Hi, I'm Ramp Capital, and you might know me from lighting up your Twitter feed with the latest and greatest takes on all things finance (and memes). I'll be collaborating with Rhone over the next few months to provide fun and interesting articles on golf, finance, and how those topics intersect. I hope you join me for this ongoing editorial journey. Last week, I walked you through a day in the life and a bit more about who I am and what I do. This week, I'm bringing you a list of most expensive golf gear ever sold.
Golf is, and always has been, a particular sport. Once banned in Britain by King James II, it practically became a UK national sport just a few years later, after his first round on the green. Today, it’s the universal playground of business executives worldwide, and its champs resemble our chummy aunts and uncles rather than the towering, hulking gladiators of yore.
With centuries, if not millennia, of rich history behind it, golf memorabilia, icons, and courses themselves have become lucrative stores of monetary value. Price tags ranging from the hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars makes sense, given the world’s wealthiest magnates often use the greens to forge major business deals.
But, which golf relics have become bonafide treasures? And what golf items have sold for the most at notably prestigious auctions? Furthermore, do any of golf’s artifacts transcend earthly purchasing power? Read on to discover the answers below, in this collaborative article between Ramp Capital and Rhone.
Most Expensive Golf Ball Ever Sold
Allan Robertson’s Featherie Golf Ball: $11,550 (1989)
Photo Courtesy of Top 100 Golf Courses
If you had the choice to purchase a new car or a golf ball, which would you choose? The average pack of a dozen golf balls goes for about $15. At the higher end, luxury golf balls from the likes of the Titleist AVX to the Dixon Fire, run about $70 for a dozen.
However, one ball’s price tag far surpassed even that of a 24-karat gold-plated ball: One of the few surviving “featherie” balls in existence, created by famed Scottish golfer Allan Robertson.
Today’s golf balls are made from a plastic sphere surrounding bands of rubber. Back in 1845, Robertson made featheries, which were balls of leather stuffed with boiled feathers. Most featheries vanished over time, due to the fragile nature of their materials.
But this one sold for $11,500 at a Cincinnati-based golf memorabilia shop in 1989. Adjusting for inflation, that comes out to about $25,000 today.
Priciest Golf Club Ever Auctioned
Andrew Dickson Long-Nosed Putter: $181,000 (Sotheby’s)
Photo Courtesy of Sotheby's
Perhaps the most famous piece of golf gear sold to make this list, the oldest known golf club sold at a Sotheby’s auction for $181,000 in 2007.
The long-nosed putter was designed by history’s first-known caddie, Andrew Dickson, sometime in the late 1600s. According to Sotheby’s, this putter made the rounds throughout the centuries, as it bore a faded sticker for the 1901 Glasgow International Exhibition.
The $181,000 price tag makes this club the most valuable in history. For perspective, Dickson’s putter sold for nearly twice as much as the legendary Arnold Palmer’s final-victory putter at the 1964 US Open ($97,690).
Most Expensive Award Ever Sold
Arnold Palmer’s Masters Trophy: $444,012
Photo Courtesy of PGA
Speaking of Mr. Palmer, the man’s a legend for a reason. For the first half-century of the Masters Tournament’s existence, Arnold Palmer held more of the esteemed competition’s trophies than any other golfer in the world. (Only Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods have more Masters trophies, with six and five wins, respectively.)
Palmer donated one of his four Masters trophies to Bay Creek Resort in Virginia, a golf resort he designed himself. When the resort got strapped for cash, its owners sold the trophy in 2013 to a collector, who later auctioned it off in 2016.
To date, Palmer’s Masters Trophy is the second most expensive piece of golf memorabilia ever sold. The latest owner maintains it in a private collection, despite the Palmer family’s requests to have it publicly displayed.
Most Expensive Golf Wear Ever Sold
Photo Courtesy of Augusta National Golf Club
While the Masters Trophy provides display rights to golf’s greatests, the champions of the sport can flex their legacy further by preening in the tournament’s esteemed green jackets. In fact, the PGA insists the Augusta National Golf Club’s green jacket is the “the most coveted prize” in the sport.
In terms of price tag, only one piece of golf history has sold for more than Palmer’s Masters Trophy. That claim belongs to the very first Masters champion, Horton Smith, who won the tournament in 1934 and again in 1936.
In 2013, Smith’s handsome jacket auctioned for a whopping $682,229, making it the most expensive golfing item ever sold.
Most Lucrative Golf Endorsement Partnership
Tiger Woods + Nike: $200,000,000+
Photo Courtesy of Clubhouse: Swing U
Celebrity athletes don’t make their fortunes from tournament awards. They make their fortunes from endorsement deals.
In 2019, reports estimated that five-time Masters champion Tiger Woods signed an endorsement deal with Nike worth $200 million. Woods’ first endorsement contract with Nike went for $50 million, and he later received a $100-million extension. To this day, Woods remains the highest paid golfer and one of the highest-earning athletes ever.
Most Expensive Golf Course Ever Built
Trump Golf Links, New York: $269,000,000
Photo Courtesy of abc7NY
One year before America’s 45th president announced his bid to run for the White House, Donald Trump unveiled the most expensive golf course ever built: Trump Golf Links in New York City. The total cost to construct the course came to $269 million.
The course is located about five minutes from Trump Tower. Designed by golf guru Jack Nicklaus, Trump Golf Links took about a decade to complete, and a round costs a few pretty pennies. For NYC residents, 18 holes on the weekend will cost $185. For non-residents, playing on the weekend will cost $227.
Most Valuable Golf Memorabilia of All Time
The Moon’s Golf Balls: PRICELESS
Photo Courtesy of Astronomy.com
The golf ball is, perhaps, the most essential piece of golf equipment. After all, you can’t play a round of golf without one, whereas you could smack it around with sticks found lying on the ground. It’s fitting, then, that just as this list began with a golf ball, it ends with golf balls.
Arguably the most valuable golf gear — in all of human history — is a pair of golf balls shot on the moon by US astronaut Alan Shepherd in 1971. According to the legend, Shepherd snuck the balls and a club onboard the space shuttle, then tried his swings on what is now the solar system’s biggest sand trap.
In February, image specialist Andy Saunders announced he found where Shepherd’s balls landed while conducting research for a book about the Apollo moon missions. Due to the lower-gravity environment and the bulkiness of the spacesuit, Saunders calculated that Shepherd hit the balls just 24 and 40 yards, respectively.
As for the price value of the golf balls — there is none. Their rarity, historical precedence, and distance from the Earth essentially make them priceless (for now). Technically, NASA can claim ownership of the balls, so long as someone can find them among the moon’s piles of dust.
If we were to estimate a dollar-value for the balls, the auction would likely start at the high hundreds of millions or even “low” billions — given the gargantuan cost of sending a mission to the moon.
And in case you’re wondering: No, we don’t know which brand of golf balls are chilling on our nearest natural satellite. NASA won’t say. Maybe Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson, or Elon Musk will swing by the moon to pick them up. Only time will tell...