History of the first golf balls (2023)

Which came first, the golf club or the golf ball? The most emphatic answer is the golf ball, since thatThe history of the rules of Thistle Golf Club makes it clear🇧🇷 In the first four hundred years of golf, there were only four types of golf balls: hairy, feathery, gutty, and haskell.

Golf is known to everyone as a game of clubs and balls, and this has overestimated the role of clubs when, throughout history, like today, the development of the golf ball has been more important.

WoodenPelziglight as a feathersweet toothHaskellGenericName

The 'pena' or 'pena', which dominated golf for over 200 years, was the invention of links golf, but before the feather came the 'furry', which was inexplicably erased from golf history, partly due to the romance . Feathers, although it can be said that it wasthe reason why golf was originally developed in scotland, when many other similar games died out.


However, the use of wooden golf balls in Scotland is conjecturewithout definitive proof.

Wooden balls were used in games in northern continental Europe such as Colf, Crosse and Mail. Examples of these balls have been found and descriptions of wooden balls in golf and the species of wood used are from these sources and do not provide examples or reports in Scotland.

The wooden balls were smooth and therefore did not have good handling properties. Although sturdier, the shot distance was only 75 yards and golfers are unlikely to have used them in place of the fluffy chicken/golf balls that have been available in Scotland since the early days of golf.

There are theories that the wooden balls may have been used in a target version of golf in Scotland, but this is not golf per se and it is more likely that the 'furry' colf ball was the first golf ball to be used on the links of Scotland was used. Scotland.


The Romans had a small heel of the hand sewn from leather and filled with fur, calledharps, although there is no known connection to colf or golf and there is no evidence they used this ball in a racquet and ball game.

The hairy ball was probably one of the balls imported from Holland between 1486-1618, where it was manufactured in large quantitiesBy-product of the Dutch Agricultural Revolution🇧🇷 It came true at Scottish Links. Leather stitched golf balls have been manufactured in Scotland since at least 1554, when a dispute broke out between the cordiners (leather workers) of Edinburgh's Cannongate and the United States'Lambs and Golf Ball Makers from North Leith'.The construction ofThe world's oldest "football" found in Stirling, dating back to 1514It is identical to existing feather golf balls, strongly suggesting that this style of construction dates back to the early days of golf. It is all the more unlikely that wooden balls played a role in links golf.

(Video) Evolution of the golf ball

History of the first golf balls (1)

16th-century Hairy Colf Ball, found in Amersfoort in 1984, courtesy of archaeologist Centrum Amersfoort, Netherlands

Furry was used in colf, particularly the version played on ice where it had better handling qualities than wood. It is estimated that the ball could be hit between 135 and 150 yards and was more controllable than balls made from Kolf wood, although it was susceptible to water damage. As the climate in eastern Scotland is comparatively drier in winter and the links dry quickly, damage to the ball would be mitigated.

The manufacturing technique would have been basically the same as described below for the "feathers", using other materials such as cow hair or straw.

These balls were apparently used for decades, known as"normal" ballsat 2 shillings, half the price of the best golf balls, from the late 16th to early 18th centuries.

There is a record of the purchase of a dozen £3 "goiff balls" for the young Earl of Montrose in the early 17th century, which would have cost 5s per ball and at considerable expense. In 1618 James VI/I granted James Melville and William Berwick a 21 year patent to manufacture golf balls in Scotland as the cost of imported balls became exorbitant, but this license was later successfully challenged and failed.

light as a feather

The Feathery or Featherie is the most famous of all golf balls, although it is unclear when or where it was developed. In the Edinburgh Testament (Vol. xlvii 123b) there is a reference to 'fyve scoir twell flok goiff ballis' (112 golf balls flok) in a 1612 will. Flok, Latin for 'flake' meaning wool, is also used as a reference to 'the down of featherless birds' as well as 'a tuft of feathers on the head of young birds' (OED) and is therefore probably an ancient reference to tufts of feathers and may have its origin explain.

The first hint of a cloud is hereHolland in a 1657 poem, like pennebal, in conjunction with a Scottish "cleek", then it is possible that the ball was developed in Scotland and the concept re-exported to the Netherlands.

No written reference to the plumage itself has been found in Scotland before 1724, when Alan Ramsay refers to it in an unpublished draft of a poem quoted in The Chronicles of Golf. The most famous reference to this era of feathers is found in Thomas Mathison's 1743 The Goff - "the feathers rigiden and the hide swell".

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"...the work of Bobson, who, with unparalleled artistry,
Tightens the skin, connects all parts,
He then places the well-stitched void on a pedestal
And through the buttonhole the gentle tide flows;
Crowds urging the crowds to direct the blunt accent,
The feathers harden and the fur swells.

Thomas Mathison 1743

Feathers are made of keratin, a plastic hydrocarbon found in most animals that makes up human hair and nails. The manufacturing process began with three pieces of leather sewn together and turned inside out, leaving a ¼ inch slit through which the feathers with the "brogue" were slipped using the chest. The feathers and leather were wet, and as they dried the feathers expanded and the leather shrank, creating a two-way pressure and a solid ball with characteristics that modern balls have only recently achieved. Opinions differ as to whether the feathers or leather were boiled, and whether each ball contained more than a "hat" of feathers. Later, the spheres were painted white to protect them and to be able to find them again.

Early reports state that a ball manufacturer would make 2-3 balls a day. The New Scotland Statistical Account of 1838 estimated that a skilled ball maker could make 50 to 60 balls in a week. With Tom Morris as his apprentice, Allan Robertson made 1,021 feathered golf balls in 1840, 1,392 in 1841, and 2,456 in 1844. The work was hard work, according to a recent review of golf ball manufacturers' autopsy reports. Allan Robertson died at the age of 44. Many ofGourlay-Golfballhersteller in Bruntsfieldhe too died young.

History of the first golf balls (2)

John Gourlay, 18th century ball maker from Edinburgh with a specimen of his ballpoint pen which was sold at Bonhams for £5,000

Good quality feathers could be sold for 5/- (5 shillings, called Corona), although lower quality balls were available for half that price. These were known as "regular" balls and were likely furry balls or leather balls with cheaper materials or thick stitching and may have included recycled balls. Today, ballpoint pens from well-known manufacturers such as Tom Morris or Allan Robertson fetch thousands of pounds at auction.

Feathered ones could be more compact than "furry ones" and therefore traveled farther. In 1786, a controlled test in Glasgow recorded an average distance of 193 yards and 1 foot from John Gibson's 5 strokes, ranging from 182 to 201 yards. The 'official' featherweight record was set by Samuel Messieux in 1836 for 361 yards from the Hole O'Cross green to the Hell Bunker at St Andrews, aided by the wind.

sweet tooth

Beginning in 1848, golf balls made of gutta-percha rubber, known as "gutties," began to replace those made of feathers. Several claims are made about the origin of the gut.

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The traditional origin story tells that in 1843 Robert Adams Paterson, a theology student at St. Andrews, received a gutta-percha wrapped package from the god Vishnu from Singaporedried gum resin from fatty trees, particularly the Malaysian sapodilla tree🇧🇷 It wasn't uncommon to make things out of this gutta-percha wrapper, and Paterson tried heating it and shaping it into golf balls. His first attempts were unsuccessful. After graduating and immigrating to the United States, his brother continued his work to develop an acceptable prototype golf ball, which he stamped "Paterson's Composite - Patented." The patent existed only in his imagination as none was ever granted.

History of the first golf balls (3)

Poor golf ball sold at Christie's in 2006 for £180

The Reverend John Kerr, writing in 1896, does not mention this story, but provides three other stories that reveal the origin of the viscera of Dr. Montgomery in 1842, Campbell of Saddell at North Berwick in 1848, and to Mr. HT Peter at Innerleven in 1848. They simply claimed to have discovered, not invented, the entrails.

Initial guts were soft, but it was quickly noticed that the ball worked better after cuts and stains. A saddler at St Andrews is said to have used his tools to create regular grooves, which was better than cutting haphazardly.

Initial response to the Gutty was mixed as it wasn't proven to be better than Plumies, just cheaper and sturdier. In 1848 Admiral WH Maitland Dougall adopted him at Blackheath, while Alan Robertson, who originally saw her at Innerleven, did not. John Gourlay of Musselburgh is said to have sent all his remaining feathers to Sir David Baird and thereafter devoted himself whole-heartedly to making gutties. However, by 1860 gutties were good enough and popular enough to replace feathered ones and a new era of golf was born.

In 1871 Willie Dunn in Musselburgh created a lining mold that was a faster and more consistent method of production. The guts were painted white or red to play in winter for the same reason as the feathers, for protection and to be able to find them.

Gutties cost 1 shilling, much cheaper than feathered ones and a major factor in bringing golf to the masses. The gutty lasted until 1900.


History of the first golf balls (4)

Haskell golf ball, unsold in Mullocks, January 2014

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Coburn Haskell, an American, developed a rolled-core ball in 1898. In 1899, he and Bertram Work, an employee of the Goodrich Rubber Company of Ohio, patented the Haskell ball, as it was called in 1899: a tightly wound ball with a solid core of rubber threads covered with a layer of gutta-percha.

The ball came to Britain in 1900, but in 1905 Haskell's British patent was refused on the grounds that it existed in the early 1870's. This means that for various reasons none of the golf balls used to play golf were patented in the United States Kingdom. 🇧🇷 🇧🇷

The manual winding of rubber thread was soon mechanized. The outer shell was originally a Bramble pattern, and it would take twelve years to develop the upper dimple patterns we know today.

Bobby Jones described this as the most important development in golf, and it certainly was in his lifetime. Within a few years, Haskell overtook Gutty and replaced it.

no500 years of golf balls, Chick Evans recounts how, as a caddy, he witnessed the first shot, loss and discovery of a Haskell golf ball.

Although the first two-piece core and cover full ball was developed in 1902, it would be decades before the Haskell ball was replaced. In 1967, Spalding redesigned this building with Suralyn as the roof. Since then there has been an endless explosion of 1-, 2- and 3-piece core developments with icing and dimple variations. The result is golf balls that spin slower off the driver and therefore cut less, but still allow for short game control.

This allows high handicap players, as we all know, to play like pros.


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