Every golfer at one point or another gets curious and wants to know what a golf ball is made of. “It’s just a plastic cover with a rubber inside”… not exactly. For me, I’d like to know what materials are inside the ball and key features affect the shape of a shot. “Sir, this ball will fly straighter and go further – you’ll hit more fairways and stay out of the rough” I’m sold!
There’s a reason why big name brands charge an arm and a leg for their golf balls. It’s because they can change up the golf ball’s material and key features (like dimples) through different manufacturing processes just so you can get the exact ball movements you want in your shot. Regardless of skill level, every golfer should understand what materials and features affects a ball’s flight. First lets start with a brief history of the ball…
History Of What A Golf Ball Has Been Made Of
Since it was first made, in the 1400’s, the golf ball has undergone changes through the years in terms of size, material used and weight. There are four stages recognized as the evolution of the golf ball.
Wooden Golf Ball
These were the first golf balls to be used in the 14th century. They were made out of hard woods like beech and boxwood. Every single wooden golf ball was different in terms of shape which led to inconsistent shots from one ball to the next. These balls were used up to the 17th century then came the feathery balls.
Feathery Golf Ball
This ball was basically the first real ball and was made of leather and filled with boiled goose feathers, stitched up and painted. The ball was expensive and only the wealthy could afford it. When compared the wooden 14th century ball the feathery ball had better shot predictability.
Gutty Golf Ball
In 1848, golf balls made of gutta percha were invented by Dr. Robert Adams. The balls were made by taking the sapodilla tree dry sap, heating it then shaping into a circle. The gutty was more affordable and durable. The first gutty balls were handmade, smooth and used three coats of paint. When these balls hit surfaces for a long time and became irregular, they flew further than the smooth ones. This led to a new era of hammered gutty balls. Using a sharp edged hammer, the balls were hammered using a consistent pattern. That’s how dimples were formed and the paint used was reduced to two coats.
The brambleberry design soon took over and this one didn’t need hammering because it created regular patterns on its surface. It also gave a chance for the low income golfer to play because it was affordable.
Rubber Core Golf Ball
In 1898, the rubber core golf balls were invented by the BF Goodrich company. This was lighter and its designs were suitable for free flow of air. By 1930, it had taken over the market with the spherical dimple becoming the main golf ball.
What Is A Golf Ball Made Of Now?
There are different types of golf balls depending on the number of layers. There are one piece balls, two piece, three piece, four piece and five piece balls. A golf ball is basically made of rubber, which is the core and plastic or urethane with dimples that makes the cover of the ball. A solid multi layered golf ball however, has a core, mantle layer and a cover layer.
The core of the golf ball is the center of the ball. In the past it used to be liquid based but nowadays it is made up of synthetic rubber which is mixed with polymers. This is because rubber provides elasticity which is what manufacturers are looking for to come up with a perfect core. Thanks to elasticity, once the ball has been hit by the club, it is able to go back to its natural state. The core of the ball is the most important part of the ball because it determines how effective the ball will be.
Not every golf ball has the mantle layer but for the ones that do, the mantle layer consists of a thermoplastic polyurethane material. But before plastic made mantles, mantles were made of large rubber bands. This was to help reduce the amount of spin from the core and give the user control.
The cover has to be stiff so that it is able to withstand the energy generated, and allow the ball fly for a long distance. The preferred materials therefore, are surlyn or urethane. The cover should not be too thick because it might crack after sometime. Surlyn is best for three-piece golf balls as it allows more spins for greater control and urethane can be molded thinly making the ball fly at a high speed. These two materials provide protection to the ball from potential hits
What is your favorite golf ball and why?