The Evolution of the Golf Ball

The Evolution of the Golf Ball
“It’s considered good sportsmanship not to pick up lost golf balls while they are still rolling.” -Mark Twain
Hard wooden round balls were the first golf balls used between the 14th through the 17th centuries. They were made from hardwoods such as beech and box trees and normally made by carpenters with tools of the day. The early golf ball, known as a featherie, was simply a leather pouch filled with goose feathers. In order to obtain a hard ball, the pouch was filled while wet with wet goose feathers. Since people believed a smooth sphere would result in less drag (and thus fly farther), the pouch was stitched inside out. Once the pouch was filled, it was stitched shut. Therefore there were a few stitches on the outside of the ball. The ball was then dried, oiled, and painted white. The typical drive with this type of ball was about 150 to 175 yards. Once this ball became wet, it was totally useless. 

In 1845, the gutta-percha ball was introduced. This ball was made from the gum of the Malaysian Sapodilla tree. This gum was heated and molded into a sphere. This resulted in a very smooth surface. The typical drive with the gutta-percha ball was shorter than that obtained with the featherie. However, according to golf legend a professor at Saint Andrews University in Scotland soon discovered that the ball flew farther if the surface was scored or marked. 

This lead to a variety of surface designs which were chosen more or less by intuition. By 1930, the current golf ball with dimples was accepted as the standard design. The modern golf ball consists of rubber thread wound around a rubber core and coated with dimpled enamel. The dimples are arranged in rows. The number of dimples is either 336 for an American ball or 330 for a British ball. The typical drive with a modern golf ball is about 180 to 250 yards. 


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