Science and Golf II: Proceedings of the 1994 World Scientific Congress of Golf

By A. J. Cochran; M. R. Farrally | Go to book overview

51

The relationship between golf ball construction and performance

M.J. Sullivan and T. Melvin

Spalding Sports Worldwide, Chicopee, Mass., USA

Abstract

The development of new materials in the golf ball industry over the past few years has fueled a virtual explosion of new product offerings that are transforming the game. No longer is there a clear choice between either a wound ball giving feel and control or a durable but hard two piece ball. Construction (i.e. simply wound versus 2-piece) no longer dictates performance. The critical design parameters are not whether the core is wound, solid, liquid filled, or balata or Surlyn covered but rather the hardness, thickness, and dynamic mechanical properties of the cover, the flexural properties of the ball, and size of the ball.

Keywords: Golf ball, Ionomer, Balata, Spin, Cover Hardness, Compression, Moment of inertia, Size


1 Introduction

One of the earliest golf balls, the feathery, was a stitched leather pouch soaked in water and stuffed with goose feathers which upon drying formed a hard sphere. This construction was the standard from about the 1400s until about 1850 when a solid gutta percha ball proved to be much less expensive, more durable and consistent than the feathery. Soon after golfers noticed that a scratched or nicked surface imparted greater distance and more uniform flight to the ball. Manufacturers soon offered textured, patterned balls, the most popular being the bumpy bramble ball. Dimples would eventually make their debut in 1909 (Martin, 1968).

By the turn of the century a measure of added feel and control was added by winding continuous rubber thread under high tension around a small solid rubber core, and wrapping in a gutta percha cover. Balata, chemically similar to gutta percha and a trans isomer of polyisoprene obtained from South America, soon replaced gutta percha due to its improved adhesion to the rubber windings, better color and toughness. Over the past several years natural balata has been replaced by various blends of synthetic polymers that give greater consistency and better durability.

The pace of development of golf ball materials is tied directly to the popularity of the two piece golf ball. The drive to develop a performance two piece ball began in 1968 when the Spalding Executive ball was introduced with a core of a highly crosslinked polybutadiene composition and a polyurethane/ABS blended cover. This ball was soon eclipsed by the Spalding Top-Flite golf ball which was the first solid core ball to use DuPonts' new super tough Surlyn ionomer resins. This ball created the durable distance ball that the average golfer was looking for. While this ball has remained popular for over 20 years and fulfills the needs of the average golfer, it was considered by many better players as too hard and harsh feeling. Surlyn covered wound-core balls pioneered by the Metropolitan Golf and Ram Golf Companies and made popular by the Titleist DT ball have filled the void to some extent by offering a cut proof ball having a softer feel than the solid-core version, but these balls generally lack the distance of the two piece.

Science and Golf II: Proceedings of the World Scientific Congress of Golf. Edited by A.J. Cochran and M.R. Farrally. Published in 1994 by E & FN Spon, London. ISBN 0 419 18790 1

-334-

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