Just a white, small ball, correct? How much design and technology could really go into building golf balls? Over the years, golf ball companies or manufacturers have tried many different ways to build and improve the golf ball design, which is one of the smallest pieces of sports equipment, but how is a golf ball made and what does it take to construct the modern golf ball? In this article, you will learn how golf balls are made and the history behind it without which a game of golf is incomplete.
A brief history of golf balls
Let’s take a quick look at the evolution of the earliest golf balls and their significant advancements since the game was first played in Scotland in the early 1400s. The first golf ball was a wooden ball made of hardwoods, such as Beech, but I doubt anyone was hitting these wooden balls 300+ yards.
The next step was the “feathery” – this was made of leather pouch, stuffed with feathers, and leather sewn together. Most golf historians agree that this style of ball was introduced in the 1600s. Due to the manual process of creating these golf balls, they were very expensive and some even cost more than clubs. Would hate to lose one in the sea.
The 1800s brought golfers the gutta percha ball, also called the “Gutty/Guttie” ball or haskell ball. The gutty ball was created by using the sap of the Gutta tree with rubber threads wrapped around it, the ability of these golf balls to be mass produced allowed golf to spread quickly as one of the popular sports around. This is also when engineers started to figure out what became modern-day dimples or a dimpled ball. A new “Gutty” was smooth and players started to notice the ball went further, once it got scarred up from play. Golfers started nicking a new ball with a hammer prior to play, to help it fly further and straighter.
In the early 1900s, a one piece, rubber-core ball was produced. These first rubber golf balls were made from natural and synthetic rubber and provided even more distance and golf companies started trying different cores, outer shell and dimple shapes to determine what would work the best. You can argue, this is when golf balls took on their modern form.
Finally in 1921 as the modern game developed, the R&A and USGA standardized the size and weight of modern golf balls, but at the time had slightly different rules. Over the years, the requirements for these modern golf balls have become aligned and additional rules have been added such as maximum velocity and spherical integrity.
Types of Golf Balls
Golf balls come in a variety of sizes, designs and materials. Each type offers different benefits and can suit the needs of various golfers. Two-piece and three piece golf balls are among the most common type of ball used by amateur players. They tend to be more durable than other options and provide greater distance off the tee.
Multi-layer golf balls are the preferred choice for more experienced players as they offer better control and spin. For professional golfers, urethane or Surlyn covers are often used to maximize performance. These materials allow for increased spin, which enhances feel and control around the green. Additionally, dimple patterns also play an important role in preventing a golf slice, increasing swing speed and golf ball performance.
Different patterns can affect the aerodynamic behavior of the ball, producing more distance and improved accuracy. Finally, a golf ball must be painted in order to properly identify it. The paint is applied after vulcanizing and must adhere to certain rules set by the United States Golf Association (USGA). This helps ensure that players are not using any illegal or unauthorized golf balls.
Overall, varying construction materials, a great deal of precision and expertise is required to manufacture a quality golf ball. From the core to the cover, each component must be carefully crafted and combined in order to maximize performance and meet all USGA regulations. By understanding the different elements of the process, golfers can easily identify which type and make of ball best suits their game.
What type of golf ball is in my bag now?
There are two types of golf balls currently on the market. The Two-Piece ball and the Multi-layer ball. The two piece ball is simply made of a core and a cover. It typically consists of a solid rubber core and has a firm outer cover. This design increases swing speeds as it helps the ball fly farther, straighter, and with less spin. The two piece balls are great golf balls for many beginner golfers or high-handicappers and are less expensive than multi-layer balls and the flying distance of the ball will be less impacted by the odd loose swing.
A multi-layer ball can have 3, 4, or 5 layers. A simple way to think about it – more layers produces more rotations to the ball’s spin and potentially more control (if you know how to use spin to your advantage). Multi-layer balls are more expensive and designed for elite amateurs or professional golfers.
As an example, the Titleist Velocity golf ball is a two-piece. The Titleist Pro V1x is a 4-layer ball. Charles Barkley would most likely be better suited to play the Velocity, while Brooks Koepka uses the Pro V1x. You can feel the difference when you hit these different types of balls. The two-piece will feel much firmer off your driver or putter.
How golf balls are made?
Have you ever wondered ‘how are golf balls made’? Let’s learn some fun facts about golf balls shall we? As you can imagine, making a multi-layer golf ball is more complicated than making a 2-piece. For example, four piece golf balls takes approximately double the manufacturing process and time to build three piece balls and two piece balls etc.
What’s inside golf balls? Golf balls have a molded core made of several different ingredients but produce a synthetic rubber-like compound. Injection molding, compression molding, and heat are used to add the outer layers and hard covering of the ball that gives it’s rounded shape.
Spray guns are used to paint the balls as they spin, to ensure uniform coverage. The balls are stamped, and a clear coating is applied to finish off the process. Depending on the ball, it can take 10-30 days to build.
Golf balls are made of a core, a plastic cover, and dimples. For the center forming, the core is usually made from rubber or hot plastic and is responsible for the ball’s compression and rebound characteristics. The cover is typically made from urethane or Surlyn with an injection mold and serves to protect the inner core as well as provide spin characteristics when it interacts with club grooves. The dimples on the cover of the ball are designed to create a controlled lift and drag that helps the ball travel farther in the air.
The core is usually produced by pouring liquid rubber or plastic into a mold, allowing it to set, and then removing it from the mold cavity. The cover is formed by injecting molten urethane or Surlyn into a suitable mold and then curing it for a circular shape. The dimples are stamped on the surface of the ball with a metal plate as part of the manufacturing procedure.
Once all the components have been produced, they are assembled in an automated machine that combines them together to form a complete golf ball. This process can involve vulcanizing and painting before it is ready to be packaged and shipped.
Overall, the process of making a golf ball involves several different steps that come together to create a high-quality product for professional or recreational use. Every step plays an important role in creating the end result.
The entire process takes place within a factory, and each step requires precise processing in order to ensure the quality and consistency of each golf ball produced. After the golf ball is finished, it is then subjected to a number of tests to pick out rough spots and to make sure that it meets all industry standards.
The manufacturing process for golf balls has been honed and improved over the years and continues to evolve as new materials become available and technology advances. The end result of this process is a high-quality, consistent golf ball that can perform at the highest levels on the course.
This has become a high-tech business and golf ball manufacturers use several methods to ensure consistent quality. They X-Ray the ball to confirm the core is perfectly round. Tests are performed to validate the balls meet the United States Golf Association (USGA) and R&A standards.
Several different machines (Iron Byron for example) are used to simulate play to ensure the new balls react as expected and most manufacturers even use wind tunnels to understand how the balls will fly when hit by external forces.
That is all you need to know about how golf balls are made, and it should give you a better understanding of the production process. When considering your next purchase of golf balls, remember to keep this information in mind so that you can make an informed decision.
What are the dimples for?
There is no doubt that the dimples are what makes a golf ball such an iconic image. They are there to reduce the drag as golf ball travels in the air. They force the airflow downward, which creates lift (similar to an airplane) and a ball with dimples can fly almost twice the distance of ones without a dimpled coating.
Dimples on a golf ball help to reduce drag when the ball is in flight, which enables it to travel farther and faster. The dimples create tiny pockets of air around the golf ball that cause turbulence, which helps keep the ball airborne for longer periods of time. This reduces the amount of drag caused by air resistance and allows the ball to travel farther. Dimples also help add backspin to the ball when hit, which increases accuracy and control. The more dimples on a golf ball, the better it will fly and perform.
What is the most common number of dimples on a golf ball?
While the most common number of dimples on a golf ball is 392, there is no rule and most will have between 300 to 500 dimples. The record for the most dimples on a golf ball stands at a might 1070. It used to be thought that the more dimples the further it will fly, but that has since been found out not to be true.
All this talk about aerodynamics and airplanes, you may be surprised to know that the first patent for a dimpled golf ball was made way back in 1905.
Does the modern golf ball go too far?
As engineers learn more, golf balls may continue to improve, but a growing concern within the game of golf is the “distance debate”. Should we continue to allow new technology in the game? Should we rollback the golf ball – purposefully make it travel shorter distances? Do we need to create one ball for professional golfers and one ball for amateurs?
The best way to understand the concern – if a golf course was designed when players could only play golf and hit the ball 270 yards off the tee, does the layout of the course still make sense if golfers can now hit it 330 yards? Sure, the drivers are longer today, but most experts agree that the biggest difference in the game today versus 100 years ago is the construction of modern balls.
It will be interesting to see over the next several years if golf companies continue to push for a better ball or will the USGA and R&A step in to reduce or eliminate the amount of technological advancements.
The next time you grab a ball from your bag, or hit a ball at your local driving range, think about how far we have come since the beginning of the game. We have transitioned from boiling goose feathers and hand-sewing leather to injection molds and 5-layer golf balls. Truly a remarkable improvement in technology that has no doubt made the game more enjoyable and enabled more people to take a stroll down a fairway.