Northwest Hickory Players

1890s Robert Anderson & Sons SF Cleek (?)

DSCF0049In assembling an 1890 playset, I collaborated closely with Mike Daniels in Pinehurst for the purchase of a number of special clubs, namely my two Carrick irons, a Paxton putter and a nearly unused Forgan lofter.  On a lark, I asked Mike to include an unseen club for me as part of my final order.  It was billed as a “general iron, maker unknown.”  The price was right, so I figured it could potentially be used to fill a gap or as an all-purpose instrument.  The truth is, I don’t know how a general iron is even defined, so I was expecting a mashie-style club that might work nicely (for me) from 140-160 yards or so.

mystery stamp

My Clubhead

R Anderson Reel

R Anderson Fishing Reel Stamp of the same era

Well, I loved the club the instant I saw it, and to my surprise, it is clearly a cleek and carries with it two strong features.  The first is its length.  It is 40 inches long.  The second is its shaft.  It may be danga wood; clearly it is not hickory, but what strikes me most is the amazing flexibility it brings to the table.  OMG.  This shaft has as much inherent flex in it as my Carrick cleek shaft – something I found slightly offputting at first, but I have come to adore it and embrace it.  With 40 inches of club length, however, this poses some serious challenges.

I took the club out for my first round with it and approached a par three with 190 to the back pin.  I pulled this club and put a nice, slow stroke on the swing and got close to the front of the green, but not on.  This confirmed for me that the club will perform as a cleek, and likely, carry & roll just a little longer than my Carrick.

DSCF0050When I returned home that day, I pulled a magnifying glass out and examined the head a little closer, only to discover that there were still remnants of the maker’s mark left after years of cleaning.  With close scrutiny, one can clearly see “…N & SONS” in a very simply, sans serif typeface; nothing more.  My efforts to identify the maker generated few options, as not many makers included “Sons” in their name.  Forgan, as example, is R Forgan & “Son,” etc.  Jamie Anderson seems to have nearly always used a circular mark that evolved through the years.  This mark seems very understated and arched, not circular.

The Anderson family included numerous club makers all over Scotland.  One that felt like a strong possibility was Robert Anderson.  Why?  Because he was known to use exotic woods in his clubs as well as his fishing poles.  While danga was not that uncommon, the extraordinary finish on this shaft and the examples of R Anderson rods of danga are numerous.  Further research uncovered something possibly important – the stamp Anderson used on his reels of the 1890s.  I contacted an antique reel dealer in England and he sent me some close ups of the R Anderson stamp – to my eye, there is the possibility that my cleek could have been imprinted with the same, or similar stamp from Edinburgh.  I’ve posted queries on a number of sites, but have had no responses to date.

DSCF0055If anyone has an 1890 club with a similar mark on it, I’d be very keen to see photos of it.  At the very least, the letters rule out many other makers, and winnow the choices to but a very few.

– Rob Birman

[Editor’s Note: One day after posting this page, my danga shaft snapped at the joint of the hosel as I attempted to hit from a tee. 🙁  What a shame to have to “Americanize” this club, but tonight, a southeast American hickory shaft will take its place.  I’ll never replicate the flex, for sure, but I still have my Carrick for that sensation.  Additional note: “modern” hickory shafts that are pre-lathed have a slightly smaller cone on them than needed for these large-hosel clubheads.  I may put some whipping on the cone to compensate, or seek a broader tip from those who lathe their own shafts, such as Louisville Golf.]

Robert Anderson and Sons were clubmakers in Edinburgh.  In fact, Robert and Roderick Anderson ran a sporting goods emporium in Princes Street in the 1890s selling golf, tennis, angling, curling and cricketing goods but had been making clubs for a long time before that date.  Their own background was in making angling equipment.  They rivaled George Forrester in patenting unusual golf club designs: a center-shaft putter, a center-shafted iron, and a wooden fishing rod handle grip (supposedly from the 1830s and on display on the Forgan stand at the 1937 Carnoustie Open).  Their shop also sold an aluminum headed driver.  They were no slouches at marketing.  The patented center-shafted irons they produced in 1893, a cleek and an iron, were demonstrated on North Berwick links, in a foursome played by Ben Sayers and his brother, George, against Jack White and Davie Grant.  The Andersons were top names in the golfing world.

In their entry in the Post Office Directory of 1909 they claimed to be fishing tackle makers by appointment to the late Queen Victoria and, at that time were at 101 Princes Street.  That building was sold in 1914 to Hardy Brothers, by the creditors of Messrs Roderick & Robert Anderson.  Presumably, therefore, once can deduce that they sadly went bankrupt.

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