May I ask you, what is everyone looking at while on the golf course? The ball.
How far did it go? Where has it landed?
Let’s take a walk through the history of the golf ball and find out what makes it so special.
The modern balls are made of layers, composed of different synthetic materials, with a unique surface with concave indents. They come in slight varieties of weight and number of layers inside to provide more spin, or more distance, depending on the player’s preferences. According to the Rules of Golf, by the Royal and Ancient Golf Association and the United States Golf Association, the ball must not exceed 1.620 ounces in weight and must not be under 1.680 inches in diameter.
It is quite interesting to cover the 700 years distance from it’s creation to becoming a high-tech creation as we know it today.
THE LONG WAY FROM THE WOOD TO THE HIGH-TECH
The Early Age in Wood
According to some sources, a game similar to golf was first being played in Scotland, in the 14th century. They had played with the hand-carved wooden balls, not so perfectly shaped.
Well, all the beginnings in golf are rough.
And Then It Got Hairy…
The next model of a ball had been made of leather and filled with straw or cow’s hair. It was introduced in Scotland in the late 14th century from the Netherlands. The hairy golf balls had been produced in Scotland as well, since 1554., by the “cordiners and gouff ball makers of North Leith”.
This model of balls had been used for over a century, even after the new model was created in 1618.
Did The Feathers Make The Ball Fly Better?
Instead of hair, the ball makers started to filling them with chicken or goose feathers, introducing the new model in 1618. Not only the ingredients were new, but the process of making as well.
The leather and feathers were wet while stuffing the ball, and as the ball was getting dry the feathers would expand and the leather would shrink, giving as the result a more solid ball.
This model had been flying farther than the one made of hair.
In the beginning of the 19th century, Allan Robertson was known as the “featherie” maker, being as well the first professional golf player. An amusing fact is that one other famous golf professional at his young age started working with Robertson on producing the featheries. He was Tom Morris, also known as the “Grandfather of Golf”.
The “Featherie ” thus was more time-consuming to make, and more expensive. Further on, it turned out that it was losing the distance when it got wet. Another problem that arose was the tendency to burst when hit by the club.
The Spin Over – The Guttie
The complete change of making the golf ball came with the invention of Dr. R. Adams Paterson in 1848. He discovered that dried sap from the Malaysian Sapodilla tree was very much like rubber, and when heated it could be shaped into a ball. It was called the “Gutta-Percha” ball, nicknamed Guttie.
Thanks to the material and the way of making it, Guttie performed better, and it was easy to repair if damaged. Very soon it became popular. A few decades later, the gutta golf balls were produced in molds, which lowered their price even more.
During the use, it was discovered that the tiny marks on Guttie after the club impact made it more aerodynamic. The manufacturers had begun to create particular surface patterns, testing which one would be better for the ball performance. That is how they came to the ‘bramble” pattern, most commonly used at the time.
The Modern Era -The Haskell
The discovery of rubber core with the balata sap shell by C. Haskell, at the very end of the 19th century, had set the foundation of the golf ball as we know it today.
Coburn Haskell came to realize that the rubber thread inside the ball makes it bounce better. Furthermore, the shell was made of balata sap with a bramble pattern. How you ever wondered why golf balls have dimples? In upcoming years, the use of rubber balls showed that concave indents on the shell make the flight pattern more controllable.
The progress in technology has brought to use new materials more resistant to club impact, such as the synthetic resin Surlyn as the best choice. Combining three, four, or five layers and urethane for the shell, the modern balls are classified upon their construction and performance.
The latest invention is the solid golf ball by Jim Bartsch, patented and produced by Spalding company in 1967., known as the “executive” model.
The game is always reaching new levels, with the innovations of the ball itself to follow.