaft is stamped "71" just below the grip.  This is a collection or inventory identifier number indicating that this club has long been recognized as historic. The neck whipping is original, just as Dunn installed it. The bottom 2 inches of the sheepskin grip is missing, but the remainder of the grip is intact, as is the original underlisting installed by Dunn, a portion of which is now visible.

A leather face insert has been installed with great precision back in the day, and the head given a new coat of varnish afterwards. Leather inserts were part of the club repair world back in the 1800s.  In this instance, judging from the short crack in the top of the head, behind the heel end of the insert, the face likely suffered a bit of damage. The insert was installed to make the club usable again, and was that ever a good decision to save this club—it's a beauty!

Willie Dunn is one of golf's most historic figures from the 19th century.  Hailing from Musselburgh, he and his twin brother Jamie were born in 1824—the same year as Tom Morris and only 5 years after Allan Robertson.  Willie played many a challenge match against the likes of Morris and Robertson. Like Morris, Dunn was a highly skilled clubmaker.

Dunn worked as the keeper of the green at Blackheath from 1851 to 1864. From there he moved to the Leith Thistle Club where he was the custodian of the links. In 1870, he moved to Musselburgh where he set up his clubmaking business. Dunn passed away in 1878.

Made approximately 170 years ago, this is a great club!  The sports world can have their cardboard rookie cards that were mass produced in recent years and sell for tens of thousands of dollars.  The auctioneer sees genuine value—a true work of art—in a golf club made by the hands of a prominent character and one of the best golfers from golfs' early history.  To each their own.

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