A History of Golf Balls: From Featheries to Dimples

A History of Golf Balls: From Featheries to Dimples

Golf is a sport that has been enjoyed for centuries, with its origins dating back to the 15th century in Scotland.

The golf ball, a crucial component of the game, has undergone significant transformations throughout history. We highlight the evolution of golf balls, including the purpose of dimples, the various names used to refer to golf balls, and the materials used in their construction.

The Early Days: Featherie Golf Balls

In the early days of golf, the first balls used were known as “featheries.” These balls were handcrafted and consisted of a leather cover filled with tightly packed feathers, usually from geese or chickens. Featheries were expensive to produce and not very durable. They had a relatively smooth surface, unlike the dimpled balls we see today.

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The Introduction of Gutta-Percha Balls

In the mid-19th century, gutta-percha balls were introduced as a more affordable alternative to featheries. Gutta-percha is a natural rubber derived from the sap of certain trees found in Southeast Asia. The material was heated, molded, and then cooled to create the ball’s core. Gutta-percha balls were more durable than featheries, but their smooth surface limited their distance and control.

The Advent of Dimpled Golf Balls

The breakthrough in golf ball design came with the discovery of the importance of dimples on the surface. In the late 19th century, golfers noticed that older, beat-up balls with nicks and indentations traveled farther and more accurately than smooth ones. This observation led to the realization that the texture of the ball’s surface played a crucial role in its aerodynamics.

Understanding the Purpose of Dimples

The dimples on a golf ball serve to improve its aerodynamic performance. When a golf ball is struck, it creates airflow around it. The dimples disrupt this airflow, reducing drag and creating lift, similar to how the wings of an airplane generate lift. This phenomenon allows the ball to maintain its trajectory and travel farther through the air. The dimples also provide better control and stability during flight and golf balls made with design are called Haskell balls.

Different Names for Golf Balls

Golf balls have been referred to by various names throughout history, reflecting changes in technology and design. Some of the common names include:

  1. “Featheries”: The early handmade golf balls filled with feathers were called “featheries” due to their composition.
  2. “Gutties”: The gutta-percha balls, introduced in the mid-19th century, were commonly known as “gutties.” These balls marked a significant advancement in golf ball technology.
  3. “Haskell Balls”: In 1898, Coburn Haskell introduced the first rubber-cored golf ball with a winding pattern under the cover. These balls, commonly referred to as “Haskell balls,” revolutionized golf by providing improved distance and control.

Modern Golf Balls: Composition and Design

Today, golf balls are constructed using advanced materials and design techniques. The typical modern golf ball consists of several layers:

  1. Core: The core is the central component of the golf ball. It is usually made of synthetic rubber or a blend of synthetic materials. The core’s construction and compression level impact the ball’s overall performance, including its distance and feel.
  2. Mantle Layer: Surrounding the core is the mantle layer, which helps control spin and energy transfer. The mantle is often made of a high-energy material like ionomer or thermoplastic urethane.
  3. Cover: The outermost layer of the ball is the cover, which provides durability, feel, and control. Golf ball covers are typically made from ionomer, urethane, or a combination of materials. The cover may also have additional layers or coatings to enhance its performance and provide specific characteristics such as increased spin or softness.


The history of golf balls showcases the evolution and innovation that has shaped the game over the centuries. From the early featheries and gutta-percha balls to the modern dimpled golf balls we use today, advancements in materials and design have greatly improved performance and playability. The discovery of dimples revolutionized the game, enhancing the aerodynamics of the ball and allowing for greater distance and control.

Understanding the purpose of dimples and the different names given to golf balls provides insight into the continual pursuit of improvement in golf ball design. Modern golf balls are composed of multiple layers, each serving a specific purpose to optimize performance, durability, and feel.

As golf continues to evolve, it is likely that further advancements in golf ball technology will emerge. The quest for even greater distance, accuracy, and consistency remains a driving force for manufacturers and players alike. Ultimately, the golf ball’s evolution represents the ongoing pursuit of excellence in a sport that combines skill, strategy, and innovation.