The evolution of golf balls (1905)

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Evolution of golf balls

The first golf balls were made of leather of untanned bull’s hide, two round pieces forming the ends and a piece for the middle. These pieces were softened, shaped and firmly sewed together, a small hole being left through which the feathers might afterward be inserted.

Before stuffing, the leather sphere was turned outside in — an operation not without its difficulties — so that the seams would be on the inside.

The skin was then placed in a cup-shaped stand, the worker having the feathers in an apron before him, and the stuffing was done with a steel rod. This was very hard work, as may be imagined. The aperture was then closed, the seam sewed up, and the only seam showing was this tiny one.

But the life of each ball was short. The seams soon opened and the feathers protruded. On a wet day, the water would be seen driven off in a shower every time the ball was struck. And the moisture added to its weight, so that a ball which started as a twenty eight would soon weigh a pound. If the match was an important one, a new ball must be put down at each hole.

With these disadvantages, one can see that a new style of ball was much-needed and made many converts to the game.

Although the Gutta-percha ball used on the links is seemingly perfect, the inventor is busy trying to make one even better.

The ball made of this material has been in use since 1848. A golfer of that period experimented with a lump of India rubber and succeeded in fashioning it into shape. But when it was put into use, it was found that it was not a success. It would leave the club all right, but after going a short distance, it would duck down, so its use was abandoned. The caddies amused themselves with the discarded invention till it was pretty well nicked up. To the surprise of everybody, the ball, with the addition of the cuts, could sail through the air much better than the old one.

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The next mould was nicked to give the Gutta-percha sphere the same lines, and this, with one improvement after another, is the ball in use today.

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