Brief History of Golf Balls

In the game of golf, golf balls are struck by clubs with the objective of putting the ball in a hole in as few strokes (shots) as possible.  At the beginning of each hole, a ball may be placed upon a tee to steady the ball and help the golfer achieve more loft on his shot.  Off of the tee box, a player must strike the ball as it lies on the ground.  Once a golfer reaches the green, he may choose to utilize a putter, a club with a flat clubface, to roll the ball towards the hole. 

In the beginning of golf, in early 1800’s, golf balls were covered with leather and stuffed with goose feathers.  By the mid-1800’s, a harder ball was developed using gutta-percha packing material, commonly found in tree milk.  Through time, the bramble ball was developed, with a hard dimpled cover.  At the turn of the century a rubber ball was developed by the B.F. Goodrich Company, with a hard rubber core wound by rubber threads and covered by a synthetic material. 

Today, there are primarily two types of golf balls used in the game: the balata ball and the surlyn ball.  Regardless of the type of ball used, the United States Golf Association (USGA) has regulated conformity among all balls to be played.  The USGA ruled that all balls must be round, no larger than 1.68” in diameter, and may not be heavier than 1.62 oz. 

The balata ball is also known as a three-piece ball.  It contains a hard rubber core, is wound by rubber bands and has a cover made of a synthetic material called balata.  Balata is essentially a soft cover that many advanced golfers believe make it easier for them to shape their shots.  The drawback to this softer cover is that it is not very resistant to nicks and cuts throughout repeated use. 

The two-piece ball contains a larger rubber core, and a thick cover of a synthetic material called surlyn.  Although this harder cover may make it more difficult to shape shots, and it may create more bounce, it is more durable than the balata ball.  It is also thought that it is more difficult to achieve a desired backspin on the ball with a two-piece ball. 

The major manufacturers of golf balls are Titleist, Dunlop, MaxFli, Top Flight, Pinnacle and Precept.  Golf balls are generally packaged in boxes of three called sleeves.  Retailers will typically sell boxes of multiple sleeves of balls, usually in quantities of 15-18.  A box of golf balls normally retails between $20 and $75 depending on the maker and brand.

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