The King of Clubs

  • Photo by Cody Maxwell
    Old Tom Morris’s golf ball press and a ball that Morris made with it. Photo by Cody Maxwell
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    A circa-1898 president iron Photo by Cody Maxwell
  • Photo by Cody Maxwell
    A 19th-century wooden-shafted spoon Photo by Cody Maxwell
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    A circa-1920 super-giant niblick Photo by Cody Maxwell
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    A circa-1905 triangle-head putter Photo by Cody Maxwell
  • Photo by Cody Maxwell
    An early 20th-century Gassiat putter Photo by Cody Maxwell
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    And G. Alexander’s circa-1890 duplex wood Photo by Cody Maxwell
  • Photo by Cody Maxwell
    Dick Estey’s collection includes artwork showing how golf was played hundreds of years ago. Photo by Cody Maxwell
  • Photo by Cody Maxwell
    A display of Estey’s accomplishments in golf at the Waverly Country Club in Portland, Ore. Photo by Cody Maxwell
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    An Ayres model LCL iron, circa 1897 Photo by Cody Maxwell
  • Photo by Cody Maxwell
    A Holmac rudder putter, circa 1923 Photo by Cody Maxwell
  • Photo by Cody Maxwell
    A trophy club, circa 1903, that was used by the Bromley and Bickley Golf Club near London. Photo by Cody Maxwell
  • Photo by Cody Maxwell
    19th-century wooden-shafted spoons and feather balls used during play in that era. Photo by Cody Maxwell
  • Photo by Cody Maxwell
    A 1933 golf poster designed by Arthur C. Michael for the London & North Eastern Railway. Photo by Cody Maxwell
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    A McEwan long spoon, circa 1855 Photo by Cody Maxwell
  • Photo by Cody Maxwell
    A McEwan long spoon, circa 1855 Photo by Cody Maxwell
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    An engraved presentation driver, circa 1910; Photo by Cody Maxwell
  • Photo by Cody Maxwell
    The Major, a rake iron made by James Brown in 1903 Photo by Cody Maxwell
  • Photo by Cody Maxwell
    The Major, a rake iron made by James Brown in 1903 Photo by Cody Maxwell
  • A Gourlay brassie, circa 1894
  • Photo by Cody Maxwell
    A Higgs Deliverer rake iron, circa 1904 Photo by Cody Maxwell
  • Photo by Cody Maxwell
    A late-19th-century device used to cut grooves into gutty rubber balls for a more consistent roll. Photo by Cody Maxwell
  • Photo by Cody Maxwell
    A directional iron, circa 1911, and a trio of chole balls, which were used to play a derivative of golf that is still played today in France. Photo by Cody Maxwell
  • Photo by Cody Maxwell
  • Photo by Cody Maxwell
  • Photo by Cody Maxwell
  • Photo by Cody Maxwell
  • Photo by Cody Maxwell
  • Photo by Cody Maxwell
  • Photo by Cody Maxwell
  • Photo by Cody Maxwell
  • Photo by Cody Maxwell
  • Photo by Cody Maxwell
  • Photo by Cody Maxwell
  • Photo by Cody Maxwell
  • Photo by Cody Maxwell
  • Photo by Cody Maxwell
  • Photo by Cody Maxwell
  • Photo by Cody Maxwell
  • Photo by Cody Maxwell
  • Photo by Cody Maxwell
  • Photo by Cody Maxwell
  • Photo by Cody Maxwell
  • Photo by Cody Maxwell
  • Photo by Cody Maxwell
<< Back to Collection, August 2014

Dick Estey dominated amateur golf tournaments until he had to quit playing. But that did not stop him from dominating the game. 

About 20 years ago, Dick Estey’s life was destined to change. At the time, he was living like a PGA tour pro, although without a tour card or, for that matter, the professional status. Still, he was competing in—and winning—senior amateur tournaments and championships around the world. By the early 1990s, Estey had accrued almost a dozen national and international titles: He won the Northwest Senior Amateur Championship and the Mexican Senior Amateur Championship multiple times, as well as the 1989 Canadian Senior Amateur Championship, among other accomplishments. All signs pointed to a prosperous future and a long reign over the senior amateur circuit—except that Estey’s lower back had taken all that it could. “Golf has been a major part of my life for a long, long time,” he says. “It’s just a bitch getting old.”

He recalls lying on his bathroom floor in his early 60s, writhing in pain from a lower-spine injury and thinking he had swung a club for the final time. Surgery was planned, but there was no guarantee that it would restore his health to a point where he could tee it up again. The prospect of a life devoid of golf was something Estey could not fathom; he had grown up playing the game, after all. So he turned his attention from dominating modern amateur championships to becoming the world’s foremost collector of vintage-era equipment. He started by visiting antique shops near his home in Portland, Ore., looking for an “old club.” When he finally found one—an undistinguished wooden-shafted example that cost $100—the acquisition became the first step down a new fairway.

Since then, Estey has amassed a private collection of vintage golf equipment and artifacts that rivals that of any public museum, including the World Golf Hall of Fame in St. Augustine, Fla., with many of his pieces documented in Jeff Ellis’s The Clubmaker’s Art, the definitive tome on vintage clubs. It is a treasury that tells the history of the game as it was played centuries ago, and as guests to Estey’s private museum in Portland can attest, it dispels many of the misconceptions surrounding the game and its early beginnings.

Continued on next page

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