Golf balls are one of the most recognized sports equipment. These are small balls that are hit using a golf club. Commonly colored white, the exterior of a standard golf ball is covered with grooves. The inside of the golf ball is a solid core made out of chemical resin. This describes today’s golf balls.
Golf balls were not instantly made in such a way. Golf ball makers have tried a lot of methods and alternatives before coming up with the modern golf ball. Even now, they are still trying to improve the most recent version of golf ball. They first manufactured the balls using hardwood. The first known kinds of balls were the hardwood balls made from the beech or box trees. The wooden golf ball was prevalent from the 14th century to the 17th.
Near the end of the 17th century, makers of golf balls have started looking for better alternatives. Soon, they came up with the featherie or feathery. This then became the official replacement of hardwood balls.
The featherie is made by making round leather pouches, which would be filled with feathers and then stitched shut manually. Before they are used as stuffing, the feathers, either from chicken or from goose, should have been boiled first, until they become soft. To know how many feathers would be stuffed inside the pouch, golf ball makers make an estimate by filling a gentleman’s top hat.
Though the featherie shows better flight statistics than the hardwood, there are still a number of problems with using it as the official golf ball. For one, the makers find it highly tedious and time-consuming to produce just a single piece of featherie. This is because it is very difficult to create a pouch that could be impeccably turned into a properly rounded ball. In fact, most of the featheries created would turn out to be slightly deformed or irregular, thereby leading to upsetting performance. In addition, because of the problematic way of creating a featherie, it could neither be mass produced nor manufactured quickly. This therefore permits the makers to increase the price of the golf balls. A single featherie, in effect, costs just about two to five shillings back then.
Another issue with the featherie is its flimsiness. There is a tendency for the featherie to be torn apart when hit with a club or upon landing. This is especially true when the ball happens to be too wet.
Around the 19th century, golf ball makers have finally come up with a good replacement for the featherie. In 1948, a doctor called Robert Adams Patterson created the gutta-percha ball. This golf ball, popularly known as the guttie, was created from the dried sap of the Malaysian Sapodilla tree. Because the dried sap showed characteristics similar to rubber, the sap was used for the experiment. It was heated and molded then later cooled and dried. Because of the easy process of making guttie balls, manufacturers ceased to make the featherie and shifted their resources to making gutties.
An added bonus in using the guttie is that it could be reheated and remolded when it starts to distort because of too much hitting. It was also the bumps and grooves from the guttie that gave way to the idea of intentional dimples in balls. The players have seen how a dimpled guttie performs better and shows greater flight statistics than a perfectly-made guttie. Common observations reveal how dimpled balls fly more consistently than the smooth ones.
By the 1898, another version was created by wounding a rubber around the ball. This was called the wound golf ball or the Haskell golf ball. This ball opened up the possibilities of making golf ball with rubber or rubberized material.
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