Our History: A Timeline

The St Andrews Golf Company is the only golf club manufacturer at the ‘Home of Golf’ and the last club maker in the world retaining the traditional skills to hand craft playable sets of hickory and modern state-of-the-art golf clubs. We offer a unique opportunity to see how clubs have been made for 600 years since golf was first played at the “Home of Golf.”

Our history at the St. Andrews Golf Co. Ltd’s dates back to 1881. We are the last remaining Scottish golf club manufacturer, a result of the major consolidation that has gone on in the industry in Scotland. The company is home to three of Scotland’s most famous club making brands: George Nicoll, Tom Stewart, and of course, St Andrews Golf Co. Visitors are welcome to see what we do in person. For those of you visiting us online, we offer you the following timeline to help you understand how we have become what we are today.

1881

George Nicoll, a blacksmith by trade, began the manufacture of hand forged iron heads or “cleeks”

Nicoll’s designs were innovative and included in 1895 a swan neck putting cleek which created the same effects as a modern center-shaft putter. The designs attracted some very large orders–one being placed in 1898 by the Forth Rubber Company for 10,000 clubs. Among Nicoll’s many staff players were three-time Open Champion Henry Cotton, Brian Huggett, Dai Rees and Vivien Saunders. The company remained owned and distributed worldwide by the same family until 1982. Nicoll’s famous cleekmark–an outlined depiction of an upright, palm-facing hand–first appeared in 1905. The St Andrews Golf Company (which owns the George Nicoll brand) still incorporates the cleekmark on every Nicoll-branded product it produces.

1893

Tom Stewart Jr. opens his “cleekworks” on Argyle Street St Andrews

Tom StewartTom Stewart had learnt his trade as a blacksmith with his father in Carnoustie where cleeks were sometimes made (George Morris, older brother of Tom, was a client of renown). Stewart went to work in St Andrews with the well-known clubmaker Robert White in 1890 and three years after started business for himself, using the famous pipe-brand cleekmark previously used by his father in Carnoustie. His cleeks found favor with many famous golfers including US Open winner Francis Ouimet and Grand Slam winner Robert T Jones Jr. Over the years, millions of pipe-brand clubs have been produced. Out of respect to Bobby Jones, St Andrews Golf Company reproduces exact copies of the clubs supplied to the legend during his 1930 “Grand Slam” year. The pipe brand and Tom Stewart Company are now part of the St Andrews Golf Co.

1906

St Andrew Golf Company, Dunfermline and Glasgow, starts production.

Company designer Willie Ogg comes up with the “Oggmented” clubs–a very early method of producing a balanced set. Notable players to use these clubs were Densmore (Denny) Shute 1933 Open Champion, Gene Sarazen and Johnny Farrell.

1907

Arnaud Massy Becomes the First Overseas Winner of the Open Championship

The 1907 Open took place at Hoylake. Arnaud Massy and Walter Toogood were the first-round leaders with 76 each in terrible weather. At the end of 36 holes, Massy held a one stroke lead over J.H. Taylor and Tom Ball. Tom Williamson and George Pulford were two behind. Harry Vardon was down the field, eight behind and James Braid was ten strokes off the lead. In the third round, Taylor shot a 76 while Massy went around in 78 and the Englishman now led by one shot. In the final round, Taylor sliced his second shot at the 3rd hole into the long grass and he ended up with a seven, which cost him dearly. He reached the turn in 41 and came home in 39 for a total of 314. Massy’s 38 for the front nine took him into the lead and then, like Taylor, he came home in 39 for a total of 312. Massy won with a set of George Nicoll irons.

1926

George Nicoll produces the revolutionary new set of clubs called the “Indicator” series.

This set was to radically change the market for clubs. They were the first matching set of irons. Each was stamped on the back with the approximate distance the club should achieve, thereby helping golfers with club selection. Each club was also made with the same weight of shaft and flex. Wee take that for granted today, but this was breakthrough thinking at the time.

1930

Bobby Jones Pulls Off the Grand Slam

Robert Tyre Jones Jr. completes the Holy Grail of golf, winning the Open and Amateur championships of Britain and the USA in the same calendar year–a feat never achieved before or since. “Bobby Jones” was fanatical about his clubs. On his retirement from golf, which followed soon after completing the slam, he stated, “I was very proud of my clubs. There were some sixteen which I considered to be on the active list.” Five of those clubs were made by Tom Stewart and George Nicoll.

1933

Denny Shute Logs Another Win, With St Andrews Golf Co. Clubs

From the middle of the pack American Densmore Shute returned his fourth round of 73 and found he was sharing the clubhouse lead with fellow Ryder Cup player Craig Wood. It looked certain that they would be joined by a third member of the team, when Diegel played a fine second shot to the last hole and needed two putts for a tie. He left the first putt virtually stone dead and crouched over the ball in his familiar style with elbows splayed wide, forearms parallel with the ground. In reference to the result of that putt, renowned golf correspondent Bernard Darwin reported that Diegel missed it “by the widest possible margin.” He had, in fact, missed the ball completely. An air shot with the putter. In the subsequent play-off Shute clinched the championship by five shots over 36 holes. Denny Shute went on to win two consecutive US PGA titles later in the decade. Shute played with St Andrews Golf Company clubs.

1934

Henry Cotton Wins His First Open

The decade of American domination in the Open Championship finally ended at Royal St George’s in 1934. Opening rounds of 67 and 65 by Henry Cotton left all opposition so far adrift that it was almost as if he was playing a lone exhibition. The second round of 65 was seized on by the Dunlop company and their best-selling golf ball bore the magic number for many years. A third round of 72 brought a little reality to Cotton’s situation, but with one round to play he still held a ten-shot lead over the field. That lead quickly unraveled during the first twelve holes of the final round. The momentum gathering around Cotton’s collapse, left onlookers feeling grave doubt that he could hang on for the title. In common with Bobby Jones, Cotton suffered badly with nerves and found it difficult to cope with the pressures of tournament golf. Unable to eat properly before the last round he suffered stomach cramps and reached the turn in 40. Three more shots were spilled over the next three holes before he was able to stem the flow. Short of the green in two at the 13th, Cotton chipped to four feet and holed the putt, steadying his nerves sufficiently enough to get him home in 79. Cotton’s final score was still good enough to give him a five-shot margin of victory and his first of three Open Championships. Henry Cotton played George Nicoll clubs throughout his career, right up to his retirement in the mid 1970s.

1937

Cotton Wins Second Open

The 1937 Open Championship was played at Carnoustie. Ed Dudley, one of the American Ryder Cup team members playing in The Open, was the first round leader with a score of 70. Reg Whitcombe moved into the lead after the second round, holding a two-shot advantage over both his brother Charles and Dudley. Henry Cotton was tied for 6th, five shots adrift. The final two rounds of the Championship were played in a steady, cold, downpour. A third round score of 74 saw Reg Whitcombe maintain his two-stroke lead over Charles while Cotton moved up to third place, three shots behind. During the fourth round, Reg seemed very concerned about how wet the grips of his clubs were getting. At the 7th tee, his driver seemed to slip out of his hands in the middle of his down-swing, causing him to top the ball. It slithered all of about 40 yards and finished in the rough. He ended up taking a six at the hole, which would ultimately prove decisive. He finished the round on 76 for a total of 292. Cotton, who was playing behind Whitcombe, was aware that he needed a 72 or better to take the lead. Playing excellent golf despite the conditions, Cotton made up the necessary ground and arrived at the 18th needing a six to win. His second shot found the bunker at the edge of the green, but he was down in five to post a total of 290. Only Charles Whitcombe could realistically catch Cotton if he shot a 72, but he could manage no better than a 76. As the afternoon wore on, the greatest danger to Cotton was that the course would be declared unplayable due to the amount of water lying on it and the round cancelled. The course remained playable – only just – and Cotton was declared The Open Champion.

1948

Cotton’s Third Title

When he won his first Open Championship at Royal St George’s in 1934, Henry Cotton set a new record 65 in the second round. At Muirfield in 1948, his second-round score of 66 lacked the resonance of his earlier record, but it propelled him towards another five-shot winning margin and his third Open title.

1968

Brian Huggett Tops the European Order of Merit

Huggett turned professional in 1951 and won 16 events on the European circuit, including two after the formal start of the European Tour in 1972. He topped the Order or Merit in 1968 and was the third highest money winner in the first season of the formal tour. Huggett was a George Nicoll player during the ’60s and ’70s.

1977

Vivien Saunders Wins the British Ladies Open at Lindrick Golf Club

Vivien was a long time player of George Nicoll clubs.

1982

Swilken Golf Company of St Andrews Buys George Nicoll

Nicoll’s operations movie into the town.

1995

The Tom Stewart brand is added to the St Andrews Golf Company

2007

St Andrews Golf Company Opens New Facility

Just five miles southwest of the town of St Andrews, the clubmaking factory opens its doors to visitors.

2012

Retail Shop Opens Downtown

We open our first retail shop at 8 Golf Place St Andrews, just 50 yards from the 18th green of the Old Course.

 

2013

We invest in the latest training and fitting equipment

Flightscope for club fitting & coaching. The GASP Sports Analysis Video Software offers the opportunity to analyse your movement as never before. The Golf Swing Analysis Software has over 10,0000 customers worldwide.Our solutions offer not just regular video but high speed video, integrated 3D motion analysis, force platform data, ball flight data and club data. The Planeswing is the most complete golf development system available.

 

2014

Precision Series Irons Launched

To celebrate 100 years since George Nicoll debuted the Precision Series we launch a limited edition forged set. These irons are forged from 1020 carbon steel and feature a CNC-milled cavity, designed to appeal to a wide range of playing levels without compromise. Amateurs will find outstanding feel and forgiveness on off-center hits even while the most experienced players (including playing pros) will gain every advantage of workability.

 

James White: New Brand Sponsor

We sign a sponsorship deal with new pro James White who plays on the Alps Tour. James White had an illustrious amateur career.

Career highlights:

2006 Scottish Boys Champion
2009 & 2011 Scottish Universities Strokeplay Champion
2011 Scottish Golf Union Order of Merit Winner
2013 Scottish Amateur Championship Finalist
https://www.jameswhitegolf.com

 

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