Fore! The history of golf balls

The history of golf balls

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The early history of golf balls (from 1905)

Los Angeles Herald (Los Angeles, Calif) February 5, 1905

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.

Vintage Davidson Mascot Golf Ball - 1900s

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.

Antique golf ballAlthough 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.

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.

DUNLOP SCIENCE has again achieved the unbelievable (1927)

ANNOUNCING the finest golf-ball ever produced by the world’s largest maker of fine golf-balls

THE million or more golfers who have played the Dunlop will be astounded to hear that there is now a better golf-ball than the renowned “Blue” Dunlop.

This new world-beater is called the “Black” Dunlop. Never have the Dunlop laboratories surpassed themselves so notably as in producing the new “Black” Dunlop — a ball definitely greater in distance, truer in flight and more accurate in putting.

Again, Dunlop has accomplished the unbelievable.

Dunlop golf balls - 1927

The history of golf balls: Where millions of golf balls go (1927)

Popular Mechanics – 1927

United States, which furnished the modern rubber-core ball and newest type clubs, leads world in playing golf

FROM the day in 1491 (the year before Columbus put America on the map) when an angry Scottish king issued a ban against “golfe or uther sik unprofitabill sportis,” to the recent announcement that a few of the larger American cities alone would use a million golf balls a week this summer, is a far cry.

But in the last dozen or so years of those five-and-a-fraction centuries, the “Royal and Ancient” game has become as Americanized as the second generation flapper daughter of a European immigrant.

Making golf balls 1927

To use up a million balls a week requires an army of golfers, for the modern rubber-core ball, which is a distinctly American contribution to the pastime, is good for about five games — if not sliced into the rough and never recovered.

New York, manufacturers estimate, will need 200,000 balls weekly, Chicago, Boston and Philadelphia 150,000 each, and Detroit will take another 100,000 — a total of three-quarters of a million for those five cities alone.

Not all of the million will be a total loss when their short life is lived, for the business of making balls has reached such proportions and uses such a vast amount of raw material that a profitable industry has sprung up to rebuild the worn-out spheres.

The heart of pure rubber may be knocked out of shape, but it is as good when the ball is discarded as when new, and can al-ways be remolded to form a new core.

Making golf balls - Popular Mechanics Jun 1927

Besides furnishing the rubber-cored ball, America has also contributed the steel-shafted club, improved heads, and, of course, a number of winners of the British Open and British Amateur.

The core ball, which replaced balls of solid rubber, was the most important, however, for it not only lasts longer, thereby lessening the expense of golfing, but it is easier on the club heads.

History of golf balls: The Dunlop 65 (1946)

Dunlop 65 golf balls 1946

Golf ball history in the ’50s, from Spalding (1955)

THIS NEW SPALDING DOT WITH THE DURA-THIN COVER was hammer-tested by Jimmy Thomson for 30 rugged holes!

This is an actual, unretouched picture of the new DOTS with the DURA-THIN cover taken right as it came from hard-hitting Jimmy Thomson’s murderous 30-hole test, in which he used every club in the bag.

Spalding golf balls - 1955 (1)

This test, made at California’s San Gabriel Country Club. shows why the nets DURA-THIN cover makes it by far the most scuff-resistant, high-compression ball you can buy.

You can see for yourself how perfectly it stood up… resisted scuffing and cutting, even from a bare tight lie.

It’s the greatest ball Spalding ever made! Its exclusive DURA-THIN cover provides greater compactness for longer play. Here’s amazing new durability.

Here’s an absolutely uniform ball, too… in distance and accuracy.

You’ll gain new confidence knotting all your DOTS play alike. Ask your golf professional to shots you this great new Spalding DOT, with its “sweet feel” and famous DOT “click.”

It’s the finest ball in play on any course today. DOT golf balls are sold through golf professionals only.

Spalding golf balls - 1955 (2)

ALSO SEE: Presidential physical fitness award badges, certificates & tests to make the team (1966-1987)

DynaFlite golf ball (1967)


Take strokes off your score with the world’s first lifetime golf ball — the patented Space Age ball that CAN’T cut, CAN’T chip, CAN’T go out of round, CAN’T lose its distance … yet still meets every U.S.G.A. specification.

YES, IT’S TRUE! Now, through a miracle of modern organic chemistry, you can drive farther, hit straighter, putt truer with DYNAFLYTE, the fantastic new solid-state golf ball that’s been hailed as the most amazing breakthrough development in the game in over 60 years!

DynaFlite golf ball 1967

ALSO SEE: Find out how The Masters golf tournament got its start

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