Golf has arguable become one of the most science-influenced sports. The first types of clubs -- wooden sticks -- have been replaced by clubs made out of carbon fiber, titanium, or scandium. The golf balls started out as pebbles or wooden spheres (which were more or less round), now have two, three, or four layers of synthetic material with 350-400 dimples. The equipment in your bag will have great influence on how well you play, and today's club fitters are essential to how well your set of clubs fit you. Yes, golf has definitely come a long way.
The History of the Golf Ball: The Feathery Ball is Born
When golf first came about, sometime in the 14th Century, most golf balls consisted of a hardwood sphere. Typically, the hardwood selected was beech or boxroot. The game evolved, and eventually cow's fur or wool covered in leather was the newer and better choice. Soon golf enthusiasts realized that if the leather was stuffed with feathers (they would use as many feathers as would fill a top hat), the ball would travel farther. The feather ball was also livelier and longer lasting. The downside? It was very pricey to make and required expertise to create. Next time you complain about the money you spent on that sleeve of ProV1's, imagine this (courtesy of www.knet.com):
- It took a bucket of boiled goose feathers to make one single Feathery golf ball.
- A skilled Feathery golf ball maker could only produce about four of them in a day.
- It was virtually impossible to make a truly round Feathery golf ball.
- A player may have gotten as few as 2 rounds out of a Feathery golf ball.
- If it got wet, the Feathery golf ball would come apart.
- It's hard to imagine being able to keep any type of golf ball dry during a round of golf on the Scottish links.
|A case filled with golf balls, every one with different looking dimples. You |
have large circles, small circles, squares, a mix of squares and circles, and then,
of course, the inverted dimples.
The Gutty Ball
The gutty ball made its appearance in the mid-1800s. Gutty-percha is a rubber-like material, consisting of the dried sap from a tree. The material was easy to come by, it was inexpensive, and easy to mold. When the gutty ball first came about, the ball was perfectly smooth. It was soon realized that the ball would fly farther and truer once some nicks were made on the ball, so players would intentionally scratch up the ball. This is how the birth of the dimples came about. With the gutty balls being made for a fraction of the price of a feathery ball, for the first time, a golf ball had become affordable to the general public.
From then on, different manufacturers tried different methods. The Bramble, with its raised dimples, and the Mesh, with square dimples... you name it, manufactures tried it. Star-shaped dimples, oval balls, one which resembled the barrel of a gun (which did work, actually, but only if you hit it 100% straight). They tried everything. Finally, in 1932, the Royal & Ancient Golf Association and the U.S.G.A. reached a partial compromise for weight and size of a legal golf ball: The maximum weight of a golf ball would be set at 1.62 oz and the Royal & Ancient Golf Association wanted a minimum diameter of 1.62 inches. The U.S.G.A accepted the new weight but maintained 1.68in as the diameter.
The displays in these pictures are all found at the Brandenburg Historical Golf Museum. The evolution of the golf ball has been essential to the game. Can't help but wonder how Rory and Rickie would do with these old golf balls.
|"The History of the Golf Ball" Display, located |
in the Brandenburg Historical Golf Museum