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What we know as the golf ball today has gone through many technical advancements through the years, mostly under the hood. The golf ball has actually been around for about 600 years, since first popping up in Scotland in the 1400s. Let’s dive in to as bit of golf ball high tech history.

Motivational Golf Quotes

“Golf is played by twenty million men whose wives think they are out having fun.”

-Jim Bishop

“If you think it’s hard to meet new people, try picking up the wrong golf ball.”

-Jack Lemmon

All Balls Are Created Equal

Are all balls created equal? Hmm… they’re the same size and shape. All have dimples. They all look the same to me. I know, they’re different colors, right?

Well, so I can answer that question and get you all started on the same page, let’s go back to the beginning.

What we know as the golf ball today has gone through many technical advancements through the years, mostly under the hood. The golf ball has actually been around for about 600 years, since first popping up in Scotland in the 1400s.

Like George Washington’s dentures, the original balls were made of hardwoods such as beech. From what I’ve read, the balls were carved by hand and not exactly round. This must have made for some interesting putting. I also believe the term, “having a Woodie” came from the practice of carrying several wooden balls in one’s front pocket, but your guess is as good as mine.

Using a wooden ball with a wooden club would be like playing croquet, but significantly more difficult and possibly even painful, when driving. Fortunately, these wooden orbs were phased out in the 17th century when the feather ball was invented.

The First Ball

Called the first real golf ball, this boiled, goose-feather-covered, leather ball was as one would assume, more delicate than their beechwood brothers. And imagine one of these things wet. Soggy balls aren’t by any means happy balls.

These feather balls’ delicacies, combined with the fact they were more expensive, made golf mainly a black-tie-and-tails affair. The rest of the poor golf-loving schmucks were relegated to a broken tree branch and walnuts, which the upper crust referred to as “nutcrackers.”

A golf visionary, Robert Adams Paterson, made the first molded ball in the mid-1800s. To cut to the chase, he discovered heated sap from a sapodilla tree, native to Malaysia (I guess he went there on vacation or something) could be molded into a round shape and would harden when dry. Genius.

So, these “gutties,” as they were called, had the ability to be mass-produced. Even better, if they lost their desired shape, they could be remolded. Win-win, right?

But wait, as the Sham-Wow guy shouts, there’s more. Instead of wearing out, these gutties improved with use. All the little nicks and crannies made the balls flight more consistent. The gutties were also less expensive, which made the game more accessible to the second-class citizens, like most of us.

Perfecting The Golf Ball

Now we’re at a point where the race to create the perfect ball begins. Manufacturers began to join the club (pun intended). They etched, carved and chiseled intricate designs onto the humble gutty to stabilize the flight of our little friend. Halleluiah. Long live the gutty, everybody shouted.

Ahh, but wait. Not so fast. Though inexpensive and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, they did have the propensity to go all wonky in hot weather and in extreme cold. Well, you try hitting a frozen rubber ball and you get the picture.

So now the poorer players cried, the king is dead. Long live the king.

Coburn Haskell

But, never one to be left out, in 1899 an American named Coburn Haskell got a (joint) patent for a rubber-wound ball. This new ball was made using a solid, wound-rubber core covered with gutta-percha.

Okay, you say, but what the heck is gutta-percha? This little ingenuity is latex sap that dries ridged, to put it in laymen’s terms. We can now agree that the 1899 Haskell version has been widely acknowledged as the modern golf ball. The dimples were the next major improvement. There you have it.

Now that we know the past, what’s the future of golf balls?

In this age of iPhones, Apple watches, and vegan-based meat (ewww), do you think the golf nerds would sit on their iPads? Au contraire, my fellow tech-a-roos, the future is now.

Oncore Golf

Oncoregolf has a few superior golf balls to check out as they embrace the future with some new tricks. In 2016, its Caliber ball was designed around patented hollow-metal core technology and was so revolutionary and innovative that the USGA had to rewrite the rules of ball construction.

To quote from their website, “It does exactly what it was created to do- produce significant rifle spin while reducing side spin, allowing the ball to travel along a straight trajectory- akin to a bullet leaving a barrel.” KA-POW.

So if 2016 was the future, let’s take a look at what’s being offered today. Oncore Golf, improving on their tech game, has given us the Elixr, touted as the most advanced ball to date. With a combination of a polybutadiene rubber core, metal-infused ionomer mantle, and cast urethane cover, it may just be one of the most exceptional tour balls on the market. With this ball you get extraordinary distance, spin, and control off the face of the club.

Let’s take this journey a bit further. Would you like to hear about a golf ball that’s approximately $75 per dozen and you’re limited to how many boxes you can buy? Me, too.

The Clear Ball

Have you ever heard of ClearSports? I’m right there with you. What is it about their 12-pack of balls that would get you to pay almost $1 more per ball than a Titleist VI?

Well, after reading about it, only the Clear ball combines their proprietary core technology with a premium cast thermoset Urethane cover to provide a winning combination of distance, spin, control, and feel. There may be more hype to their claims, and it may be the exclusivity factor that makes this ball appealing, but no matter how high-tech or expensive a ball is, no ball can compensate for a bad swing.

Though the inner workings of these balls are ssshhh, top secret, the players’ list boasts some heavy hitters, such as Sean Connery, former NHL star Jeremy Roenick, tennis biggie Ivan Lendl, and even a billionaire, Dermot Desmond.

Now let’s go way out there. No snickering.

Loosing Your Balls?

Chiping asks the question on their home page: Got balls? Well, do ya, punk? I love Dirty Harry.

If you spend more hours in the woods than a bear looking for a place to poop, here comes Never Lost. A “smart” ball, the Never Lost does just as it says. It never gets lost. The feel and look are the same as a regular ball except there’s magic inside; a small printed circuit board with micro (even smaller) components and a few batteries.

So now, all you need to play a fun round of golf is your smartphone. You just have to walk in the general direction of where the ball went and with the Chiping app open, it will point you in the right direction.

The Last Hole

Mad scientist? Perhaps. But as of this writing, the battery only lasts about a year. Once dead, it’s just another golf ball. A suggestion is to use these balls on the fairways only, unless you plan on going swimming to retrieve it. Apparently, the deeper the ball goes, the weaker the signal. Plus, only newer-generation smartphones have the proper Bluetooth technology to use the balls. So, there’s that.

Whether you’re an old-school ball guy or a tech-savvy futurist, there are green’s out there waiting for you.

Get some balls and go golf.

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