What Material Was Originally Used to Make Golf Balls?

By Teresa Justine Kelly

Golf balls have come a long way since their humble beginnings more than 500 years ago. Golfers and golf ball manufacturers continue in their quest to create a ball that will fly higher and travel farther.


The first golf ball originated in the 15th century and was made of wood from elm or beech trees. The balls were not completely rounded, which inhibited accurate shot-making. Later in the 15th century, the use of small leather balls filled with hair became the standard for golf. These kinds of balls were known as a "hairy".


By the turn of the 17th century, the hairy gave way to the "feathery" golf ball, which was hand-made, cased in leather and stuffed with feathers.


The feathery golf ball also was not completely rounded and it made for an inconsistent game. Golfers persevered with a "hit and miss" attitude.


By the mid-19th century, the Rev. Robert Adams invented the "gutty" ball. Made from gutta percha, the dried sap of the East Asian sapodilla tree, these new balls could be molded into a uniform, spherical shape, rewarding accuracy for well-struck balls. Initially smooth, soon gutty balls would be molded into a raised dimple pattern known as a "bramble," because it resembled the small berries which grow on brambles. 


By the end of the 19th century, the "Haskell" ball was invented by American Coburn Haskell. The ball was created from a three-piece, rubber-cored ball, wrapped with elastic and coated with a dimpled plastic outer-casing. The dimples allowed for great control and distance by adding increased spin. 


The Haskell ball, with its dimples, was the inspiration for the golf ball used today.

About The Author

Teresa Kelly graduated from the University of Waterloo with a Bachelor of Arts degree in history. She was an editor for seven years for several magazines and publishing houses. Kelly is an avid golfer, a well-known children's book and golf author, and is currently the president of Highview Press/Golfing Lady that produces all occasion golf greeting cards.


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