From the very beginning, they played golf with balls made of wood and stone. The Romans used in their game Paganica balls made of leather that were filled with feathers. It is uncertain whether it was influences from the Romans that led even the golfers to start using balls of this material in the early 17th century.


The use of the feather ball made golf take a big step forward. The ball was much more controllable compared to the previous wooden balls. There are records preserved that indicate that feather balls were imported into Scotland from Holland as early as the late 1480s. A customs register has found evidence that Richard Clays paid six groats to export a barrel of golf balls to Scotland.

In 1618, James VI of Scotland granted a monopoly for the manufacture of feather balls for James Melville and his partner. The monopoly lasted 21 years. What James Melville did to get the monopoly is unknown. Melville came to rent out the name to other ball manufacturers with the requirement that every ball made bear his name. Renting out the name was a good deal for Melville because it took a lot of time to make a spring ball and a really good ballmaker could make no more than 4 balls per day.

Not only was it time consuming in making a spring ball that was the problem for manufacturers, but there was also a pure health hazard in manufacturing. The lungs were filled with dust from the feathers and the constant pressure on the chest to get the feathers into the ball took a toll on the body. The ball was made of 3 tabs of cow or horse skin. These parts were sewn together with a thin thread. A small opening was left so that the skin could be turned inside out and the threads hidden. The ball was placed in a bowl-shaped holder and in the opening they then pressed in wet feathers with special tools. The number of feathers is said to be as many as it took to fill a high hat.


Feather balls so-called Featherys

The last feathers were pressed in with a special tool that the ballmaker pressed against his chest.

When the ball was completely full, the hole was sewn again and the springs were then let dry. These then expanded at the same time as the skin shrank. You got after about. Two days a hard ball. The ball was then painted with a white paint that protected against dirt. When the paint dried and stamped with the manufacturer's name, it was ready to sell. A ball cost between 3 and 4 shillings, more than one club at the time.

The disadvantages of the ball showed up when it was rainy weather, wet ground or if the player hit the ball badly. Bad weather caused the ball to get wet and then the skin softened up and the ball became unplayable. Bad hits could, in the worst case, result in the balls cracking. The length you could hit a feather ball varied. If it was dry on the court, the ball could go about. 165 m, if it was wet, you got it off about. 135 m.


The Industrial Revolution in Britain would affect golf, which has not changed in hundreds of years. Rubber was widely used in the early 19th century, for example, to make things waterproof. Different types of rubber balls were also made. It was therefore only a question of when, not if, someone would try to make a ball adapted to rubber golf.

The ball, which came to be called "guttyn", was made for the first time by a priest from St Andrews. By 1848, Robert Adam Paterson received a marble statue of Vishna from India. The statue was embedded in the guttapercha that protected it during the long journey. Guttaperchan was made from the juice of a tropical tree that most often grows in Malaysia, India and sri lanka. As the devoted golfer Paterson was, he had an idea to use the material to make a golf ball. He knew that the guttaperchan could be softened by warming.

He then heated up the material and shaped it like a golf ball. When it cooled down, it became rock hard and absolutely perfect.

However, the ball was not a success right away because it did not fly so well. It had a tendency to dive straight down after a little bit in the air. Those who, after all, played with guttyn noticed that it flew much better at the end of the round when it had been a bit chopped by previous blows. From the beginning, the ball had been put in hot water after the round because it then became smooth and nice again. But since it behaved equally poorly at the beginning of the next round, they began experimenting with different types of notches on the balls. The flight of the ball now got significantly better and the ball, which held better and was much cheaper than the feather ball, came to take over the market overall.


In 1898, wealthy American dentist and amateur golfer Coburn Haskell developed his own golf ball. Together with Bertram Work, an engineer at the Goodrich Rubber Company, he made a ball that had a hard rubber core about which they wrapped a rubber wire and wrapped it with a shell of guttapercha.

Many manufacturers took after Haskell's recipe for success and tried to surpass his ball by testing the most incredible fillings in the core. For example, they tried cork, lead, mercury and ball bearings. It was also researched how the ball's shell affected the performance and between 1900 and 1920 players could choose from over 200 different golf ball models. The manufacturers had different designs and these varied en masse, ranging from small round tubers to triangles and squares.

However, as with all new products, it took some time to get everyone to fully accept the novelties. As recently as 1914, J.H. Taylor, James Braid, Harry Vardon and George Duncan played a four-ball game in which they let guttyn challenge the Haskell ball. The new ball turned out to hold up better and go much further. Now guttyn was definitely a historic ball.

Further development of the ball

Until the 1920s, there was no standard weight for golf balls. Most balls weighed either 1.62 ounces and were 1.62 inches in diameter or weighed 1.68 ounces and had a diameter of 1.68 inches. The smaller ball was the British ball while the larger one was only used in the United States.

In 1921, Royal & Ancient decided that the ball must not be less than 1.62 inches in diameter and weigh no more than 1.62 ounces. The USGA followed suit and used the same rule. However, the Americans experimented further with their balls and tried to find a ball that would be "better for the masses". In January 1932, they changed their rules and came to use the larger ball. In 1968, the British PGA decided to test the american ball size in all its competitions for 3 years. Meanwhile, they experimented with a ball that had a size of 1.66 inches in diameter. In 1972, it was decided to continue with the big ball for another 3 years. In 1974, Royal & Ancient decided that the larger ball should be used in The Open Championship.

One problem with the new equipment that is constantly coming is that players are hitting longer and longer.

The USGA and Royal & Ancient have therefore set up some rules to check that the development does not go too far compared to the length of golf courses we have. In 1986, the R&A announced that the small ball would be banned starting on January 1, 1990.

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