In the earliest days of golf on the eastern coast of Scotland, players used primitive equipment to play the game in a rather haphazard and casual manner. The first clubs and balls specifically made for golf were fashioned from wood. Golf balls made of wood were used in 17th century and eventually led to the invention of the featherie ball, which was hand-sewn cowhide bag stuffed with goose feathers and coated with paint. This handcrafted ball made with goose feathers tightly packed into a horse or cow hide sphere remained the standard ball for more than two centuries because of its good flight characteristics.
The feather balls were replaced completely within a few years when Dr. Robert Adams invented the gutta-percha ball (or “guttie”) in 1848. The guttie was originally made from the dried sap of the Malaysian sapodilla tree that was made round by heating and shaping it in a mold. Gutties became extremely popular because were cheaper to produce, easy to repair, and could be manufactured with textured surfaces to improve their aerodynamic qualities. After 1880, gutties were produced with patterns on their surface in an attempt to reproduce the distance characteristics of a scored featherie. With the Victorians came industrialization and mechanization, and by 1890 Gutties were being made in molds which further increased their affordability, consistency, and quality. The most notable pattern of the period was the “Bramble”, which was a raised spherical bumps across the surface of the ball.
In 1898, Coburn Haskell introduced the next break through in golf ball development and created a one-piece rubber cored ball, which was universally adopted by 1901 after it proved so effective in the British and US Opens. The rubber golf balls looked just like gutties but gave the average golfer an extra 20 yards from the tee. These innovative golf balls were constructed from a solid rubber core wrapped in rubber thread and encased in a gutta percha sphere. Once W. Millison developed a thread winding machine, Haskell balls were mass-produced and therefore more affordable. With the increased improvements of the gold ball, many of rubber companies, including Dunlop, began mass-producing balls and killed off the handcrafted ball business.
A multi-layer balls were developed in 20th century, first as wound balls consists of a liquid filled solid core with a layer of rubber thread , a thin shell. The design allowed makes to tweak the length, spin characteristics of balls. Wound balls were valued for their soft feel. Within this period, a lot of experimentation with the patterns on golf balls . one of the reasons why golf collecting is so interesting. William Taylor applied first the dimple pattern to a Haskell ball in 1905, this started golf balls took on their modern form. This pattern with dimple design maximizes lift while minimizing drag.
Makers continued to experiment with golf ball design including BF Goodrich who introduced the pneumatic ball in 1906. This was called a Haskell ball made of compressed air core but unfortunately very prone to expansion with heat , therefore causing the ball to explode. Some tried mercury and some cork and metal cores. in 1972 Spalding introduced the very first 2 piece ball. The R&A and USGA standardised the size and weight of the ball in 1921. From then further constraints have been proposed both organizations differed on the dimensions of the golf ball which meant that the game played on either side of the Atlantic was similar but different between 1931 and 1990,.
Nowadays there is a lots of variety of golf balls to suit the individual game and circumstance. There are Some that offer control and some offer distance and others are suitable for practicing only. Golf balls have progressed into titanium cores, with hybrid materials and softer shells and a more pressurized core. They usually consist of a 2 or 4 design, consisting of various synthetic materials like surlyn or urethane blends. They are available in a great variety of playing characteristics to suit the needs of golfers of different proficiency.