When we think of or look at a golf ball, we see a small hard ball that looks like hard plastic. We hit it, we watch it go where we want and that’s the end of it, right? We give little thought to the history of the golf ball. Little do we know how many changes this little ball has gone through to get to be what it is today.
The history of the golf ball began in Scotland over 300 years ago, with the first golf ball made of wood. The wood was believed to be select varieties of hardwood. The clubs were also made of wood, which no doubt made the game quite tedious. As easy as they were to make, they were not very efficient because they would only travel around 100 yards. Despite the downfalls, the wooden balls were around for over a hundred years.
In the 17th century, a few Scottish scientists invented the featherie ball. This ball was made of boiled chicken and goose feathers with the notion that if feathers made birds fly, they may help balls to fly as well. The outside, made of cowhide and stitched shut, was then stuffed with the feathers. The leather would stretch when wet, so it was easy to mold and shape into a hard ball. They then painted the ball to give it a smoother finish and nice appearance. The result was a ball that flew for over 200 yards. The negative was that they were so time consuming to make which made them expensive. Its an amazing thought that the history of poultry intermingles with the history of the golf ball!
In the 1800s, Rev. Dr. Robert Adams added another stride to the history of the golf ball with the invention of the gutta percha ball or gutta. Gutta percha is the liquid sap or latex from the Sapodilla tree. They would heat it, which made it easy to mold, and roll them on a board into the shapes they wanted. They realized that as irregular as they were, they flew further and straighter than the featherie so they pounded them with a hammer to make indentations in them. These were called the hand hammered gutta. There being water resistant as well as very easy to make made them very affordable and popular.
The Bramble design came from the gutta percha ball. The difference was that they were able to put them on a press, make designs on the ball, make them more symmetrical and improved their flight even more. The designs resembled a brambleberry, which is the result of the name.
The invention of the rubber ball by Coburn Haskell brought another addition to the history of the golf ball and changed the game of golf in ways no one could imagine. They started with a solid rubber core, tied it with high-pressure rubber thread and finished it off with a gutta percha cover, which later changed to the Balata cover. To this ever-popular ball, they finally added the dimples to make it the superb golf ball today.
The golf balls we use today have cores of titanium and consist of two, three or four layers of synthetic materials. Certain specifications must be met in reference to weight and size depending on how and where the ball will be used. No other sport has had as many advances in technology as the golf ball. There has truly much evolution in the history of the golf ball.