The History of the Golf Ball
first played with a leather-covered ball stuffed with goose or
chicken feathers. Several pieces of stout leather were tightly
stitched, leaving a small opening. The casing was turned inside out.
Feathers - a "gentleman’s top hat full" by measure - that had been
boiled and softened, were tediously stuffed into the casing before the
final stitches were made. The surprisingly hard feather ball was
hammered into roundness and finally coated with several layers of
"paint". Because of the difficulty and time involved in making
Featheries, they were relatively expensive. This fragile missile was
used for almost four centuries.
The first "Gutta" ball
was made in 1848 by the Rev. Dr. Robert Adams Paterson. Dr.
Paterson made them from gutta-percha packing material. Gutta-percha is
the evaporated milky juice or latex produced from a tree most commonly
found in Malaysia. It is hard and non-brittle and becomes soft and
impressible at the temperature of boiling water. Gutta balls, were
handmade by rolling the softened material on a board. The new
durability of the Gutta, together with its much lower cost, resistance
to water, and
improved run, provided rejuvenation to the game of golf. Not without
some resistance from traditionalists, the Gutta gradually replaced the
gutta-percha ball enormously
enhanced the game of golf, however it was soon discovered by golfers
who failed to smooth their balls by boiling and rolling them on a
"smoothing board" after play, that a ball with many "nicked" had truer
flight than the smooth gutta. Thus the hand hammered gutta was created
by hammering the softened ball with a sharp edged hammer ... giving the
ball an even pattern that greatly improved its play. Later
introduced, were balls formed in iron molds or ball presses that
created patterns or markings on the ball.
Surface textures and patterns
impressed into the gutta-percha balls evolved from early imitations of
feathery ball stitching to
the highly detailed and symmetrical that greatly improved the ball’s
flight. Many brands with a variety of patent names used the
bramble pattern, which had a surface similar to a berry. This became
the most popular pattern of the gutta era and was also used on some of
the early rubber balls.
changes in any sport compare with
the changes in the game of golf brought about by the rubber ball. It
was invented in 1898 by a Cleveland, Ohio, golfer, Coburn Haskell, in
association with Bertram Work of the B. F. Goodrich Company. The
ball featured rubber thread wound around a solid rubber core. Early
gutta-percha gave way to the Balata cover that was developed in the
early 1900’s. The popular bramble, mesh, reverse mesh, and a great many
other patterns gradually gave way to the aerodynamically
superior dimple pattern first used in 1908.
Because of the lack of standards, there were many deviations in ball
size and weight.
On January 1, 1932,
standardization of golf ball weight and size was established by the
United States Golf Association. The weight was set at a maximum
of 1.620 oz., and diameter not to be less than 1.680 in. Later, a
of 250 feet per second was added by the USGA. The durability and
precision of today’s ball reflect not only the tremendous technological
advancement of their manufacture but also the development of space age
plastics, silicone, and improved rubber.