All the PGA need to do is contact Spain’s Valderama golf club, who purchased the 1821 feathery at Christie’s South Kensington’s sale of such walk-spoiling memorabilia on July 10, and then touch base with the wunderkind’s lawyers.
Consider this flight of fancy for a moment, for even though no-one could be permitted to strike at this historically important and fragile missile (despite its excellent condition and an impressive auction value), it would be fascinating to see if a player of Wood’s spectacular talents would make the cut using a brand-new, custom-made ball of cow-hide stuffed with goose feathers.
In the early 19th century a good player equipped with a decent wooden “spoon” and a first rate feathery by a top maker like Allan Robertson (from whose St Andrew’s workshop our ball originated) could be expected to cover 200 yards with a single shot, perhaps longer if the ball was a heavier version, say 30-34 troy pennyweight (1.6-1.8oz).
Of course, the modern player would have the advantage of better clubs, although iron shots would be contraindicated by the friability of the ball, and accuracy around the greens might be too much to ask of its inconsistent shape, which was often more ovoid than spherical.
A well-made feathery was also more expensive in its day than the most sophisticated liquid core ball on today’s market; Allan Robertson was quoted as saying that “no ball maker with a conscience could make more than three balls a day”.
Even so, a few days’ interest made on the career earnings of Tiger Woods would have accounted for the auction value of this ball, which cost Valderama £24,000 (plus 17.5/10 per cent premium).