Ted Williams Woods by Penna, ca. 1970

Value (2008) | $1,500 Auction$2,000 Auction

What drew you to these particular clubs?

Well, I'm actually drawn to about any club that I see at a flea market or tag sale or antique show. I buy 'em, I bring 'em home, put them up in the loft of a barn and never see them again. It's just...

How many clubs do you have?


All right, so where did you find these, then?

In May in Brimfield, Mass., we went up to the antique show and stumbled across the box with the clubs in it and asked the woman what she wanted for them. There was this and a full set of irons with it. And she said she didn't know anything about them and for $25 I could have the set. So I gave her the $25 as quickly as I could. When I got back to the car and I took a better look at them, I discovered that they were, one, brand new, and when I noticed the "Splendid Splinter" on the end of the club, I thought... odd, didn't really have anything to do with golf. And then so as I was looking over the box and saw the tag in the box and I thought, "Well..."

And this tag, of course, says, "To Ted Williams"-- a.k.a. the Splendid Splinter-- when he managed the Washington Senators. And these were made somewhere probably around 1969, 1970, which was the first two years that Ted Williams began managing the Washington Senators. My question, and the big mystery here, is why they were never played with. And I can only think of a couple of things: one, he was so busy managing the Senators, or two, they never got to him, for whatever reason. Now, here's Toney Penna. He was the chief club designer for MacGregor. And, in fact, one of his most famous designs was an Eye-o-matic driver for Jack Nicklaus. Most collectible golf clubs are from that era-- classic golf clubs with the persimmon heads from the '40s and '50s. So why, then, would these have value? Not so much for being golf clubs, but just for this, the "Splendid Splinter." These clubs were sent to Ted Williams-- my guess is because they were prototypes that Toney Penna wanted him to see. He had made clubs for Bob Hope, for Perry Como, for Gary Player, Nicklaus and Palmer, and he wanted to add Ted Williams to the list. Here's a man who not only was a phenomenal baseball player but a world-class jet pilot, a world-class fisherman and a darn good golfer. If you read his book, The Science of Hitting, from 1986, he talks about how much harder it is to hit a baseball than it is to hit a golf ball. If these were without the "Splendid Splinter," even though they're rare, they're just not desirable. There are far more of these clubs than collectors out there. So the value on this group of clubs-- and left-handed clubs are harder to find than right hand-- would probably be an auction estimate of $100 to $300 for the group of them. And they're beautiful; they're stunningly made. They are beautiful. But because they're Williams', I would put an auction estimate of probably $1,500 to $2,000.

No kidding? Terrific.

Appraisal Details

Leila Dunbar Appraisals & Consulting, LLC
Washington, DC
Appraised value (2008)
$1,500 Auction$2,000 Auction
Hartford, CT (August 23, 2008)
Metal , Wood

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