Carmel Magazine

Winter 2014

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Page 45 of 195

A s television has succeeded in turning golf into a spectator spor t, the focus lies not only on the course, the tournament, the golfer, their attire, or their clubs. Next time, look closely at the ball choice. The legendary history of golf started with the golf ball. Its evolution began in Holland in the early 1400s, and was called "colf." The first indica- tion of the game started by hitting a pebble around the sand dunes with a stick. As this movement appeared to be entertaining, the first golf ball was created from a hardwood such as beech or boxroot. This ball was not perfectly round and travelled no more than 100 yards. In 1618, on the eastern coast of Scotland, the "featherie" ball had arrived. This was the first real golf ball which combined function with a healthy dose of whimsy. It was handcrafted of a sewn pouch made of cowhide, which was then filled with either chicken or goose feathers that had been boiled and stuffed into the wet cowhide bag, then stitched shut. As the feathers expanded inside, the wet pouch shrunk, therefore forming a hard object. These handmade balls were expensive to produce and did not last long while being hit with irons and heavy wooden clubs. A player would only get about two rounds of golf with a featherie until it would fall apart in the damp Scottish weather. Only four a day could be produced by their makers and their cost sometimes exceeded the price of a golf club, which limited them to only the most affluent of players. Although very expensive to produce, the ball had better distance in play, making the wooden ball obsolete almost immediately. There was a recorded drive at St. Andrews of 361 yards. For three centuries, the featherie was the ball of choice, until a new kid on the block, the Gutta Percha, made the scene in 1848. It was discovered accidentally by the Rev. Robert Adams Paterson of St. Andrews, who made the first molded ball. The "guttie" was a creation from the sap of the Sapodilla tree, native to Malaysia. It felt like rubber and was easily formed into a spherical shape with heat. Not only was the ball relatively inexpen- sive to produce, it could easily be repaired with heat and re-shaped. It would fly a maximum distance of 225 yards. The first gutties were smooth and covered with three coats of black paint. However, this smooth version did not travel as far as the featheries. Then an interesting discovery was made. After playing with a guttie for a while, players noticed they flew farther and straighter when they got banged up and covered in nicks. Later they were painted white, probably for better visibility, and ballmakers started adding their name stamped to the ball. That's when the hand-hammered gutta ball was born. These balls were first ham- mered with a pattern all over the ball, then later made from iron molds that formed a design. The "bramble" pattern, resembling the brambleberry, became the most popular pattern of the gutta era. The gut- tie balls further developed with the use of metal presses, which produced a less expensive ball. Golf now became much more affordable and engen- dered more players. In 1898, Coburn Haskell, in association with the BF Goodrich Company, invented the rubber core golf ball, which changed the game of golf forev- 44 C A R M E L M A G A Z I N E • W I N T E R 2 0 1 4 Up until the early 1900s, golf balls had raised patterns. Then, an inventor found that indented patterns, called "dimples," created a circular relationship between control and distance, and pros could even put a backspin on it. COLLECTING B Y M A R J O R I E S N O W Antique Golf Balls Have a Nostalgic Beauty 044-045 Collecting_Layout 1/24/14 5:18 AM Page 1

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