The golf ball, like humankind, evolved over the course of centuries. Although many are familiar with the modern, rubber golf ball, known for its varied properties that serve players depending on their desired technique, its origins can be traced back to the 14th century.
Wooden Golf Balls
Despite minimal available evidence that wooden balls were used in those early golf games, it is discussed that they were used in the 14th century for games bearing resemblance to the sport.
Hairy Golf Balls
The form of ball, known as the “common” ball, experienced a long shelf life due to its more reasonable cost compared to later models, such as the featherie golf ball. The Scottish first imported the balls in 1486 from the Netherlands, and they were filled with cows’ hair or straw.
Featherie Golf Balls
Introduced in 1618, featherie golf balls differed from hairy golf balls primarily in the filling. Filled with goose or chicken feathers, the ball was filled more than its predecessor. However, as a result, it lacked the same distance potential. Given the lengthiness of its creation, the cost of featherie golf balls was also higher, resulting in hairy golf balls’ use until the early 18th century.
Guttie/Gutta Golf Balls
By 1848, the Gutta-Percha ball made the game – or at least the ball – reach new heights. Dr. Robert Adams Paterson invented the new model in 1848 using dried sap from the Malaysian Sapodilla tree. The creation of the ball encouraged creators to stray from the original smooth surfaces when they realized indentations on the ball led to greater aerodynamic potential.
Rubber Golf Balls
Golf balls as we know them are a product of a chance discovery. When Coburn Haskell wound rubber thread into a ball, and added a cover at a later date, the latest form of the golf ball was created. The rubber Haskell golf ball, though first mirroring the bramble patterns of the guttie balls, was transformed in the 1900s by inverting the dimples for greater control.