Throughout the history of golf the game has changed drastically. Golf has gone from a game played by farmers in the fields to a sport played by millions of people world wide. As the years have passed players have gotten better, clubs are hitting straighter and balls are flying higher and further than ever before. This has little to do with the golfswing, which hasnt changed in 200 years, it has everything to do with the evolution of the golf ball.
The first type of ball used for golf were made of wood. They were mainly used from the 14th to 17th century. The construction of the wooden ball was mostly made from hard woods, such has beech or boxroot. They were crudely rounded into shape with tools. The 2nd type of ball was called the “Feather Ball.” It was used as early as the 16th century, upto the early 1850’s. It was made by stuffing feathers into a wet leather or bull hide pouch, which was then closed. As the leather dried, it allowed the ball to tighten and become hard. This process was extremely time consuming, which made it one of the most expensive balls on the market at that time. Also, being made of leather golfers would use an average 4 balls per round of golf due to the balls getting damp and splitting.
In 1848 Dr. Robert Paterson invented the Gutta Percha Ball. This ball was made from the sap of a sapodilla tree that was mainly found in Malaysia. The sap was rolled on a board until it hardened and shaped into a ball. Uneven surfaces were cut into the balls to improve aerodynamics. The Gutta Percha is much cheaper to make than the Feathery and also more resistant to moisture. Eventually uniformed dimples were applied to the Gutta Percha and it went onto be referred to as the Bramble Ball.
The rubber ball was created in 1898 by Coburn Haskell in association with the B.F. Goodrich Company. This was the first ball to use a more innovative material in its manufacturing. In production, it started out with a heat molded rubber core and was then wrapped in a high tension rubber thread. The outer shell was then made of the hardened gutta percha sap. this ball was the first to use the three layer system and was considered the most advanced ball of its time. The three layers allowed the ball to withstand more stress and gave the ball a longer life. The ball was introduced in the 1901 british open by Sandy Hurd who used the ball to win the open by one stroke.
The current day golf ball at the moment are separated into 2 different types. The first type is the two part golf ball, and the second is the three part golf ball. The two part golfball consists of a rubber core and covered with an ionomer casing. The three part golf ball essentially is the same as the two part golf ball, but with another thin layer of rubber or polybutadiene just under the ionomer casing. The three part golf ball typically is more expensive, and is mainly used by professionals and high skilled golfers.
The Two Piece ball is first made with a rubber core using a mold. the core has a diameter of apromimatley 1.5 inches. Injection or compression mold is then used to form the outer casting and dimples around the rubber core. Rough spots and the seem around the mold are then removed. The classic white paint is then added on along with coating and lettering. The Three Piece ball essentially is made the same way in addition to another softer layer of rubber added around the core to give the golfer more control of the shot.
There are strict regulations that are in placed when making a golf ball. The weight of the ball must not be greater than 1.62 ounces. The diameter of the ball must not be less than 1.68 inches. The ball must also by spherical and symmetrical, but there is also a strict velocity regulations. The ball must have no more than 500 dimples, and the average depth of the dimple must be .01 inches. The lift and drag forces on a golf ball are very sensitive to dimple depth: a depth change of 0.001 inch can produce a radical change to the ball’s trajectory and the overall distance it can fly. Dimples have traditionally been spherical in shape, but it is possible to optimize the aerodynamic performance of other shapes. There are also strict distance and velocity regulations which are tested randomly througout production.
Some tests that are done, are x-rays on three piece golf balls to make sure that the centers of the balls are perfectly round. X-rays are done exclusively on the three piece golf ball. The two piece golf balls however are measured by the coefficiency rating, which is the ratio of initial speed to return speed after the ball has struck a metal plate. The procedure measures the coefficient of restitution. There are mechanical tests as well, using machines to set up various swing speeds and also a ball launcher used to propel balls testing velocity, spin rate, and launch angles. Stress and Strain Graph for rubber ball cores.
Cover and Casing properties
The two main parts of a golfball are the rubber core and the ionomer shell. The rubber core is made of a synthetic rubber polymer called polybutadiene. this polymer is chosen over other elastomers for golfballs because of its high resilience and stress endurance. golfball production consumes nearly 20,000 tons of polybutadinene each year. this elastomer is also widely used in tires for its ductile properties, and also in electronics for its high electrical resistivity.
The ionomer Shell was origionally introduced by DuPont in 1964. the most common ionomer used for golf ball shells is a magnesium ionomer. Magnesium Ionomers are flexible thermoplastics which have ionic cross-links from which they derive their name. These ionomers are comprised of ethelyne copolymers, containing carboxylic acid groups. the resins involved in making this ionomer shell are used because of their excellent characteristics in terms of durability, rebound resistance, and scuff resistance of the ball.
Golf balls have come a long way since the 15th century and will continue to evolve. They’ve gone from simple rock balls to complex high flying spectacles. There are still many advances that can be made to the golf ball. There are new space age materials being looked at, and also metal matrix composites are also being considered. Golf ball manufacturers are trying t o achieve the ultimate consistency from one ball to the next, making the balls feel softer and stop faster on the green. Trying to develop balls with greater durability and there is still the search for a perfect dimple pattern. One things for sure, no matter how advanced the balls, I will still be taking mulligans, making divots, and inventing curse words for years to come.