The golf ball has gone through relatively few fundamental changes in the last 460 years. The first ball to be documented was wooden and was played in 1550. The feather golf ball, or “featherie” was introduced in 1618. In 1848, the Gutta Percha ball or “Guttie,” made from the rubber like sap of the Gutta tree began to be played at St. Andrews and then more widely. In 1898, Coburn Haskell introduced the one-piece rubber cored ball. By 1901 it was universally accepted. Finally in 1972 Spalding began selling the first two-piece ball, the Executive, which was the first basic improvement on Haskell’s design. Now it seems like there is a new and better ball every week, leading to the Twine:
If last week’s ball by this week’s is outdone,
We’ll soon be reaching every green in one!
Getting back to the fundamental progression in golf ball technology, the early changes at least led to conflict and controversy. The change from featherie to guttie, caused a split between Allan Robertson and Tom Morris. Morris who worked making featheries in Robertson’s shop, played a guttie one day. When Robertson got word that Morris was playing the new ball, he fired him.
The Haskell was the first new ball to be made in America. And this caused at least one British golf poet to write some verses in protest. The poem as it appeared in the magazine Punch in November 1902 is as follows:
A GROWL FROM GOLFLAND
Bores there are of various species, of the platform, of the quill,
Bores obsessed by Christian Science or the Education Bill,
But the most exasperating and intolerable bore
Is the man who talks of nothing but the latest “rubber core.”
Place him in the Great Sahara, plant him on an Arctic floe,
Or a desert island, fifteen thousand miles from Westward Ho!
Pick him up a twelvemonth later, and I’ll wager that you find
Rubber filling versus gutty still and solely on his mind.
O American invaders, I accept your beef, your boots,
Your historical romances, and your Californian fruits;
But in tones of humble protest I am tempted to exclaim,
“Can’t you draw the line at commerce, can’t you spare one British game?”
I am but a simple duffer; I am quite prepared to state
That my lowest round on record was a paltry 88;
That my partner in a foursome needs the patience of a Job,
That in moments of excitement I am apt to miss the globe.
With my brassy and my putter I am very far to seek,
Generally slice to cover with my iron and my cleek;
But I boast a single virtue: I can honestly maintain
I’ve escaped the fatal fever known as Haskell on the brain.