Brown’s rake irons, or water irons as they are sometimes called, are among the most famous of all golf collectibles. Marketed as “heros of the hazards,” these irons were designed to play shots from water, high grass, and sand.
James R Brown was not a golfer, but, according to the March 1906 issue of Fry’s Magazine, some of Brown’s acquaintances were golfers who would come to him complaining of sand that had gotten in their eyes while golfing. The Fry’s article then recounts how one night, while sleeping, Brown “beheld an implement in his dreams which he calculated would stagger humanity. With a plan of the club still in his mind’s eye he rose from his bed… hurriedly dressed, and in the silent hours set to work in his smithy, on his mental pattern. Far into the night he worked, and the cocks were crowing before he returned to the blankets. Next day he was never away from his bench…”
During the next months, two more experimental models were tried before Brown made his breakthrough. The Fry’s Magazine article continues: “One Saturday evening he set to work upon an idea which had been suggested to him that afternoon while he was racking his brain and raking his garden. ‘Why not shape the club after the manner of an inverted rake?’ he asked himself. “ So he did.
In 1903 and 1905, James R. Brown received two British Patents that covered his Thistle rake iron. The Thistle was made without any marks or filigree on the tines. Brown’s most popular rake iron, “The Major”, had a similar head but included filigree on the tines.
The shaft is original as is the black leather-wrap grip. The sole is stamped "Made In Scotland." The back of the sole is stamped "Thistle / Montrose N.B." and "Brown Patent" in an oval. The head is clean and has a nice, even patina.
Brown’s rake irons proved to be a flash in the pan. They met with some success when introduced in 1904, but they never really caught hold. In a few short years, Brown's hazard heros were well on their way out.
This is an outstanding example of Brown's now iconic design!
TCA2 V 1: P262-264