Can you imagine a golf ball costing as much as a suit of clothes? Improvements in the manufacture of golf balls contributed, as much as anything, to the growth of the game everywhere. Until the 1850s, the golf ball was hand-made, expensive and extremely fragile. Far from round, the feathery was made by stitching sections of leather into a sphere, then stuffing it with the equivalent of a top hat full of feathers. An experienced ball-maker could produce only four balls a day.
A new material called gutta percha was introduced in the mid-nineteenth century for making balls. Balls became less expensive and therefore more available. The first gutty balls had a smooth surface, but they were found to fly further and straighter when they became cuffed. This led to the discovery that dimples improve the flight of a golf ball. Gutties were soon â€œhand-hammeredâ€ with patterns and molded to a variety of designs, leading to the modern style dimple we see on today’s golf ball.
Introduced in 1901, the rubber core ball surpassed the gutty in durability, reliability and accuracy. The fore-runner of the ball we use today, it was made by winding elastic thread tightly around a rubber core, then encasing it all in gutta percha.Â Since the 1920s, many materials have been introduced as golf ball cores, including glass, water and cork, each with varying results. The modern ball is usually a two or three-piece construction which allows for greater compression against the club head. The one piece is still used on many driving ranges.
As with early golf balls, golf clubs were individually hand crafted by Scottish club-makers. As the game became more popular this was no longer practical, so the club head was shortened to aid mass production. Early iron clubs, made by blacksmiths, were used only for digging the ball out of heavy rough and deep ruts. The introduction of the sturdy gutty ball increased the use of iron clubs. Cleekmakers began making drop-forged iron heads which could be mass produced.
To tee the ball, early golfers scooped up a handful or earth or sand into a mound and placed the ball on top. Later, they used a sand tee mold. The first commercial wooden tee was introduced in 1921, and, soon after, golfers were overwhelmed with advertisements for tees of all shapes and sizes. Today, the standard wooden tee is a staple of the game.