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Evolution Of The Golf Ball
By Jeff Austin
The ball has come a long way since King James IV of Scotland would sneak out on Saturday afternoon and play a game they called golfe.
The king and his courtiers used a small round ball made of leather stuffed with feathers.
The feather ball remained the same for nearly four centuries. All equipment for was originally made by hand, an expensive and time consuming process.
The best ball makers could only produce about 4 balls a day, and they were quite expensive, a dozen balls was the equivalent to a weeks wages for the working man.
Each ball required a bucket of boiled goose feathers and a master craftsman to prepare the leather, stitch and stuff these balls.
After the ball was stuffed to the point it could hold no more feathers, it was stitched shut hammered round and coated with three coats of paint.
A perfectly round ball (“featherie”) was a rarity, and even the few that were perfectly round were soon knocked out of shape and torn by the impact of the clubs.
Wet weather would cause the balls to become soggy and fly apart and at best a ball was good for two rounds.
During the reign of James VI, Scots balls were purchased from Holland; this caused the king to invoke an exorbitant tariff.
1618 he gave James Melvill exclusive rights to make golfe balls at 4 shillings each.
In 1845 the first gutta percha ball was introduced, it was made of a concrete juice from various trees.
It become malleable at the boiling point of water and held its shape when cooled.
These balls were much easier to produce and a great deal less expensive.
Dimples were introduced when it was found that smooth balls ducked in flight, the dimples have never been abandoned.
In 1932 the United States decided the perfect ratio for a ball was no more than 1.62 ounces and 1.68 inches in diameter.
This created a problem as the English ball was smaller by 6/100s of an inch.
One bizarre twist was that as rules were written the English ball was illegal in America, but the American ball was acceptable in all countries.
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