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£150,000 for a putter? You could club together

Many golfers have spent a fortune on a putter in a bid to improve their short game. But few would lay out more than £150,000 - the record amount a rare putter made in Leith is expected to fetch at auction later this month.

The Andrew Dickson long-nosed putter is one of the highlights in the collection of American golf enthusiast Jeffery B Ellis. He has spent a lifetime amassing around six hundred antique golf clubs, which are expected to sell for more than a million pounds at Sotheby's in New York.

The auction will also include two wooden clubs made in or around 1800 by the McEwan family of Bruntsfield and Musselburgh. Both are expected to fetch around £20,000.

Graham Budd, a sporting memorabilia expert who is working as a consultant on the sale, said the putter attributed to Andrew Dickson could be even older. He became the world's first named caddie when he carried the Duke of York's clubs on Leith Links in 1681, and went on to become a clubmaker in the port.

"There are very few wooden clubs of that age still surviving, and the fact that it is being attributed to Andrew Dickson just makes it even more valuable," said Mr Budd. "It is stamped 'A.D.' and not signed, which means there will always be some ambiguity around whether it was Dickson or not, but there are other stamped clubs which were made by Dickson, so we can be fairly certain it's one of his."

"Either way, its age and rarity alone make it incredibly valuable, and it is very possible it could go for a record amount, possibly more than £150,000." Several top international golf clubs, museums and private collectors are thought to be interested.

The two McEwan clubs are also likely to be highly sought after by collectors, coming as they do from one of the most historic names in the game. The first is a McEwan presentation putter, with a carved decoration of four featherballs, two crossed clubs and a trademark thistle. It is one of only four presentation clubs with a carved decoration on the head which are known to exist, and one of only two remaining McEwan prize clubs.

The other club, a long-nosed "middle spoon", has the oldest known McEwan name stamp.

Robin McGregor, secretary at the Musselburgh Old Course, said: the clubs were a genuine piece of golfing history. "The McEwan family were among the most important club makers in the game of golf, and any of their original work is highly prized," he said. "We have an old McEwan club here at the Old Course, which has pride of place in the club showroom.

"They were a clubmaker unique to Musselburgh, and whoever buys these clubs will be getting a little piece of history."

Mr Ellis said he was parting with the clubs because he had "no more left to collect", and said the McEwan clubs were examples of what makes golf clubs special.

"The long nose clubs and early irons are from an era in which there weren't many golfers," he said. "They were made by some of the founding fathers of the modern game.

These really are works of art, all crafted by hand before there was electricity. They embody what makes a club special: rarity, history and artistry."

The auction takes place at Sotheby's New York on September 27th and 28th, 2007.

Source: Gareth Edwards and Dick Barton,
Evening News, 12th September, 2007.