Northwest Hickory Players

Robertson Patent Cleek

 

RobertsonCleekSole The Robertson family were true pioneers of the game in Scotland.  In fact, it was the elder Mr. Robertson, Allan, who took Tom Morris under his wing when “Old Tom” was a youth.  I have reprinted information on Allan below.   His son, Peter Robertson became a leading golf professional near the turn of the 19th Century, eventually coming to the United States in New England and later becoming the pro at Oakmont in the United States, and who’s name is fashioned on my club.  RobertsonCleekTopThe utterly fascinating thing about this wood cleek is its ingenious design (not unlike what modern manufacturers are “selling” the public today (i.e. moveable weight technology).  The 1916 patent for this design is included below and it makes for splendid reading.  I’ve bolded some of the most vital bits for easy scanning.

I have played since 2011 with various wood cleeks.  My first was a Louisville Golf replica, which one sees frequently in the bags of “modern” hickory players.  I have found it to be 100% rock-solid and a sure 185 yards for me.  Over the years I have also owned several original wood cleeks – these I have found less consistent for me, as many have thin shafts and not enough swingweight, I find.  I had one that I loved, but was in constant fear of breaking due to the narrow tip of the shaft at the hosel.  I sold it rather than continue to fret its demise!  Personally, I have no issues with the use of replica clubs, but that said, I also have been working steadily to complete my set with 100% original equipment – the last hold-out for me is my bulldog, but I’ll write about that another time.

Initial Condition

Initial Condition

I found this wood cleek on-line from Bob Giorgiade in 2014 for $150 and went for it.  You’ll see that, upon receipt, I took to refinishing the head as the original stain was in somewhat poor condition and I bought this as a playclub, not a wall piece!  I’m excited by this club and think its design is genius.  I suspect it will take me a year to really get to know this instrument, but I’ve had it in my bag this year and am committed to continue the courtship.

In his patent application for my club’s design, the following is stated:

WILLIAM ROBERTSON, OF OAKMONT, PENNSYLVANIA, ASSIGNOR ONE-HALF TO PETER ROBERTSON, OF NEW HARTFORD, NEW YORK.
GOLF-CLUB.

Application filed December 11, 1916.

Robertson_Genius[Note: bold areas added by NWHP for illustrative purposes]

My invention relates to golf clubs, its object being to provide a golf club which is properly weighted for the Work to be done, for example, for obtaining distance, and which is more simple to construct, and overcomes difficulties in manufacture and by which, if desired, the location of the weight can be varied to suit the needs of the user.

It comprises, generally stated, a golf club having a wooden head extending for the entire width of the club head and having the entire weighting of the club formed of an irregular shaped metal base-plate secured to the bottom of the wooden head. For example, the base-plate having irregular shaped upper faces fitted to the lower face of the wooden head, and varying in thickness for the character of club desired and according to the requirements of the user. It also comprises other improvements, as hereafter set forth.

In the accompanying drawings, Figure 1 is a side view of a head of a driver or brassy embodying the invention; Fig. 2 is a cross-section on the line 22, Fig. 1; Figs. 3 and 4- are like views of different forms of clubs embodying the invention; and Fig. 5 is a perspective view of a metal base-plate having a lug enlargement. Figs. 6 and 7 are views of the invention as applied to the driver; and Figs. 8 and 9 are views of the invention, as applied to a putter.

I have illustrated the invention, for example, in connection with a brassy or like driving club, and it has the handle 1, the wooden head 2, and the metal base-plate 3. The wooden head 2 extends for the entire width of the club head, and below the same is the metal base-plate 3 which extends entirely beneath the wooden head. This base-plate is made of sufficient thickness to give the desired weighting for the club, all inserts, either in the back face or the front face of the wooden head, which have been used in the ordinary golf clubs being done away with. The base plate 1 is of irregular Specification of Letters Patent.

Thickness: Having the ordinary bottom face 5, and having its body of different thicknesses in different parts of the club, for example, at the edge 6 nearest the driving face it will naturally be thin and of substantially uniform thickness, while at the edge forming part of the back face of the club, it will be thick, as at 7, so placing the greatest weight of the metal base-plate at the lower outer portion of the club head, and the base plate may thus vary in thickness upon that general principle, bringing the weight of the club in position to give the greatest force in driving, the weight being distributed over the entire bottom face of the club to give the best effect in driving, there being but little weight at the front edge and the weight increasing toward the back edge of the club, while the entire weighting is along the bottom of the club. Experience has shown that this gives greater effective distance from the club.

The club also has the advantage that by locating the weight on the base-plate in different positions, the club becomes effective to correct different faults of the user; for instance, where the base-plate is set with the lug 8 of the greatest thickness or weight forward of the center of the club, as shown in full lines, Fig. 1, it will overcome a tendency to slice; and where this weight 8 is set rather back of the center of the club, as in dotted lines Fig. 1, it will overcome a tendency to pull. To provide means for giving such results, the base-plate may be formed with a lug or enlargement on its upper face, such as the enlargement 8 in Fig. 5. Such base-plate gives the, advantage of placing the weight at the exact position desired.

The club may have drilled holes 8- in the base plate as in Figs. 6 and 7, and these holes may be used either to lighten the club, and they may, if desired, be filled with wooden plugs, as at 10, or to increase the weight, in which case they may be filled with lead plugs, as at 11. This feature forms the subject matter of a separate application filed by me October 21, 1917, Serial No. 198,241. This figure also shows the fiber edge plate 12 fitted to the metal base plate, thus overcoming the necessity of recessing the wooden head to receive such fiber edge plate, as in the usual club construction.

Construction: The invention may also be employed to advantage in putters as shown in Figs. 8 and 9. The putter having the wooden head 13 extends for the entire width of the club head and a thick heavy base plate 14, corresponding in shape thereto and being entirely covered by the Wooden head, is formed to the desired Weight for the user, the base plate being made on the same principles as those above described in connection with the brassy. Experience has proven that with the weight so distributed entirely at the bottom of the club, a very effective and accurate putter is obtained, and one which in addition to providing the weight for long putts, is very accurate for careful putting.

The tools made in accordance with the invention, may, of course, be varied as found desirable.

What I claim is:

  1. A golf club having a wooden head extending for the entire width of the club head and having the entire weighting of the club formed of a metal base-plate extending entirely beneath the wooden head and of varying thickness transversely of the club head.
  2. A golf club having a wooden head extending for the entire width of the club head and having a metal base-plate extending entirely beneath the wooden head, said base-plate being of greater thickness at its outer edge than that nearest the driving face of the club. a
  3. A golf club having a wooden head extending the entire width of the club head and having a metal base-plate extending entirely beneath the wooden head provided with an irregular shaped upper face formed with an upwardly-extending lug fitting beneath the lower face of the wooden head.
  4. A golf club having a wooden head extending the entire width of the club head, and having the entire Weighting of the club formed of a metal base-plate secured to the bottom of and extending entirely beneath the bottom of the wooden head, said base-plate being of substantially uniform thickness for a portion near the driving face and then of increased thickness near the outer face of the club.
  5. A golf club having a wooden head extending the entire width of the club head, and having the entire weighting of the club formed of a. metal base-plate secured to the bottom of and extending entirely beneath the bottom of the wooden head, said base-plate being of substantially uniform thickness for a portion near the driving face and then of increased thickness near the outer face of the club, the thickness of the outer portion of the weight being gradually increased from the portion of uniform thickness to the outer face of the club.

In testimony whereof, I the said WILLIAM ROBERTSON, have hereunto set my hand.

WILLIAM ROBERTSON.

– Rob Birman


 

I found this very early club on sale from Randy Jensen’s collection on November 7, 2015.

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ABOUT PETER ROBERTSON

Writing for Travel+Leisure online, David Gould states:

Fred Brand, a Carnoustie village boy with a rangy build and thick, powerful hands, showed up at his home links one day in 1902 to play the round of his life. The Scottish Open was under way at Carnoustie, and Freddie, straight out of high school, had somehow scrapped his way to the semifinals. Brand’s opponent would be the English champion, J. H. Taylor, holder of three British Open titles (and ultimately two more). But Taylor couldn’t keep pace with the local boy that day. Brand sent him back home to Surrey and advanced to the finals, where he would lose the medal to another titan of the times, Alexander Herd.

 

Watching from the gallery as Brand upset Taylor were two brothers from one of Pittsburgh’s wealthiest families, Eben and J. F. Byers. They were members of the fledgling Allegheny Country Club, which was relocating to a site that offered superior golf terrain. When the transition was complete, the club would need a full-time professional. Brand’s showing against Taylor made a strong enough impression to earn him a job offer from the Byers brothers, and he left Scotland the next year to become one of Pittsburgh’s first Carnoustie-bred golf pros.

 

There would be others. Not long after Brand’s arrival in 1903, Steel City clubs would employ a dozen or more transplants from Carnoustie, which for its small size produced an astounding number of emigrant pros, club makers and greenskeepers to nurture the game’s expansion. Carnoustie’s golf diaspora is confirmed by a roadside plaque in the village, filled with the logos and crests of golf organizations its sons helped establish. These span the globe, from North America to Australia, South Africa and other far-flung ports.

 

But of all U.S. cities, Pittsburgh was the most significant and enduring terminus of the Carnoustie exodus. And this year, for the first time since Ben Hogan’s three-major-victory campaign of 1953, the U.S. and British Opens will be staged, respectively, at Oakmont and Carnoustie, providing an ideal opportunity to examine the historical ties that bind the two clubs.

 

At Oakmont, the Carnoustie connection began in 1905 with Peter Robertson, the club’s first pro, who arrived in the Steel City not long after Fred Brand. Robertson was a keen competitor who during his tenure would vie with the club founder’s son, W. C. Fownes, over the honor of who held the Oakmont course record. (A club history shows that Robertson’s sixty-nine stood up for several years against W. C.’s seventy.) Robertson played in all seven U.S. Opens during his time at Oakmont, which ended in 1912. His brothers Davie and Willie had followed him over from Carnoustie, and each worked as an Oakmont assistant. Willie is identified as the club-making specialist, a common division of labor in pro shops.

 

When Peter Robertson left for a job in Fall River, Massachusetts, Oakmont founder H. C. Fownes, himself of Scots descent, hired Tom Anderson from North Berwick. But two years later Fownes went back to the Carnoustie well and brought in Macdonald Smith, a first-rank player who didn’t last in the job, and then Charlie Rowe, who did.


ABOUT ALLAN ROBERTSON

Allan Robertson is shown here (first hatless member from Left, next to David "Old Da" Anderson). Copyrighted photo property of www.hobbsgolfcollection.com

Allan Robertson is shown here (first hatless member from Left, next to David “Old Da” Anderson). Copyrighted photo property of www.hobbsgolfcollection.com

Allan Robertson was a club maker, of which only a few specimens still exist, but he is mostly known for his skill in making feathery golf balls. He took as his apprentices Tom Morris (who in his lifetime became celebrated as the archetypal golf professional the world over) and Lang Willie and the three of them worked from Allan kitchen, with balls being sold through an open window. Allan’s business records show that he sold 1,021 balls in 1840, 1,392 balls in 1841 and by 1842 the number had grew to 2,456 balls.

This memorial stone is located in the grounds of St Andrews Cathedral and remembers Robertson as one of the oldest golf professionals to have lived in Scotland

This memorial stone is located in the grounds of St Andrews Cathedral and remembers Robertson as one of the oldest golf professionals to have lived in Scotland

Legend has it that one day in the late 1840’s, Old Tom ran out of featheries while playing golf on a particularly nasty day on the links and was loaned a new type of gutta-percha golf ball by his playing partner to complete the round. When Allan heard of this so-called betrayal, he promptly terminated Tom’s employment. However, within a few months, Allan was known to be producing gutta-percha balls himself after realizing the new balls were more robust and less expensive.

In 1806, Robertson is selected as Captain of St. Andrews Golf Club. He propelled himself into that office being the only competitor in the monthly meetings. [Prior to this, it was an open competition, but the elder members voted for a change in the rules having been outplayed by talented youths.]

1840 Playset

1840 Playset

A typical set of clubs of this period was very much like that used for the preceding 400 years, although many players had adopted small headed irons for playing from troublesome spots (usually called rut or track irons), and irons with very little loft (called cleeks) were becoming popular as fairway conditions improved (it’s all relative, right?).  Additionally a few players began using very heavy iron headed putters. However, wooden clubs were still very much in the majority due to the continued use of the feathery ball.

Typical Playset of 1840
Wooden playclub or driving wood (Driver)
Wooden grassed driver or long spoon (3-wood)
Wooden middle spoon (5-wood)
Wooden short spoon (7-wood)
Wooden baffing spoon (9-wood)
Cleek (Iron headed club with little loft – 2 or 3 iron)
Rut or track iron (very small-headed lofted niblick)
Wooden or iron bladed putter

Of Allan Robertson, Connor Lewis once wrote:

Allan Robertson was a professional golfer, a caddy, a clubmaker and a ball maker, but more than anything Allan Robertson was the best golfer of his generation and some could argue any generation. How good was he? In all of his years he never lost a match*. I add the * because it was said that he never lost a match of importance, but in fact in his later years he did in fact lose a round to Tom Morris his apprentice, though Morris never claimed the victory because they were in his words “just having some fun.”

 

Allan Robertson’s contributions to the game were vast and to this day his importance is overlooked. Not only was Allan Robertson the greatest golfer of his generation, he also was the mentor to Old Tom Morris who is often referred to as the Father of Golf. Allan saw Morris’ potential when Morris was young and playing a stick ball game in the streets of St. Andrews. Allan contacted Tom Morris’ father and arranged to mentor Tom and teach him the ways of the golf professional. Soon Tom Morris was to be found making Allan Robertson feathery golf balls, and in their time off Allan would take Tom to the links and teach him the game. As time passed it was said that Old Tom had become the equal of Allan and the two forged a golfing partnership which beat all comers. Unfortunately, all great things must come to an end and these two titans of golf were destined to part ways and it came at the hand of the gutta percha golf ball.

 

You see the feathery ball was difficult to make and expensive to purchase (one ball sometimes cost more than a driver), but in 1848 the gutta percha ball came to St. Andrews. The gutta percha ball (gutty) was inexpensive was virtually indestructible and could be reformed if it whacked out of shape. Allan hated the ball, and why wouldn’t he? He had a feathery cartel in St. Andrews and this new damned gutty was cheaper and easy to make. All of a sudden any golfer could practically make their own golf balls. So Allan swore off the gutty and made Tom Morris do so as well. Allan would even go so far to buy gutta percha golf balls up and burn them in his fire.

 

The demise of Tom and Allan’s long-time partnership and friendship came when Tom was playing a round at St. Andrews with some players using the gutty. Tom played his feathery until it was lost. He soon realized that he had no more and was forced to continue his round with his partner’s gutties. By the time they concluding their round, Old Tom approached the 18th only to find Allan Robertson standing on the 18th green furious. There war of words ended with the two separating their friendship and their business and Old Tom’s exile from St. Andrews.

 

Allan Robertson should be remembered for two events, one within his lifetime and one because of his untimely death.

 

In 1858, Allan Robertson became the first man ever to break 80, by shooting a 79 at St. Andrews. This feat of skill can not be overlooked when you consider the equipment and the length of the course in that era. He was the first man to break that barrier that millions of golfers hope and pray to break in their lifetime.


 

Rare Tom Morris and Allan Robertson - golf’s founding fathers - signed album page. Signed in ink together with a copy of the 1930 UK catalogue page with the above listing priced at £25. It sold again in 2013 for £1,700.

Rare Tom Morris and Allan Robertson – golf’s founding fathers – signed album page. Signed in ink together with a copy of the 1930 UK catalogue page with the above listing priced at £25. It sold again in 2013 for £1,700.

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