Hugh Philp is the crème de la crème of historic clubmakers. (click here).
History tells us that the stunning, unused long spoon offered here was originally part of a 9-club set made by Philp that stands not only as the pinnacle of his work but also as his most historic clubs in many respects.
Truly a work of art, this club was made by Hugh Philp of St. Andrews, owned by Sir Hew Dalrymple the 6th Baronet of North Berwick, given to Johnny Laidlay—once the finest amateur in the world—displayed at the Glasgow International Exhibition of 1901, sold at auction in 1981, purchased a few years later by Jamie Ortiz-Patino, a premier collector who displayed this club for many years at his Valderrama Golf Club in Spain (his inventory label is on the sole), and then sold by Patino in 2012 shortly before his death. Now, it could be yours.
Born in 1814, Sir Hew loved golf. He was made an honorary member of North Berwick Golf Club in 1835. Not only did he serve as the club’s Captain for twenty-one years—in 1860 and again from 1868 through 1887—he purchased a piece of property in order to enable North Berwick to build a new clubhouse in 1880. Sir Hew was nicknamed "The Laird of the Links."
It is not known when Dalrymple acquired these 9 Philps. He might have won them in a mid-19th century “prize competition,” but it is far more likely that he purchased these clubs outright. Given their pristine unused condition, he apparently wanted to simply own a set of the legendary clubmakers work. Philp was widely recognized during his life as an artisan of the highest caliber. To own a 9-club set of Philps would be something truly special.
According to Horace Hutchinson and Bernard Darwin in the 1913 vol 33 issue of Country Life, p 69, Dalrymple bequeathed his Philps to Laidlay. Hutchinson/Darwin writes, “I have been looking over, not for the first time, a set of clubs, all of the manufacture of the famous Hugh Philp, which were given by the late Sir Hew Dalrymple, at his death, to Mr. J.E Laidlay.”
Born in 1860, Laidlay won the British Amateur in 1889 and 1891, and finished second in 1888, 1890, and 1893. During his career he won over 131 medals. He was twice runner up in the British Open. At North Berwick, Laidlay won the autumn meeting Gold Medal eight times between 1886 and 1894. He also won the Club Gold Medal competition four times between 1886 and 1892.
Before Dalrymple died in April of 1887, Laidlay won gold medals at St. Andrews and other locations as well as at North Berwick. Both Sir Hew and Laidlay were prominent members at North Berwick. Apparently Sir Hew felt Laidlay would appreciate and preserve his eminently remarkable set.
The 9 Philps are pictured and described in The Book of Golf and Golfers written by Horace Hutchinson in 1900. Hutchinson wrote: “[Hugh Philp’s clubs] were beautiful specimens of art, finely finished, elegant, long-headed things.... The late Sir Hew Dalrymple had a very perfect set that he gave to Mr. J.E. Laidlay, who preserves them—an interesting relic—in a glass case.”
Laidlay’s Philp set was displayed at the 1901 Glasgow International Exhibition at the request of the Rev. John Kerr, who was in charge of assembling golf artifacts for the exhibition. Born in 1852, Kerr was a Minister (at Dirleton, close to North Berwick) and a widely respected golf scholar. His The Golf Book of East Lothian (1896) stands to this day as a major cornerstone work on the history of golf.
On July 15, 1981, Sotheby’s auctioned all 9 of Laidlay’s Philps, individually, as well as their glass case which contained the 1901 GIE certificate thanking Laidlay for loaning the "Set of Philps' Golf Clubs."
The Philp long spoon offered here, one of those 9 clubs dripping with history and an incredible list of handlers, is truly exquisite. The 46” shaft is slender where it approaches the sleek head, which measures 5 ¾” in length, 1” in depth, and 2” in thickness. The face has light cross-scoring created by drawing the edge of a file in two directions across the gracefully curved face. The lines of the head are as elegant as can be. Philp’s name stamp is also special: it matches perfectly the curve of the crown, so the beginning H and ending P do not extend deeper into the wood than the other letters like it does on a number of Philp's other clubs. This stamp fixed that slight anomaly, something Philp would, no doubt, have wanted fixed when creating a set of clubs for the eminently respected Baron of North Berwick to display as a legacy to Philp's craftsmanship (which would also explain the exquisite face scoring—unmatched on any other long nose clubs—found on this and the other clubs in the set.)
I have long believed that these 9 clubs were made by Philp around 1850. Their style, shape, shafts, grips, whipping, and even arcane characteristics such as the sole taper, neck ridge, and the treatment given to the butt of the shaft match that found on a number of other Philps the auctioneer has examined.
Any suggestion that these clubs were not made by Philp flies in the face of the historical record, as is the idea that a wealthy Baronet contemporary with Philp would purchase or gift replicas.
The only other matching set of 9 long-nose clubs known to make it into the 1980s was a set of Jackson's owned by the Duke of Athole that was sold at auction.
TCA2 V1 p58; The Golf Book of East Lothian 102, 104, 106, 109