Antique golf clubs remain one of the most collectible of antiques. They evoke a charm and ambiance of the Victorian era that is unmistakably romantic, in part because golf was one of the earliest "genteel" sport pastimes. Today, these vintage display pieces are compatible with almost any decor. It's important to restore antique golf clubs correctly, because in doing so you are paying tribute to their illustrious place in sports history as well as preserving them for years to come.
Look over the clubs carefully and determine which ones are worth restoring. Antique clubs are often found in garage and estate sales in horrible condition--with rusted and corroded metal parts, broken wooden handles, leather grips torn or missing, or covered with layers of paint or oil. Set aside the best clubs. Clubs with hickory wood shafts have the most potential for restoration and resale.
Clean the clubs carefully with a damp cloth and mild dish soap. Sometimes a cleaning is all that is needed. Many golf collectors feel that old clubs should either not be restored at all, or be restored with a minimum of changes to the original condition. They feel the "patina" of age, including damage, should be undisturbed. When in doubt, consult with a knowledgeable antique dealer or collector.
Sand off the corrosion and rust on the metal parts with the fine abrasive carborundum paper. Take your time on this, removing only small amounts at a time and being careful to not damage the original patina. Lightly wax and polish the metal parts when finished. Replace any missing metal screws with similar ones and remove dents that hurt appearance. Tighten metal parts.
Remove any newer parts that have been placed on the vintage club in earlier restorations and replace them with vintage parts when possible.
Replace parts that have deteriorated so badly there is no other alternative (such as an entire wood shaft). Keep a record of any major restoration for a possible future sale.
Replace the leather grips if necessary, using a leather as close as possible to the original. To re-create the look of the original patina, recolor any leather that has been worn or scuffed.
Reglue any broken wood shafts to their original state, being careful not to let the glue show. Clean the wood shafts and heads, but do not remove the original varnish. After cleaning, wax the wood to restore original glow and depth of color.
In 2009, most antique hickory golf clubs in good condition were selling for $5 to $50 each.
The head, the grip and the shaft are the most important elements of the golf club. There is more leeway in restoring the grip and shaft. Be very careful when restoring the head of the club.
Collectors highly value the deep yellow color and woodwork of the hickory shaft, along with marks of the maker.
When deciding how much to restore an antique golf club, the rule of thumb is, the older the club, the less restoration should be done.
In trying to get rid of rust on clubs, do not sandblast or buff a vintage golf club with a coarse sanding wheel or use chemical rust removers, as this will potentially erase the fine details on the back and front. Once gone, these important age marks can never be recovered.
Do not chrome plate any parts of the club. This is highly undesirable to collectors.
Do not use epoxy resins or furniture stripping products in the repair of vintage clubs.