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NORTH BERWICK
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and Course Architect



BEN SAYERS & SON
Apprentices and
Clubmakers

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Famous North Berwick Golfers
Willie Anderson    Arnaud Massy    Wilfred Thomson    Ben Sayers    Dorothy Campbell    Fred McLeod

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Bernard Sayers Jnr.
Professional Golfer
Born: 1884, North Berwick
Died: March 1961, North Berwick

[12th on East Course]
12th Glen Course, North Berwick
© Digitalsport UK

[14th on West
Links]
14th West Links, North Berwick
© Digitalsport UK
 

North Berwick Amateur Golfers
John E Laidlay
Dorothy Campbell
Robert Maxwell

[18th Gullane No.1]
Gullane Main Street and No.1 Course
© Digitalsport UK

  124 years of Ben Sayers Ltd.
By Douglas Seaton
North Berwick Factfile

Bernard Sayers Jnr. was born 13th September 1884, at 41 Westgate North Berwick, son of Ben Sayers Snr. golf ball maker and his wife Catherine Thomson. Ben Sayers Jnr and his younger brother George Sayers followed their father as golf professionals. At the age of 19 years Young Ben was appointed to Berlin Golf Club as professional and club maker for eight months. The following season he was pro at Copenhagen and then Biarritz, Cannes, and Switzerland.

Walter J Travis the US and British Amateur Champion invited Ben to take up the position of professional at Garden City Golf Club in New York, but Sayers declined. He accepted a position at Ranfurly Golf Club (1905), he then moved to Cuckfield Golf Club (1906-07) a new course near Haywards Heath, before returning to North Berwick.

Young Ben was selected to play in the International matches between Scotland and England in 1906-07-09. In 1908 he was appointed pro at Royal Wimbledon and by the age of 24 years he employed six club makers including James 'Percy' Pearson from North Berwick. Percy Pearson gave up club making and returned to fishing at North Berwick. During WW2 the light on the Bass Rock was extinguished and Percy was often instructed by the Ministry to make for the Bass and switch on the light to allow a convoy of Royal Navy Destroyers save passage to Rosyth.

In 1909 Ben married Elizabeth Vass the only daughter of Alexander Vass of the Ship Inn, North Berwick. Ben's brother George Sayers lived at 10 Quality Street, North Berwick and in 1913 he was appointed professional at Merion Cricket Club in Philadelphia. When George emigrated Young Ben returned to North Berwick and joined his father in the club making business and gave lessons at the Glen Golf Club. He was an astute businessman as well as a great player and expanded the business internationally.

Ben continually experimented with new materials and club designs. He is best known for developing the first 'oversized' driver known as the 'Dreadnought' which had an extra large rounded head, deep face which was slightly convex, and a whippy shaft longer than standard. Robert Maxwell the amateur champion was given one of the first drivers which he used to great effect winning his second championship in 1909. By then everybody wanted a 'Dreadnought' and production through 1910 could not keep up with demand.

The clubmakers workshop was situated in a timber building on the wall of Inchgarry house adjacent to the 18th tee on the West Links, North Berwick (1894-1918). In 1913 Sayers moved to a larger premises at 21 Station Hill (1913-1917) from where they exported golf clubs around the world. Including Mr. G.W. Bavery, The Country Club, Johannesburg, South Africa; John Wanamaker Philadelphia, Penn, USA; Mantus & Co. Calcutta; Nippon Race Club, Yokohama, Japan; Cliff Castle & Co. 1122, S. Hope St. Los Angeles USA; K.Temple, Kuala Lumpur.

Ben Sayers and Charles Gibson made a set of miniature golf clubs for Queen Mary's Doll's House in 1924, now in Windsor Castle

Following WW1 Sayers moved into the empty premises beside the first tee on the West Links (1917-1965) owned by Sir Hew Hamilton-Dalrymple. The company expanded into the premises on Forth Street (1931-1965) with a separate building to house the hammer forge, constructed in 1934. The Sayers factory kept the persimmon blocks in the basement of the Ship Inn in Quality Street. The blocks were stored there to dry out over several months. The foreman Charlie Thomson would instruct the youngest apprentice to make for the Ship Inn and it was his task to fill a wheel-barrow of the most seasoned persimmon blocks and transport them to the workshop in Forth Street. In 1934 the company purchased the property at 56-60 High Street as a retail outlet which was visited by many well known golfers. The American Walker Cup team visited in 1959 when Jack Nicklaus ordered a special mild steel putter to a design by 'Old Ben'. It later went into production called 'Old Nick' and had considerable sales in America. They also manufactured the first set of clubs incorporating carbon shafts for Raymond Floyd who was affiliated to Sayers in 1973.

During the summer season many notable figures from the British establishment rented houses in North Berwick and visited Ben Sayers Jnr in the club makers workshop beside the first tee including The Grand Duke Michael of Russia, Lord and Lady Asquith, Lord Derby, Lord Rosebery, Earl of Breadalbane, Baroness Elliot, Sir Edwardo Humbro, Lord and Lady Neumann, Prince Edward of Saxe-Weimar. From the world of golf came Amateur Champions Cyril Tolley and Roger Wethered.

In 1932 Ben Sayers Jnr and amateur golfer Major Cecil Hutchison were asked by the North Berwick Green Committee to make alterations to the West Links in the area known as 'The Bents' which extended along the seashore to the north of the old 10th and 11th holes. This allowed for an extension to the 9th fairway with a new green formed and the construction of a new par 3 10th hole with the tee built on top of the dunes. The 11th hole, also with an elevated teeing ground, formed a new par 5, running parallel to the dunes. The alterations came into play in July 1932.

Between the war years Ben Sayers Ltd. continued to increase output despite the competition from Asia. George Sayers at Merion was able to keep Young Ben informed about the new technology and materials being used in golf club manufacturing in the USA. This allowed the factory in North Berwick to be one step ahead of the competition and first into the European market with the new technology and designs.

The company was one of the first to start using loft and lie machines, and also to measure swingweight to ensure that matched sets were exactly that. Young Ben also later introduced a Registered Balance Set scheme whereby a player's specifications were kept on file, and each club was stamped with an individual registered number. The company also produced the 'Benny' putter which was regarded as revolutionary because it had a squared-off handle, matching the square edges of the blade. The feeling that everything was right-angled made for greater accuracy. This putter was used by Britain's own Henry Cotton during his distinguished career and the Duke of York.

Ben lived with his wife Elizabeth Vass in Kileen, 6 Ware Road, North Berwick with the famous putting green laid out in the front garden. Ben was a season ticket holder at Tynecastle and Easter Road and every Saturday he attended a football match with his friend Robert Denholm, the finest amateur golfer North Berwick has produced. Ben Sayers Jnr. died in 1961 and is buried in North Berwick cemetery.

[West Links]
First green on the West Links, North Berwick overlooking the West Bay

Copyright © Douglas Seaton 2014, All Rights Reserved.