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Golf's Cleek Makers and Cleek Marks

Anvils, arrows, flowers, crosses, shamrocks, stars, knots, anchors, regent lions, rearing horses, pipes, keys, hearts, hands, knights and Scots are all traditional symbols used to identify different cleek makers. These marks, made from simple pictures, were usually stamped on the back of the club iron head by the cleek-maker.

Cleek Mark of Anchor

Cleek Mark of Knight

Cleek Mark of an Anvil
Cleek Mark of a Lion
Cleek Mark of a Heart with Arrow

If what's a Cleek is Greek to you

As you delve into the history of club making you will surely find reference to cleeks. What's a cleek, you ask? In golf, a cleek is the name of a number-one iron which has very little loft to the club face. Some suggest that this early straight faced iron originally was required to hit a ball out of deep wagon ruts. There were Maxwell cleeks that had holes drilled in the hosel to reduce club weight, and putting cleeks with long, shallow faces but less loft than an ordinary cleek, designed for use on rough greens. However among collectors of antique golf clubs, cleek has come to refer to something more.

The difference between a Cleek Maker and a Club Maker

Generally, cleek-maker and cleek mark are terms used to describe the maker of the iron club heads and the pictorial insignia used to mark the club head. Traditionally, cleek-makers produced just the heads of the clubs while club-makers were the ones who finished the club by adding the shaft and other finishing touches.

John M. Manclark of Hilton Park, Milngavie, Scotland, was a club maker but not a cleek-maker. He shafted and finished a cleek-maker's iron heads that were marked with the insignia of The Scot. John Manclark's name and the name of Hilton Park, the golf club where he worked, were stamped on the club head by the blacksmith, cleek-maker. Click on the image of the spade mashie for a more detailed view of The Scot cleek mark.

The cleek mark on J. M. Manclark's
irons is of The Scot.
John M. Manclark Hilton Park Special Spade Mashie - The Scot

The first cleek marks

Cleek marks gained in usage after about 1880 although the very earliest appears to be the Carrick mark, a small cross, dating to the early to mid 1860's. As the wholesale demand for club heads grew, blacksmiths found a lucrative trade in their manufacture. They would place their mark on the club head along with the name of the club maker who would ultimately finish the shaft and sell the club.

Thomas Stewart of St. Andrews

Cleek Mark of The Pipe

The pipe was the insignia stamped on the irons of a respected cleek-maker, Thomas Stewart of St. Andrews. Tom Stewart established his business in the mid-1890's, making clubs for such celebrities of the day as Old Tom Morris himself. The snake figure was another mark used by Stewart.

A short illustrative listing of some cleek-makers and their marks

William Gibson of Kinghorn, Scotland, used a star as his cleek mark.
Cochrane Ltd. (J.P. Cochrane & Company) of Edinburgh used two cleek marks, the knotted rope and the knight in armour.
James Anderson used the arrow cleek mark (not to be confused with an arrow appearing with the word Accurate used on a number of putters by different makers).
F. & A. Carrick of Musselburgh used a small cross as the cleek mark.
Willie Wilson of St. Andrews Image of St. Andrew
W. & D. Ashford Image of fox head and fore flags
Reginald Brougham Image of shamrock
Spence & Gourlay of St. Andrews Image of shamrock
James Spence (successor to Spence & Gourlay) Image of flagstick
James McEwan Image of a thistle

Robert Condie of St. Andrews

 

 

MacGregor (Crawford, McGregor & Canby Co. of Dayton, Ohio)

Image of a Rose (imitation of Condie Cleek Mark)

Hendry & Bishop of Edinburgh
Tom Stewart of St. Andrews used a squiggly snake cleek mark between 1895-1905 on lady's or junior's clubs.
J.H. Williams Company, Brooklyn, New York W in a diamond
George Nicoll, Leven, Scotland
Cleek Mark of the Palm of a Hand
Charles Millar, Glasgow Image of a thistle
W. Winton & Company, Ltd., Montrose, Scotland Image of a diamond
A.H. Scott, Earlsferry, Elie, Scotland Image of a small lion
Frank Johnson
F.H. Ayres, London, England Image of a Maltese Cross
Charles Gibson of Musselburgh
Hillerich & Bradsby of Louisville, Kentucky Image of a Grand Slam Poker Hand

Frequently Asked Questions About Cleek Marks

Subject: Cleek Mark
Date: Mon, 29 Apr 2002

Q: I have an old Donald J. Ross club with what looks to be a hammer as the mark. Who might this club maker be? - Unsigned

A: A. G. Spalding & Brothers of Chicopee, Massachusetts used the mark of two roses on clubs sold to other makers. The two roses are found on many clubs that are also stamped with names of club professionals and retail stores. These were made between (circa) 1907-1919. The hammer was another Spalding & Brothers cleek mark. There are two versions of it. Your club appears to have the second version of the Spalding hammer which was used as a cleek mark on clubs sold to club professionals. This mark, normally appearing on the toe end of the club, was applied to iron heads that were made at the company's London shop between 1905-1915. Spalding & Brothers also used the "Accurate" Arrow between 1910-1920.

The makers mark for Donald J. Ross of Pinehurst, North Carolina was Crossed Clubs with the letter "D" on the left, the letter "J" on the right, the letter "R" at the bottom, and an upside down horseshoe at the top. (Source: "Cleek Marks and Trademarks on Antique Golf Clubs," by Peter Georgiady and Patrick Kennedy (Airlie Hall Press, Kernersville, North Carolina, 2000).

R Auld Special Dunbar and Accurate Arrow club marksSubject: Re: Cleek marks
Date: Wed, 2 Apr 2001

Q: I read your web page with interest with regard to makers marks. Can you help me with a club I recently acquired please? It has the clay pipe mark of Stewart and an oval with R Auld Special Dunbar. It also has an arrow similar to your description for James Anderson. Above the arrow is the word "Abjurate". I would be grateful for any info. I am confused about the two marks, the pipe and the arrow. I have never heard of the word "Abjurate". --J.D.

A: Thank you for your query about the cleek marks on your club. It was interesting to view the picture you sent along and after examining the word above the arrow we have concluded that while it appears to say "ABJURATE" due to wear, it actually says "ACCURATE". To shed some more light on this subject, here is an excerpt from a great guide to collectible golf clubs by Peter Georgiady, titled, "Collecting Antique Golf Clubs":

The Terms 'Special', 'Own' and 'Accurate'-- Three generic marks appear on irons for which collectors need explanations. Many irons are marked with the word 'special' along with all the other markings on the back of the club head. There is no real meaning for this term many makers used to identify their higher quality products.

Some club makers include the work 'Own' or 'Own Model' among the markings on clubs. The word own usually means the maker, himself a professional player, or a professional whose autograph or name are stamped on the club head at one time used that very model club. This does not mean this club came from that player's bag, merely it is one of the many replicas of his personal club which were made.

The word 'Accurate' accompanied by an arrow appears on many putters. A fair number of clubs can be found with this mark which was neither trademarked by any one maker or used by anyone exclusively. Tom Stewart, Spalding and MacGregor each used this mark; the arrow portion is frequently confused with the Anderson arrow cleek mark. ( p. 172-173, Collecting Antique Golf Clubs, published by Airlie Hall Press, Greensboro, NC).

We're pasture golfers here at PastureGolf.com and not serious collectors or golf historians. However, we agree with you that the clay pipe mark is that of Stewart (as you know); the oval mark with "R Auld Special Dunbar" within, refers to a particular model that Stewart manufactured, possibly to distinguish it as a higher quality product line (we're just surmising about that); and the Arrow with "Accurate" above it was commonly used by Stewart and other club makers to suggest that play with this club would be accurate and straight as an arrow. Thanks for letting us take a look at your club. We hope you've found this interesting and helpful!

Subject: Cleek Mark
Date: Thu, 12 Apr 2001

Q: Greetings from Vancouver, I have just acquired a club that bears a cleek mark of a shield and banner. On the banner it clearly (with the help of a loop) reads: "One & All". Stewart's pipe is there as well, with an extremely tiny registration mark very close to the sole of the club. Any idea when Stewart used the "One & All"? No mention of mashie, etc. Any help you could pass on re this unusual cleek mark would be appreciated....another stamp in an oval reads: "F.A. Firstbrook, Lelant". Does that help? -PJR

A: We consulted a couple of sources ("Wood Shafted Golf Club Value Guide" and "Collecting Antique Golf Clubs," both books by Peter Georgiady) and couldn't find any reference to the "One & All" shield and banner mark that you described. However, we do know that Tom Stewart produced thousands of iron heads for most of the top club makers of the day and the oval stamp which reads" F.A. Firstbrook, Lelant" is likely the mark of the club maker in Cornwall, England (where Lelant is located) for which Stewart made the cleek.

Subject: Cleek mark and Firstbrook
Date: Mon, 24 Sep 2001 12:19:37

Came across this page looking for Firstbook's - my family tree, I think the name on the golf clubs is E.A. FIRSTBROOK (Ernest Albert). He was a professional golfer, and was killed in WW1 (age 30) he received the MM. He lived in Lelant, Cornwall, and was married to Gladys M. Firstbrook, of 6 Tryingham Row, Lelant, Cornwall. I know this is little to do with golf, but I thought the person making the enquires may like some info on the name. Regards, Jacquie

Subject: More about Firstbrook
Date: Wed, 10 Dec 2003 09:41:29

The "One and All" on the Firstbrook cleek is taken from the county crest of Cornwall. Firstbrook would certainly have been a descendant of John Mucklestone Firstbrook who was recruited as an Iron Founder with two other men to go to Cornwall to establish a foundry. He resided in St. Erth which is quite close to Lelant and died in 1818. The cleek could well have been made in the family foundry that he passed on to his heirs three of whom were also iron founders - Doug Firstbrook

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Links to Other Pasture Golf Features

WPA New Deal Golf CoursesPhoto Archive and Collection of Historical Photographs of Famous GolfersThat Elusive Ace: the Hole-in-One and who's been there, done thatAlan Shepard - A Golfer Out of this World

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This Page Updated: February 2, 2008

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