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History of the Golf Ball (1)

The golf ball has undergone many upgrades and enhancements throughout it's long life. There are four distinct stages in the evolution of the golf ball: Wooden golf balls , Feather stuffed leather covered (Featherie) golf balls , Gutta Percha (Gutty) balls and Rubber Core balls. From the original wooden ball to the modern Rubber-Cored, the ball has changed the way we play the game of golf.

Harboring it's roots on the Eastern Coast in Scotland, the first golf balls were made of wood. Information is scant, but these inefficient balls were most likely made of hardwoods such as Beech or Boxroot. Wooden clubs were often used in conjunction with these balls, which would have made the game of golf a somewhat jarring experience. These balls were used from the mid fifteenth century until the seventeenth century, when the featherie ball was invented.

In 1618 a new type of golf ball was created by handcrafting a cowhide sphere stuffed with goose feathers. The 'Featherie' golf ball was invented. The balls were manufactured while the leather and feathers were wet. As the leather shrunk while it dried the feathers expanded to create a hardened, compact ball. Once coated with paint, these balls were sold, often for more than the price of a club. The time-consuming processes involved in creating a Featherie ball ensured that the price was out of reach of the masses. Though expensive, this type of ball had great flight characteristics and made the wooden ball obsolete almost immediately. For over three centuries the Featherie was the standard, only to be replaced with the advent of the Gutta Percha ball.

Creating balls out of Gutta Percha "Gutty" was discovered in 1848 by the Rev. Dr. Robert Adams. The ball was created from the dried sap of the Sapodilla tree. It had a rubber-like feel and was formed into ball shapes by heating it up and shaping it while hot. Almost by accident, it was soon found that balls improperly smoothed often had truer flight than their smooth counterpart. Thus the Hand Hammered Gutta ball was formed. Balls were hammered with a consistent pattern throughout with a sharp edged hammer. After a few years handmade Gutty balls gave way to metal presses which in turn made golf affordable for the lower income golfer. Golf truly became the sport for the masses. "The Bramble" design, with it's minute bulges resembling a Brambleberry, became the most popular design of the Gutta Percha era ball. This pattern was carried over with a few brands of rubber balls.

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Next: History of the Golf Ball (2)
 


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