A golf ball from the 1840’s at a record sale auction

A golf ball dating back to the 1840s can fetch a very high price. It’s part of a collection of 75 items and balls on sale through September 18th on Jeff Ellis’ website. On the ball we can read the seal of Alan Robertson, the maker of the iconic ball and who was the mentor of famous Old Tom Morris.

Made of ‘feathers’, this ball, never used, bears Robertson’s name written in his hand, as well as the number 29 in reference to its size and weight. The open-to-all auction started at $2,500, but has already reached double the starting price: $4,800.

You can visit the online auction site to follow the evolution of prices, bid on your own, or simply take a look at the treasures of this exceptional sale. Also in the stake is a “gutta percha” ball that at the time was a point of contention between Robertson and Morris.

The ball in question is in such good condition that the latter’s seal is clearly visible, indicating that he hit the model himself. At the time of the Romans, a similar game was already in vogue, which can be considered its ancestors: it was called “paganica”, it was played in the countryside (actually baguos) with sticks and balls and was also widely practiced by armies in the borders of the empire.

golf and history

In general, it is believed that golf originated in Scotland, from there it spread to the British Isles and from there to the rest of the world. On the other hand, some enthusiasts and historians cite the existence of written Dutch documents whose evidence seems indisputable: Stephen van Hengel, the historian, attests to the practice of a game called golf in the Netherlands since 1297.

In Holland, there was another game, called “kolven”, in which it was necessary to hit, with a stick slightly larger than the one used today, a ball weighing about a kilogram to make it reach, as quickly as possible, two pegs stuck to the ground.

Now, it is difficult to settle the dispute between Scotland and Holland. What is certain is that the game played by the Dutch is well documented, both by city ordinances, which granted land to golf courses, and court rulings, which punished with fines before golfers, who caused damage and disturbed the calm, to come. To play within the city walls.

However, it must be said that at the end of the thirteenth century literacy was not widespread in Europe and especially in Scotland. This could explain the lack of written documentation, because it is likely that no one thought it necessary to transcribe references to a hobby that few would have.

The debate over who invented golf has been and always will be. Some accuse the Scots of deliberately distorting the origin of the sport in their favour, on national grounds. Distinguished historians have claimed that golf was invented after the founding of the University of St. Andrews in 1413, but to support this claim, they have provided no evidence. [without source] While there is evidence that at that time golf had been practiced in Scotland for more than a century.

In short, what can certainly be documented is that in the fourteenth century the trade movement between Holland and the east coast of Scotland was widespread and thriving, so if an expensive game had spread in Scotland as in Holland, the news would take much longer. Little time to spread in both directions across the North Sea.

Another proven fact is the import of balls from Holland to Scotland and their trade in the opposite direction to the Scottish Bays. In conclusion, it can be said that there is a high probability that golf originated in Holland.

It has also been documented that when golf spread to Scotland, it was no longer played in the Netherlands. The first rules of golf were codified by the heads of the respected Edinburgh Golfers Company. Golf was introduced in Italy in the eighteenth century, by the Count of Albany, in Rome, at Villa Borghese, while a course later opened in Rome also at Villa Doria Pamphili.

However, the first “modern” golf course was the Florence Golf Club, which was founded in Florence by the strong English community in 1889. The practice of golf in Italy is governed by the Italian Golf Federation (FIG), which was founded in Milan in 1927 and is now framed Among the sports federations of CONI, which are based in Rome and govern the activity of their subsidiaries. Official national championships began in 1929.

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