Golf Balls - A Quick History

By: Brad Myers

As Tiger Woods stated during the 2007 PGA Championship, technology in a golf ball has dramatically changed since they were last at Southern Hills in 2001. Golf ball have been made of many different things and many different ways. Here is a quick history lesson on how the golf ball has evolved.

Again, the construction and design of golf balls has changed drastically since the game.s inception. One of the main responsibilities of an original golf professional was to be the maker of golf balls. Some of the very first golf balls were made out of a leather pouch which in turn was packed full of goose feathers. The feathers were wet when being inserted into the pouch. The .ball. would then dry and the feathers would become hard and solid. A good drive with a goose feather ball or a .feathery. was thought to be in the 150-175 yard range. Featheries were the most common ball used up until 1848.

Around 1848, the Gutta-percha ball was created. These golf balls were made of the dried gum from Malaysian sapodilla trees. These golf balls were very smooth initially and were much more difficult to control as opposed to the .featheries.. However, with use, these balls became scuffed up, their exteriors becoming rough. The .new aerodynamics. allowed the golf balls to be controlled much easier. After this discovery, the gutta-percha balls started being manufactured with rough exteriors. This construction is equivalent to, and the basis of, modern day dimpled golf balls.

In 1898, the Haskell golf ball was invented by Coburn Haskell. Haskell introduced the one-piece rubber cored ball which was universally adopted by 1901 after it proved so effective in the British and US Opens. The Haskell golf balls looked just like the Gutta-percha balls. The good news for the average golfer was the Haskell ball gave the average golfer an extra 20 yards from the tee. The Haskell golf balls were constructed from a solid rubber core wrapped in rubber thread encased in a gutta-percha sphere. This enabled W. Millison to develop a thread-winding machine which allowed the Haskell balls to be mass-produced and therefore more affordable to all golfers.

Throughout this period of the American Industrial Revolution, there was a lot of experimentation with the patterns on golf balls and how to manufacture them. This is one of the reasons why golf ball collecting from this era is so interesting. When William Taylor first applied the dimple pattern to a Haskell ball in 1905, golf balls took on their modern form. The dimple pattern maximizes lift while minimizing drag.

After the turn of the century, manufacturers continued to experiment with golf ball design. In 1906, Goodrich introduced the pneumatic ball. The pneumatic ball was a Haskell ball with a compressed air core, which at that time was prone to expansion with heat. This lead to what you could imagine would be some funny or uncomfortable moments on the golf course as the ball from time to time explode. Other substances were experimented with including mercury, cork and metal cores. Seventy years after the turn of the century, Spalding introduced the Executive which was the first two piece golf ball.

The R&A and USGA have standardized the size and weight of the ball. Since then further constraints have been proposed which are detailed in the rules. The manufacturers are now experimenting with many different materials and size of the covers.

With all of the advances in recent golf ball technology, today most golf balls have a durable cover. Any player should ask their local PGA Professional for some advice using the player.s specific ball speeds, etc. Then try a few different balls from manufacturers before making a final choice. Try a few different balls in the appropriate category for you and find one that makes you feel lucky. After learning from your local PGA Professional and trying out a few different manufactures, you should have confidence in your golf ball.

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