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The incredible story behind Arnold Palmer’s $275,000 irons from the 1960s

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Arnold Palmer earned his nickname, “The King,” in multiple legendary ways. As part of his folklore, Palmer was, indeed, The King of tinkering with golf equipment.

For proof, look no further than the story of his personal Wilson Staff Model Dyna-Powered “Arnold Palmer” irons, which are selling for $275,000 at the Golf Links to the Past store, which is located at The Lodge at Pebble Beach.

Using this particular set of irons (2-9 iron), Palmer won 14 events in 1960-1961, including The 1960 Masters, the 1960 U.S. Open (at Cherry Hill), and the 1961 British Open (at Royal Birkdale).

A closer look at the irons reveals the lead weight plugs that he added to the toe sections of the irons. In general terms, adding weight to the toe portion of a golf club typically helps reduce a hook, whereas heavy heel weighting helps reduce a slice.

The “Golf Links to the Past” shop at Pebble Beach acquired the historic irons through Joe Black, who’s a former PGA Tour player, rules official, President of PGA America, and founder & director of Western Golf Properties (among many other roles in the golf industry throughout his career).

 

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How did Black get his hands on the irons in the first place? He tells the full – and fascinating – story in his book, “A Few Good Golf Stories,” which was published in 2011.

In the book, Black writes: We played the Dallas Open at Oak Cliff where I was a member. If you know Arnold Palmer, you know he has always fiddled with his clubs. He did everything in the world with his golf clubs. He would rewind the grips during the practice rounds and be in the bag room beating on them with a hammer. He went into the bag room at Oak Cliff to tinker with his clubs, and he saw my clubs in the bag room and started examining them. He couldn’t keep his hands off them. He came to me and said, “I’ve got to have your driver.”

Arnold was with Wilson at the time, and I was playing Wilson clubs. I had a driver that Joe Wolf, Wilson’s tour representative, had made for me. He said, “I’ve got to have it.”

I said, “Arnold, you can’t have that driver.”

Then he said, “I’ve got to have that driver.”

Again I told him no. Then he said, “Let me use it this week.”

So he used it that week and drove great with it. He was supposed to put it back in my bag at the end of the tournament.

Well, Arnold, Gary Player, and I were going to Chicago the next week to film a television match between Gary and Arnold.

Then Arnold said, “Why don’t you fly up there with me on Monday? Since the match isn’t until Friday we can mess around and play golf and go out to Wilson.”

I told him no, that I had been gone from home all summer, and I was going to stay home and would be in Chicago on Thursday. He said, “Okay.”

So I called him on Thursday when I got in and he said, “Hey, you’ve got to come over here and see your driver!”

I said,” What do you mean I have to see my driver?”

He said, “Well, I brought it with me and I took it out to Wilson and, boy, it’s really great now!”

So I went over to his room and he had taken a wood rasp and rasped the toe right off my driver. He hooked everything, so he did that to all his clubs. He had just destroyed my driver. I was really hot.

He went out the next day and drove it dreadfully. Then he tried to give it back to me. I said no, that he had ruined my driver and that he owed me. He asked me what I wanted, and I said I wanted his backup putter. He had that famous putter that he made by welding a flange on the back of a Tommy Armour putter. He had two of them. He refused, saying he would be in trouble if he lost his putter.

We went to Seattle from there, and every time I saw him I asked him about my putter. Next, we went to Portland for his last tournament, and every time I saw him, I asked, “Arnie, where is my putter?”

At the end of the tournament I was standing near the scoreboard when he finished and he came over to me and said, “Come out here!”

I walked into the parking lot and he pulled his irons out of his bag and handed them to me and said, “I don’t want to hear another damn word from you about my putter!”

Those irons were the ones he used to win fourteen tournaments, including the Masters, the British Open, and the (U.S.) Open – tournaments that enabled Arnold to set the all time money record of that time.

Palmer’s 1960-61 irons are a certified piece of golf history, and thanks to the store owners at the Golf Links to the Past store, GolfWRX was lucky enough to take in-hand photos of the 7-iron.

Check out the full photo gallery of Palmer’s irons in our GolfWRX Forums

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He played on the Hawaii Pacific University Men's Golf team and earned a Masters degree in Communications. He also played college golf at Rutgers University, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism.

8 Comments

8 Comments

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  2. Pingback: TOUR REPORT: Xander’s red prototype putter, and Rory’s hilarious Tiger-related reason for switching drivers – GolfWRX

  3. Pingback: The incredible story behind Arnold Palmer’s $275,000 irons from the 1960s - SOCAL Golfer

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  5. Ray arcade

    Feb 5, 2023 at 1:45 pm

    Where’s the fluid feel plug in the heel?

  6. Tiger

    Feb 4, 2023 at 8:36 am

    Palmer has always been praised as a saint.. and maybe he was in his later years. He kinda sounds like a piece of sh*t here though. He deserved to get some teeth kicked in for the driver stunt.

  7. Steve

    Feb 3, 2023 at 11:29 pm

    At the end of the day most golf stories really aren’t that exciting. Like this one.

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