If you are a golf enthusiast, you might find the history of the golf balls interesting. The earliest golf balls were crafted from wood, until the invention of the featherie in 300 years later.
When we look back at pictures of the ‘first generation’ golf balls, it’s easy to notice that each ball is unique and not one of these primitive wooden balls was perfectly round. Each ball was a work of art and relatively smooth to the touch. The final product was reflection of the carpenter or craftsman’s abilities and the hand tools of the time.
In the 17th century, the next generation of the golf ball was born. It was a slight improvement in the design, but it also had its shortcomings. The featherie was a leather ball stuffed with bird feathers and stitched shut. It was time-consuming to make, and its performance varied widely based on the weather. When it was dry, it was more predictable. When it was wet, the leather was slippery. It’s also worth mentioning – like the wooden golf balls, these golf balls were not perfectly round.
The next iteration of the golf ball stemmed from the need to have a less expensive option, so that people across all social classes would be able to play this historically expensive sport. Rev. Robert Adams Paterson, the inventor of the gutta-percha golf ball, was a Scottish-American clergyman. He called his version of the golf ball, the gutty. Gutta-percha from a sapodilla tree could be heated up ad placed into a round mold. When the cooling process was complete, the outcome was the very first molded golf balled. Eventually, these golf balls replaced those made with feathers.
“The handmade gutty ball made it possible for golf to become a sport for the masses.”
The gutty also introduced the concept of design. "The Bramble" design, resembling a Brambleberry fruit, became the most popular design of the Gutta Percha era golf ball. This pattern has even been carried over to modern-day rubber core golf balls. The intent of the design was to help stabilize flight.
The early golf ball inventors did the best with what they had available. They are credited with creative, cost-effective, performance-driven solutions. Golf ball manufacturers of today are largely focused on the same objectives, and we are glad they are.