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Golf goes under the hammer

  • Story Highlights
  • Golf memorabilia remains popular with fans despite tough economic times
  • The most valuable items can be sold at auction for as much as $500,000
  • Programs from golf's majors and the Ryder Cup are the most collectable
By Timothy Abraham and Ben Wyatt
For CNN
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- Watching and playing golf is par for the course for most fans of the game -- but how about owning a piece of the sport's history?

Golf memorabilia is very collectable and clubs in mint condition can go for a lot of money at auction.

Golf memorabilia is very collectable and clubs in mint condition can go for a lot of money at auction.

A Chinese businessman recently splashed out almost $200,000 on the largest collection of hickory golf clubs ever made.

But golf memorabilia is not just the preserve of the very wealthy.

Bonhams Auctioneers in Chester, England will auction off golf items which appeal to fans with large and small budgets at an auction in the city on July 25.

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Kevin McGimpsey, who is an expert in golfing memorabilia at Bonhams, admitted a number of fans remain keen to invest in items despite the current economic climate.

"There is still a healthy appetite for golf memorabilia at auction, the most popular items tend to be programs -- those from the majors and also the Ryder Cup are particularly collectable and ones from the 1930s and 1940s can fetch upwards of $800.

"In terms of the more modern stuff -- anything Tiger Woods-related tends to sell well and items which aren't necessarily available to the general public tend to be very collectable.

"For example a signed menu from a Ryder Cup dinner would fetch a good price.

"Sometimes the most valuable items can be found tucked away in an uncle's attic or shed and not discovered for years.

Photo Check out the golfing memorabilia gallery for some of the items up for auction. »

"And as for the most valuable piece of memorabilia it is probably a spur iron club which was used in the 1600s. The last time one of these came up for auction it went for $350,000 -- although it would probably be nearer to $500,000 today," McGimpsey added.

The record price for a club sold in Britain was $170,000 paid in 1998 at Christie's for a metal-headed, blade putter. A figure that eclipsed the amount an early 18th-century Scottish club raised when it went under the hammer for $150,000 at Sotheby's annual golfing memorabilia auction held in Musselburgh near Edinburgh.

It is no coincidence that items from the history of the sport litter auction houses around the world, as the sport has many wealthy collectors and centuries of play from which to quarry objects.

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King James II of Scotland documented the first official record of golf in 1457 when he banned the game because it had proved distracting to his soldiers who played the game as an alternative to archery practice.

The earliest set of woods and irons are thought to date from the early 1600s, though it has proved hard to accurately date the equipment thus far.

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