A large 1936 silver-gilt salver 'Grosser Golfpreis'

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Lot 169
A large 1936 silver-gilt salver 'Grosser Golfpreis'

Sold for £ 18,750 (US$ 24,517) inc. premium
A large 1936 silver-gilt salver 'Grosser Golfpreis'
Stamped 'L' (Lettre) and engraved in German lettering on five lines, 'The Great Golf Prize of the Nations', 'Fuhrer and Reichkanzler', 'Baden-Baden' and '1936' inlaid with eight 2½ inch decorative amber circular panels or reserves.
Diameter 14 inches


  • In 1933 the Reichskanzler (Hitler) appointed a Reichsportsfuhrer (Sports Minister) to preside over all of the Reich's sports unions and this included golf.

    Dr. Karl Henkell (1888-1944) was the then President of the German Golf Union (Deutscher Golf Verband). He conceived the idea of an international golf tournament to be played 10 days after the conclusion of the 1936 Berlin Olympics in August. It was regarded as an un-official addition to the Olympics.

    Invitations were sent to 36 countries but because of the way in which many of the 50 or so Golf Clubs in Germany were treating their Jewish members, the vast majority of them declined to participate.

    Only six Golfing Unions accepted: Czechoslovakia, England, France, Hungary, Italy and the Netherlands.

    Henkell personally commissioned the prize from Emil Lettre (1876-1954) a leading Berlin gold and silver smith; he had been commissioned to create several 1936 Olympic objects d'art. Lettre chose the amber stones because they were a pure Germanic stone and because of their association with the Nordic races and their myths.

    Although the centre was engraved that the prize was presented by the Fuhrer and Reichkanzler (Hitler) this did not actually happen!

    The tournament took place at the Baden-Baden Golf Club over two days, 26 and 27 August 1936. Each country was represented by two players playing 72 holes and the best accumulated total would win; all eight rounds to count. The English Golfing Union (EGU) was represented by Arnold Bentley and Tommy Thirsk.

    At the end of 36 holes the German team was leading by 5 strokes for the English team and 7 strokes from the Dutch. However on the final day the German team fell away with to 3rd place with Thirsk shooting two 65's to finish on 574 some 12 shots behind England. The French team was second on 566.

    Supposedly with the Germany team leading Hitler began the drive from Berlin to Baden-Baden to make the presentation the next day...

    The Daily Express 28 February 2008: "Though a good anecdote...the tale being that the Reichskanzler was on his way to hand over the prize himself but returned after hearing the German team was losing..."

    Dr. Karl Henkell made the presentations. On 31 August he wrote to the EGU.
    'Through their win, the "Grosser Golfpreis" which was given by our Fuhrer and Reichskanzler Adolf Hitler, becomes the property of your Union and we sincerely hope that it will further the connection of friendship and sportsmanship between English and German golfers...'

    Upon their return, Bentley and Thirsk presented the trophy to the English Golfing Union (EGU). Actually they received a cool reception. The prize itself received the un-glorious nickname of 'The Hitler Trophy'.

    On 15 February 1955 at a Golfers' Club dinner, Major Whitley Lavarack MC, the EGU President 'presented the Golfers Club with the trophy won by the English team at an international tournament organized in conjunction with the Olympic Games in 1936'. It is unclear whether the presentation of the trophy was in lieu of rent or for services to golf.

    By 1978 the Golfers' Club had taken up residence in London's Sloane Club and its many trophies were displayed. However it was insolvent and Leonard Sculthorp a Golfers' Club member and business man agreed to take over the liabilities and assets of the Club. It reverted to being a proprietory Club and changed its name to The Golfers' Club (St. Andrews) on 18 May 1984 with a clubhouse at Dron Court in St Andrews. Sculthorp was the President of the Golfers' Club between 1988 and 1998.

    In 2000 the "Grosser Golfpreis" was loaned to the Golf Museum in St.Andrews until December 2011.

    Bonhams acknowledges: Derek Holden's booklet 'Adolf, Arnold & Tommy Golf and the 1936 Berlin Olympics and Albert Bloemendaal 's 'Golf and the Olympic Games of Berlin 1936 Surprise find.
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