In an article from the Summer 2018 issue of the American Society of Golf Course Architects’ By Design magazine, Dr Michael Hurdzan talks about his passion for golf collecting.
My golf collecting began on Christmas Day in 1968, when I was given two antique golf books—Robert Hunter’s Book of the Links and George Thomas’s Golf Architecture in America. By then I had been immersed in golf course design for nearly 12 years since apprenticing with Jack Kidwell, my mentor soon-to-become business partner, but I had never given much thought to golf history—especially that of golf course architecture. In many ways those two books changed my life and began a 50-year pleasure trip of studying golf history, and collecting all things related to it.
In the late 1960s there were perhaps only a few hundred people worldwide who were obsessed with golf collecting, and they would occasionally meet in small numbers at events like the Open Championships, or auction houses when some golf collectibles were being sold. There were a few catalogs of stuff out there from collectors who started collecting in the 1920s or 1930s and were selling out because of old age, or heirs disposing of an unwanted inheritance, but there was not much else to help a new collector. Typically, one had to search out golf antiques at flea markets, thrift stores, yard sales or antique shops.
Then, in about 1970, two golf book collectors, Joe Murdoch of Philadelphia, and Bob Kuntz of Dayton, Ohio formed the Golf Collectors Society (www.golfcollectors.com). Today that membership is over 1,500 in at least 15 different countries, and there may be double or triple those numbers of people who are serious golf collectors but are not in the society... like you, perhaps. Today, with the internet, Golf Collectors Society, specialty antique stores, online auctions, and scads of books and ads on the topic of golf collecting, it has become easier and more affordable, and just as much fun and educational as the old days.
The categories and scope of golf collectibles is nearly unimaginable, for anything remotely connected to golf is collected by someone: clubs, bags, balls, art, books, magazines, silver, glass, flags, bag tags, scorecards, pencils, buttons, tees, etc. Everything!
One can collect for breadth of a category or depth, and I choose breadth. Unfortunately, it took me about 35-40 years to figure out that you can’t collect it all, but goodness knows that I tried, and if you ever visited my 5,000 square foot office you would agree. We have some of everything and it shows how pervasive golf was and is in daily life. Be it children’s toys or old people’s walking sticks, there are untold things out there with a golf theme.
If you enjoy golf history, you will enjoy golf collecting, for it is nothing more than an extension of history by surrounding yourself with tangible things that contributed to it. Granted every collector has a different set of attractions and motivations, but we all share a similar exhilaration of finding your own personal ‘treasure.’ This sensation of excitement upon making a find is the difference between a collector and a dealer, who simply acquires and sells items without any real personal attachment. Although everything and everybody has a price, the dealer’s threshold for selling a collectible is lower than a true collector, who tends to cherish his finds and is reluctant to part with them. Historically, golf collectibles tend to appreciate in value, but the worst reason to collect is as a pure investment. Collect because you enjoy the item and you care about preserving it and you will always be happy; avoid adding something because it is ‘a good deal.’
So, my three pieces of advice are to: limit your collecting interest as narrowly as possible; remember the adage ‘buyers beware,’ and; network with experienced people and try to learn from them and their mistakes. Every serious collector has been burned a time or two buying a fake collectible or overpaying for an item, so seek out those who will help you avoid mistakes.
In 2006, the USGA worked with ASGCA to establish a program called the Architectural Archive which is seeking appropriate items to collect, preserve and share with researchers, scholars and other interested people. USGA Museum staff, especially senior librarian Hilary Cronheim (email@example.com), can provide a submission form and instructions on how to donate your architecture-related materials for safe keeping and historical indexing.
I am often asked if I were to start golf collecting today, or to go in a new direction, what it would be. I would focus on all aspects of golf course design, and attempt to amass enough items to open a golf course architecture museum. I may even have enough stuff now for that goal, but first I must deal with whittling down the massive amount of other stuff we have. I have begun to sell many of my duplicate items which would allow displaying more golf course architecture memorabilia.
If you like golf history, you will like golf collecting, especially golf course architectural related items.
This article is the introduction to a series of pieces by Dr. Hurdzan on individual categories of collectible, that will be available via www.asgca.org.