Jaime Ortiz-Patino golf memorabilia collection gives a birdie's eye view of its history

We've often commented on the particular fascination memorabilia collectors have with the history of golf, from the first literary mentions of the game (starting with comic poem 'The Goff'), artworks and of course the clubs and balls which have gone through so many variations in the game's  history.

Last autumn, Jeffrey B Ellis's collection of golf clubs sold at Sotheby's with a record set for a golf club. Now Christie's is offering a collection is a wider range, assembled over a quarter of a century, and touching on various aspects of the game's history.

This is the Jaime Ortiz-Patiño collection, put together by the founder of the famous Valderrama Golf Club. The collection recollects the game's progress, especially through the instruments used, to its modern status as one of the most lucrative sports in the world for stars such as Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods - the top earning sportsmen of 2011.

John Lavery The Golf Course painting
John Lavery's painting The Golf Course

(We currently have a rare example of a baseball cap signed by Tiger Woods available for sale. Click to find out more.)

Whilst its property of being lucrative is relatively recent, golf has long been perceived as a rich man's sport. There are several reasons for this. One historical reason is the cost of Featherie balls.

At one point in the game's history, simple wooden balls were certainly used. But in the early 17th century the sport was revolutionised by the creation of new balls as follows: a wet cowhide sphere was stuffed with a top-hat fill of wet goose feathers.

As the cowhide dried, it shrank and as the feathers dried, they expanded, thus creating a hard, compact ball, and these were used by players for more than six months. Each one cost more than a club. A selection is available with estimates ranging from £5,000-20,000.

Allan Robertson Gutty Ball
Allan Robertson's Gutty Ball

Featheries were the most desirable balls for over 200 years before Gutty balls were developed. These were made using evaporated latex (gutta-percha) from Malaysian rubber trees. These reinvigorated the game as they were highly durable and much cheaper than the previous kind, and water-resistant to boot.

In 1858, Allan Robertson became the first player to score under 80 on St Andrews' Old Course for first he used a Gutty ball. (This was despite initially detesting them so much that he dismissed his apprentice Old Tom Morris for using one in a tournament, and actually burnt Gutties out of contempt.)

A Gutty ball made by Robertson is estimated at £12,000-18,000 in the auction.

One highlight amongst the clubs is the Morris Putter, created by master club-maker Hugh Philp. This was used by both Old Tom Morris and his son Young Tom Morris.

The former was runner-up in the first Open Championship in 1860 and went on to win it four times, including a triumph at age 46, which still stands as the record for the oldest age to win the tournament.

Morris Putter
The Morris Putter - used by two legends of the game

His son, Young Tom Morris was a prodigy and apparently even better player, still holding the record as the youngest winner of a major championship at 17, and is the only player to win four times in a row despite tragically dying at the age of 24. The club is listed at £70,000-100,000.

One of the earliest square-toe iron clubs in existence is also available at £80,000-120,000.

Art works offered include a preparatory oil sketch for the most famous painting in the history of golf: The Golfers by Charles Lees, (est £120,000-180,000). The final painting is in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.

The likely top lot of the Jaime Ortiz-Patiño collection is The Golf Course, North Berwick by Sir John Lavery, painted in the early 1920s. This is expected to achieve £200,000 to £300,000 in the 400 lot sale which takes place in London on May 30, 2012 and is likely to total £2m in all.

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