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Antique putters - an essential buyer's guide...

An antique putter refurbished by Graham GriffithsThe world of antique putters is one where expert knowledge pays off for both serious collectors and first-time buyer. We spoke to two experts in the field - Graham Griffiths of antiquehickorygolfclubs.com and Gavin Bottrell of antiquegolfclub.co.uk to get the inside track on what to look for when buying a wooden-headed or metal-headed hickory putter.

First off some straightforward questions for Graham Griffiths...

on an antique putter...

Best-Putter.com: What should you look for when buying an antique putter?

Graham Griffiths: It really depends what you want it for. Are you hanging it on the wall or are you a hickory player looking to find that perfect putter? In both cases condition is important, but you can get away with more serious issues - like a crack in a hickory shaft - if you're only going to display the putter rather than use it.

B-P: And if you're looking to play with it?

GG: Then it's a question of feel. Most players have to buy and try quite a number of older putters to find one they're really happy with. The feel of antique putters is far more variable than modern putters, so you really cannot tell how a putter will play until you have it in your hands. Most serious hickory players have quite a large number of putters!

B-P: How easy are they to repair?

GG: Restoration of an old putter is not that easy. A really good job takes time, skill and care. Removing rust without excessively marking the head is the main challenge. This can be done with rust remover and sand paper, but the best way is using a grinding machine. If you want to maintain the putter's value it's important not to remove or distort the headmaker's name (known as a cleekmark). Sourcing and then winding on an authentic grip also takes a bit of time. That having been said, there are excellent antique club restorers in the UK, Sweden, USA, Switzerland and Germany. If anyone needs help, they should get in touch with me at www.antiquehickorygolfclubs.com!

B-P: Which are the most valuable antique or hickory putters?

GG: Collectors value wooden-headed putters of the Tom Morris era (pre-1905) as the most valuable category of old putters, especially the long-nose mallets. If they're in good condition, these sell for around £500 ($800-850). Mostly, though these putters aren't in great condition because the heads generally have lots of marks in them. Putters in exceptional condition - especially those with a story attached to them - can attract international interest and sell for more as a result.

B-P: What should you do if you have a putter to sell?

GG: It depends what sort of putter you have. If you're pretty sure it's not valuable, then Ebay provides the best market, but if you think it might be worth something then you're best off either sending in pictures to a site like mine and we'll give you an appraisal or taking it to a local auction room where you'll be able to get a rough valuation.

B-P: What if I wanted to buy a specific model, such as a Bobby Locke "Pay-off" putter?

GG: You're best bet here is to search on Google. You'll most likely find the putter you're looking for in an auction house listing or on a specialist website. For a Pay-off putter, you'd expect to pay £120-130 ($200).

B-P:  What should you look for when buying online, without seeing the club first?

GG: The most important thing is to ask about the seller some questions about the condition of the club, particularly the condition of the shaft. Hickory shafts split easily, especially in hot climates, so knowing where the club has been kept during its lifetime can be a good guide to the condition of the shaft. Also it's a good idea to ask whether the head is loose. Even a slight bit of movement between the head and shaft will most likely mean that the putter needs restoration.

B-P: Finally, what does it feel like to play with a good antique putter?

GG: The feel is terrific with a good hickory shafted putter. Since they're almost all heel-shafted, they rely far more on balance than modern clubs, but once you get a good quality putter in your hands, I don't think you'd see any discernable difference between your results with an antique and a modern putter. Some of the modern designs seem very clumsy and brick-like by comparison!

Click here to read more about antique putters, in our interview with Gavin Bottrell of antiquegolfclub.co.uk

Got an antique or hickory putter to sell? See where your putter fits into the history of the putter, and whether it's worth anything.


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