Golf is one of the sports rich in cultural background. A little more knowledge on this sport brings about a larger appreciation of the game as a whole. To know more about golf, here is a quick look on the cultural background of two of the most well-known and recognized pieces of golf equipment, the golf ball and the golf club.
From wood to rubber: the Golf Ball
This particular golf equipment has come a long way. Golf balls were initially made from hardwoods, mostly from the box and beech trees. This was how the golf ball was made from 14th century to 17th century. The hardwood golf ball was then replaced at the end of the era by another version called the featherie or feathery. This version of the golf equipment started the concept of white golf balls as featheries are often painted white. To make a featherie, manufacturers would first design a round leather pouch and fill it with chicken or goose feathers. Before being used as stuffing, the feathers are boiled until they are softened. The pouch are then stitched shut after being stuffed. This version of the golf ball was manufactured until around the 19th century.
Featherie makers started looking for alternatives for golf balls by the 19th century because the featherie proved to be too tedious and expensive to create. It was at this century that the concept of rubber golf balls started. The first rubber golf ball is the gutta-perch ball, or guttie. This version is made from the dried sap of the Malaysian Sapodilla tree. It was also this version of the golf ball that started the dimpled appearance when players realized that the bumps caused by the club improve the flight of the guttie.
A focus on rubber-based golf balls occurred when manufacturers realized how easier and less expensive it would be to make golf balls from rubberized materials. One of the most famous versions of rubber-based inventions for golf balls is the Haskell golf ball. Nowadays, the golf balls created are based from rubberized material that could be solidified, letting the world enjoy solid golf balls.
From wood to metal: the Golf Club
Just like the golf ball, this certain golf equipment first became well known as a blunt instrument made of wood. It was said that the golf club goes as far back as AD 960 when the Royals from China played a similar sport called chuiwan, where they use bejeweled clubs to hit balls into holes.
Around 1400s to 1800s, the first recorded golf club was made of wood. Players at that time use around 20 to 30 wooden clubs per game, and each of those wooden clubs had a special function or use. Golf club makers used wood because it was the only material that could deliver a powerful drive without being too expensive to use. The most common wood used to create the golf club is the persimmon wood. It was not until the later part of this period that iron was used. Drop forging was allowed for the mass production of iron heads as a replacement of the persimmon woods.
In 1931, Billy Burke in the US Open used a club with a steel shaft for his golf equipment. The shaft was painted to look like wood. The year after that, Gene Sarazen developed a sand wedge, which is used until this day, for his British Open competition. By 1939, the ruling authority in golf decreed that players are no longer allowed to bring as many golf clubs as they want. The maximum number of golf clubs allowable per game is limited to 14 clubs. Finally in 1959, the putter was invented, allowing players to hit a golf ball in a straight line without leaving the ground.
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