Revolution in technology means that today we have a large variety of golf balls to suit every level of play. Did you know that the golf ball today actually flies 50 or more yards further than those made some decades ago? In fact, the first golf balls were made from wood! A documented reference goes back to a John Daly playing with a wooden ball in 1550.
In 1618, the Featherie, or feather golf ball was introduced and around 1880, Guttie balls were being produced. In the early 1890s, many of the rubber companies, including Dunlop, began mass product-ion of golf balls, which killed the handcrafted ball business.
In 1898, Coburn Haskell introduced the one-piece rubber cored ball, which proved so effective in the British and US Opens that they were subsequently adopted universally by 1901. Around the same time, W Millison developed a thread winding machine and Haskell balls were mass produced, making them more affordable. In 1905, William Taylor first applied the dimple pattern to a Haskell ball and golf ball took on its modern form since then.
Manufacturers continued to experiment with their design, including Goodrich who introduced the pneumatic ball in 1906. However, being prone to expansion, this one soon died.
In 1921, the R&A (Scotland) and USGA (USA) had standardised the size and weight tolerances of the ball. Between 1931 and 1990, both these organisations differed on the dimensions of the golf ball, which meant that the game played on either side of the
Atlantic was similar but different. Since then further constraints have been proposed which are detailed in the rules of golf. Nowadays, balls with the same specifications are played around the world.
It was only in 1972 that Spalding introduced the first two-piece ball, the executive, which the basic Haskell design was substantially improved upon. Antique golf balls of the last century are avidly collected and are becoming increasingly valuable. A dimple patterned Guttie in good con-dition is worth about USD 500.
When I first started playing golf in 1981, Spalding Company had produced their Topflite balls and those were my fav-ourites until the early 90s. Over the years, I have had different preferences of golf balls at different times. Today, my choices range from Taylormade Penta, Callaway Tour IS to Titliest Pro VI for their great feel, dur-ability, distance and spin.
With such a rich variety of balls to suit the individual and circumstances, a golfer has to evaluate their game, check out areas of weaknesses and strengths and get expert advice from golf professional to choose the type of ball that will complement their game the best.
(The author is a golf instructor and golf director at Gokarna Forest Golf Resort & Spa, Kathmandu. He can be contacted through firstname.lastname@example.org)