The Equipment Insider

Jeff Ellis keeps golf's relics relevant

Jeff Ellis, one of golf's foremost collectors and experts in antique golf clubs, makes the game's top collectibles available to the public through his company's quarterly auctions

In golf, distance has become one of the biggest discussion points between golfers and the game’s ruling bodies of the last 20-plus years.

The fact that golf balls are being struck to greater distances is putting increasing stress on many of the historic courses that are reaching their tipping point in terms of total yardages.

Wonder what the discussions were like in the 1880s when Old Tom Morris debuted the long-nose driver that was made not with a traditional hickory shaft, but a new six-sided twelve-piece can shaft that included a full-length tubular steel core.

Talk about technological advances.

Old Tom Morris steel-core shaft driver
Old Tom Morris' long-nose driver was ahead of its time by nearly 45 years because it featured a tubular steel core in its shaft.

In those days, such a club was very expensive and only the truly well-heeled golfers could afford such a club.

In the world of golf antiquities, the club would be one of the seminal pieces in any collection, and it is now being offered at auction by Jeff Ellis Golf Auctions.

Ellis, one of the foremost collectors and experts in antique golf clubs, decided last year to begin conducting an auction every three months. His latest is currently in progress and ends on Saturday, March 28.

Over time, golf memorabilia collecting has gone through some interesting phases, with books and equipment consistently having been the most desired commodities. In the 12 years since the 2008 financial crash, clubs have become the hotter trend.

Generally, anything connected to Old Tom Morris resonates with collectors and non-collectors alike.

The Morris long-nose driver is a significant piece, since it’s the first known driver to use steel as its core and was also the precursor to steel shafts, which were not really part of the golf lexicon until around 1925.

Old Tom Morris steel-core shaft driver — interior view
The steel-core shaft in Old Tom Morris' long-nosed driver is wrapped in 12 lengths of bamboo, glued together and bound with whipping.

While Old Tom, a four-time winner of the British Open, was a gifted ball and clubhead maker, it’s unlikely, according to Ellis, that the steel-core shaft was made Morris, even though the club is stamped with "T. Morris." Instead, Ellis believes the maker was likely the Hardy Brothers, of Alnwick, England.

The Hardy Brothers were making steel-core fishing rods in the 1880s and Ellis believes they either offered the shaft, which was wrapped in bamboo, to Morris or Morris solicited the brothers to see if it would work for his needs.

The piece offered for auction has the original sheepskin grip, original neck/shaft whipping and is offered at an initial bid of $5,000.

Since we are all stuck in house, it’s worth taking a look at the 240 pieces up for auction. The auction ends at 8 p.m. ET.

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