It is widely regarded that of all golf equipment, none influenced the game’s evolution like the golf ball. It took about six centuries for the golf ball’s present weight, size and symmetry to achieve its present form. Over the course of that time, the sport came to how we play it today in golf courses.
But how did our golf ball come to what it is today?
The golf ball’s rich and long history can trace itself to the Eastern Coast of Scotland in the 1400s where the first golf balls were originally made of wood. For those who were playing these first golf balls made of Beech or Box root, games are not far from being a rather challenging experience.
People continued to make do with wooden golf balls up until the seven teenth century, but the evolution of golf equipment and the sport already took a turn when golfers started using feathery balls. At the same time that wooden balls were played, feathery balls are already being made and used. Tradition holds that a new type of golf ball developed in the year 1618 when goose feathers were stuffed into a cowhide sphere. Feathery balls are known for having good flight characteristics.
However, feathery balls are hard to make and only the golfers from upper classes can afford to have them made. Then, Rev. Dr. Robert Adams Patterson introduced the Gutter Perch balls or Gut ties in 1848. “Gut ties” made the golf accessible to the masses because they are more affordable, playable and easily made. These balls are made by heating the dried sap of the Sapo dilla Tree and shaping them into balls while they are still hot.
Those who make golf balls later discovered that balls with unsmooth surfaces flew straighter and further, so they started nicking the balls with sharp objects. These balls would later be known as “brambles.” Fifty years later, Coburn Haskell introduced the robber core golf balls which is consist of a solid rubber core, high tension rubber thread wrapped around the core, and a Gutter Perch cover.
In the early 1900s, concave dimples proved to be more controlling of the ball’s trajectory, flight and spin. In the mid-1960s, Surly-covered balls were introduced and replaced the once popular Balata sap. Golf balls were also later classified as two-piece, three-piece and four-piece based on the number of layered components.
In 1967, Spalding purchased a patent for a solid golf ball. The original patent proposed a solid golf ball devoid of former layered approaches, but lacked the chemical properties required for manufacturing. However, Spalding developed the world’s first solid golf ball known as the “Executive Model.”
Golf ruling bodies such as The Royal & Ancient (The R&A), and the United States Golf Association (USGA), who govern the Rules of Golf specified characteristics that must be observed for the golf ball. The Rules of Golf’s Appendix III specifies that a golf ball, which should be spherical in shape, cannot be smaller than 1.680 inches and the weight of the ball may not exceed 1.620 ounces.
Until 1990, balls smaller than 1.680 inches in diameter were allowed in tournaments under the R&A and were known as “British balls.” Balls with USGA approval are otherwise known as “American balls.”
Like the golf ball, other golf equipment complies with specific standards. A specific type of golf club for instance must have a specific shaft length or head size. Golf clubs also have their own bit of colorful histories. For one, there is a reason why a specific golf club is named as such. Indeed, time only made golf equipment friendlier to enthusiastic players.