The Roberto Family Trust Golf Collection comprises more than 130 clubs spanning the history of club-making from spur irons of the 17th century to spoons and play clubs of the late 19th century.
Curator Will Roberto started collecting the memorabilia in the 1960s and, over the past 50 years, has refined the collection to concentrate on his passion for early golf clubs.
In his native USA, and during his many trips to Scotland and England, he hunted down rarities by a combination of detective work and simply knocking on people’s doors.
Among the many treasures from the Roberto Family Trust Golf Collection is a left-handed, child’s or light spur toe iron, circa 1690-1700 (below), one of the oldest and rarest.
Estimated at $75,000-$100,000, it is one of only eight such clubs known to exist, most of which are in institutional collections. Missing a shaft, now replaced, the toe iron lay overlooked in a box of tools for 50 years.
Other important clubs in Roberto Family Trust Golf Collection include:
The Duke of Atholl’s Heavy Iron, circa 1780 (above). This blacksmith made club, which carries an estimate of $20,000-$25,000, weighs 24.1 ounces.
It has an exceptionally large face and imposing hosel, and the original sheepskin grip is inscribed in ink, ‘Heavy iron’.
The club was the property of John Murray, 4th Duke of Atholl (1755-1830), whose family seat was Blair Castle in Perthshire.
Willie Dunn’s long nose putter by Hugh Philip circa 1830 (above), estimated at $25,000-$40,000.
An attached typed brown paper label states, ‘This club was used by old Willie Dunn in 1859 when Willie Park Sr beat Willie Dunn at Prestwick for £100.00’ (Equivalent to £11,200 today).
A long nose wooden headed putter by John Dickson circa 1780 (above). Dickson from Leith in Edinburgh, is one of the earliest recorded club makers.
One of only three known Dickson clubs from the late 18th century, the club was re-gripped and re-shafted in the 1889s by the same firm. It is estimated at $12,000-$18,000.
A square toe iron circa 1770-1780 by an unknown maker, from the famous ‘Woking Collection’ of Woking Golf Club, Surrey. It is estimated at $25,000-$35,000.
The sale also features a cold painted bronze of amateur champion Johnny Laidlay circa 1895 (below), estimated at $40,000-$60,000.
British Amateur champion in 1889 and 1891, Laidlay won over 130 amateur medals during his playing career, representing Scotland every year from 1902 to 1911.
Kevin McGimpsey of Bonhams, who are conducting the auction in Los Angeles on March 29, said: “The Roberto Family Trust’s outstanding collection of early golf clubs and other golf memorabilia ranks among the top five in the world.
“It represents a lifetime of enthusiasm and connoisseurship and provides an unrivalled opportunity to acquire pieces of great historical significance and rarity.”
Will Roberto said: “Putting together this collection has been a wonderful, absorbing hobby which has given me decades of pleasure but the time has now come for a new generation of collectors to enjoy these fascinating objects.”
All images credit: Bonhams