R B Wilson
Robert Black "Buff" Wilson was born in Anstruther in 1869 and there probably knew Robert Condie from whom he bought many iron heads when they both later moved to St Andrews. Wilson learned his clubmaking as an apprentice with Old Tom Morris from the mid-1880s onwards. In addition to his clubmaking skills he was a fine golfer and, in 1888, took up the position of professional/greenkeeper at Minchinhampton in Gloucestershire where he first had to lay out the course. (This course is famous for the woodcut of the lady golfer by Lucien Davis in 1890).
Short spells as professional at Sheffield, Sidcup and Beckenham followed, before he sailed to the US in 1896 to take up the post of professional at Shinnecock Hills, Long Island. The April 1897 issue of Golf, published in New York, carries an advertisement from him, 'R B Wilson, late of Shinnecock Hills Golf Club, is open for an engagement. Highest references.'
He patented a mashie-cleek for approach shots and sold 1200 of them in 1898. A press report on him while he was home in St Andrews for the winter of 1901-2 mentioned also his patented Daisy mashie and that he had three patents for putters going through registration: the “1000” with holes cut through at toe and heel leaving a central corrugated striking area; another corrugated putter, the “A1” with a goose-neck and the “100” putter, designed for seaside grass, with a depth of face of only one inch with a lie back and heavy and broad rest.
He spent several summers as pro/instructor at Lakewood and Deal, NJ, and in Connecticut, but always returned to St Andrews for the winter months. He used the time there to make clubs which he exported to the US. In 1905 he accepted the position of professional at the Wentorf Reinbek club in Germany but returned to St Andrews again, in semi-retirement, in 1910.
Despite the large numbers of clubs he exported to the US between 1895 and 1905, his earlier irons, almost all forged by Condie, are very collectible.
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