Why do the balls look the way that they do? Here’s a run through of golf’s history and thus, the specialized balls that were created.
It was first played on the eastern coasts of Scotland using wooden clubs and golf balls, also made of wood. By the year 1618, the wooden balls were replaced by goose feathers packed into a sphere made from cow or horse hides. Because these leather balls are molded while wet, by the time it dries, the leather would have shrunk and the entire ball would have hardened. Because these leather and feather balls are hand-crafted, they are very expensive. They are sometimes even costlier than the clubs themselves.
In 1848, another type of ball was introduced. It was made from rubber, or some similar sap, and molded into dense spheres to be used as balls. Because the first models of this type have a smooth surface, they don’t travel as far as those made from leather and feathers. But they are cheaper and can be repaired by remolding. After the year 1880, the rubber balls are imprinted with patterns to mimic the scores found on the feather-filled leather balls. This let them mimic the distances traveled by the more-expensive golf balls popularized before. When industrialization expanded, the rubber balls were manufactured in mechanized molds, further decreasing their production cost. At the same time, because of the mass-produced balls, the handcrafted ball businesses faded out.
In 1898, the one-piece rubber-cored ball was introduced. They are made with rubber cores wrapped with rubber thread winded by machine and finally encased with a gutta percha sphere. These balls provide the player with an additional 20 yards distance right from the tee. They are just as cheap as the solid rubber balls, if not more so. This designed ball is called a Haskell ball – from its creator, Coburn Haskell – with the rubber thread winding machine developed by W. Millison.
Many patterns ad markings have been experimented on the balls after these changes. Many collectors find it interesting because of the many patterns the ball went through before arriving in its modern form. The dimple pattern, which the golf balls now have, has been applied somewhere in 1905. Other cores are also applied on the design. They tried compressed air – which was prone to heat expansion and then explosion – mercury, cork and even metal cores. But all of these were applied on the original Haskell design, which was only successfully improved upon in 1972. That is when the Executive – the first two-piece ball – was introduced by Spalding.
In 1921, two authority organizations, USGA and R&A, who are imposing regulations on golf games, standardized the characteristics of the balls used in play. Between the years 1931 and 1990, they made more restraints and proposals on the dimensions of the balls used in golf. But because of the differences in their standards, at that time, the games in the two sides of the Atlantic appeared similar but actually have differences. These minute differences are detailed in each organization’s prevailing rules.
In the present time, there are now a wide range of golf balls to choose from, according to their intended purpose. All within regulation standards, there are balls made to enhance control, there are also those made for increased distance, while others can only be used during practice. Antique balls from the early days of golfing are highly valued, collected and cherished. There was even a dimpled rubber golf ball from around the early 1900s – in good condition – that has been priced at five hundred dollars. And one may think, it’s just a ball!
Rockbottomgolf offers golf balls at discount prices, including new golf balls, used, refinished and recycled golf balls from all the major brands.