Caledonia SF Niblick – Model 1912

CaledoniaBallCaledoniaBack2Every now and then, one sees a club that simply calls to them. In hindsight, I’m not exactly sure why I plunked down $75 for this smooth faced niblick with no grip in February 2014, but I have found it to be an enjoyable, albeit little, asset. I suppose its most alluring aspect is its stampings, although, in spite of some effort to root out an historical association with this club, I have failed.

First and foremost, this is a tidy rut iron. It has a very small face, but ample bounce, which makes it an easy club to lay open and loft shots from a bunker or short grass. If you notice, there are nick marks on the heel-side of the club. This is evidence that the club beckons to be used in this fashion – I’m not the first to discover its true calling. I’ve had fun working balls with this club, although serious focus is required in order that one not shank a shot off the hosel – the entire face is only 2.25 inches in length. Its most evident usefulness is from a soft, sand-filled bunker. The whip in the shaft allows it to get aggressively under a ball in an instance where exactitude isn’t at the highest premium.

The shaft seems to have no markings on it, and – after affixing a nice, Neumann leather grip to the club, the entire enterprise has some desirable flex and give to it, which I find helpful. The metal is somewhat soft. My guess (for the time being) is that this club harkens back to 1912 reference on the head. I’ve seen some Macgregor clubs made from “Em-An-Em” metal (see end of this post) that look something like this one in regard to metallurgy, replete with all capitals on the stamps, but – one thing that looks obvious by comparison – the numeral “one” is different from the example shown below from the one featured here.

CaledoniaSF2CaledoniaSFChuck Furjanic’s online images list a putter as follows, but the cleek mark and stampings are unreadable.

CALEDONIA: Possibly made by Macgregor with “Caledonia” in an arc on the back of a C-1910 smooth face brass straight blade. Appears all original. G-6 $75

I’ve also found an on-line reference to “The Caledonia Stainless, Mashie,” but with no images. That club is part of a large collection currently for sale as one lot. I have emailed the seller to see if he would forward me an image of the clubhead.

In “THE GOLFING ANNUAL 1888-89, EDITED BY JOHN BAUCHOPE,” I can find a reference to a “Caledonia Golf Club, instituted May, 1887 in Dundee Scotland.” Its posted “entrance fee” was ten shillings, and its number of members at that time was 80. The course is still in action, now incorporated as part of the Carnoustie association of links courses. I have also contacted the club secretary to see if there is, indeed, any association with their course.

CaledoniaBack1800 Onwards

By the early 19th Century it is known that a 10-hole course had been established. The starting point was considerably to the east of the present first tee of the Championship Course.


Early Professional Tournaments

The original holes were comparatively short and led out towards what is known as “the Gulley.” There were only “give way” greens, each being used twice in the course of the 10-hole round. On these ‘Taymouth’ Links, the legendary ‘Young’ Tom Morris, as a lad of 16, won one of his first professional tournaments. A number of similar open meetings were held as well as several big money challenge matches, but information about these is sketchy.


In the years that followed, the Caledonia Club was to play host to many famous men, but it is doubtful, if, in a golfing sense, the club ever had a more formidable quartet of visitors than those who arrived on the 13 August 1898. They were Harry Vardon, J.H. Taylor, Sandy Herd and James Braid, whom few would have questioned were the finest golfers in the world at that particular time.


The Course Designers

The ground itself was part of the Dalhousie Estate and the Earl was perfectly happy to allow golf to be played on it. The 10-hole course, some say, had been laid out by Alan Robertson of St. Andrews. Others attribute it to a Mr. Chambers, head of an Edinburgh publishing house. Be that as it may, by 1867 Carnoustie’s golfers were beginning to take the game more seriously. They engaged another famous St. Andrean, Old Tom Morris, to extend the course to 18 holes.


The 1888-89 Annual states that the “Lowest Scratch Score in a club competition is 87, made by David Winter, August, 1888. Archie Simpson, the professional, is a member of the club, and in a competition he once did the round in 80.”

Curiously, I see also another “Caledonia” reference related to early golf, this time in regard to the “Eclipse” golf ball.

This club features a rustless metal alloy Macgregor called Em-An-Em.
This club features a rustless metal alloy Macgregor called Em-An-Em.
Similar Foulis Metal Head Caps
Macgregor stampings on the Foulis sample

THE ” ECLIPSE ” GOLF BALL. The ” Eclipse” continues to grow in favor with golfers, as the unsolicited testimony of experts abundantly testifies. At the commencement of last season it for a time lost its good name ; complaints as to chipping, splitting, and durability or, rather, non-durability were frequent, and, as the patentee speedily discovered, not without cause. The increased demand for the ball had necessitated the construction of new machinery, and in the augmented plant was found a flaw which accounted for the short-coming. This, however, has since been remedied. A correspondent writes that he has played every alternate day for two months with a couple of these balls selected at random, and never drove any that gave such entire satisfaction. Field, April 2nd, 1887.


Messrs. Currie, of the Caledonian Rubber Works, Edinburgh, are the patentees of the “Eclipse” Golf Ball, which, since they first introduced it, has been greatly improved in flying qualities. No less authority than Mr. Horace Hutchinson, the amateur champion, has pronounced the opinion that in its all round merit, the “Eclipse” is quite as good as the Gutta Ball. There can be no doubt about the “Eclipse” being the better ball to play with against the wind; it also retains its roundness, a great desideratum in putting, and is the most economical ball of the two. [ref. The Newcastle Daily Journal, April 14th, 1887.]

If you have any information on the origins of this item, I’d be happy to hear from you!

– Rob Birman