This beautifully crafted c. 1830 blacksmith-made iron is a "middling" or "general" iron, a term used in 1805. Middling irons fit between light irons and heavy irons. It was devised as a single club that could do the job of two different clubs, and thereby lessen the number of clubs carried by the golfer.
Formerly the property of renowned collector Jamie Ortiz-Patino, this iron was displayed in his collection at his Valderamma Golf Club,
in Valderrama, Spain. When Valderrama hosted the Ryder Cup in 1997, this iron was already in his collection and on display there. Patino was the driving force that brought the Ryder Cup to continental Europe for the first time in history.
Patino sought only the finest in golf
antiques. He bought this club for $17,500 at a 1989 golf auction in Cincinnatti, Ohio, (which the auctioneer also attended). This was a record amount for an early iron at the time, as the iron is quite special. It is not only an old, blacksmith-made iron that dates to the featherball era, it has a thick face that is dramatically dished and curved much more than is typically found in irons of similar age. In addition, the back of the blade is marked "J.A. Porteous" in large block letters, which makes this the oldest iron bearing a person's name, be this person a blacksmith or an owner. To date, who Mr. Porteous was remains a mystery.
The hosel measures 5" in length and 3/4" thick. The hickory shaft is 40" long, which is not uncommon with early irons, and it appears to be original with its original grip.
It is possible, however, that the club was reshafted when in use as one side of the hosel shows evidence of filing which would accompany a reshaft. The originality of this shaft, be it the original shaft or a reshaft, is of little consequence in this instance as the existing shaft and grip match the period of the club and the filing could have been part of the original shafting of the club. In short, because the shaft looks so good, fits so well, matches the period without question, it is impossible to say for a fact if it is an original or a replacement.
Overall, this is an absolutely fabulous club. It is long and heavy. It has an incredible curved face. It is marked with a name, making it the earliest iron marked with a name known to the auctioneer. It has great history, being owned for many years by Jamie Ortiz-Patino. The grip, shaft, and head together combine to make this a truly outstanding and handsome piece.
The J. Gourlay golf ball in one of the images is shown for perspective and is not part of
this lot. This wonderful ball is offered as lot 3 in this auction.
Inasmuch as this club dates circa 1850, it would have been used when
featherballs were still in use.
This iron would make a brilliant companion piece with a nice early Philp or McEwan or other featherball long nose wood. For more about middling irons, see TCA2 V1 p121