Nepali Times
Tee Break
A different stroke


A few years ago, I watched a golfer hit a great shot on a par three. The ball headed right for the tightly cut flag on the left side of the green and pitched perfectly next to the hole but it rolled on about five metres and found the water.

"What ball are you playing," I asked him.

"Pinnacle Gold, 90 compression," he replied.
I advised that he might have found himself right next to the flag with a tap in birdie if he had been playing a softer ball. He frowned but agreed.

Revolution in technology means that today we have a large variety of golf balls to suit every level of play. Some say that the golf ball today has reached an optimum level and that, like in tennis, there is a serious study now to move back the levels of spin and speed (distances) achievable.

Did you know that the golf ball today actually flies 50 or more yards further than those made some decades ago? Here's an interesting fact that I am sure many are unaware of: the first golf balls were made from wood! A documented reference goes back to a John Daly (no, not the big hitter John of this era) playing with a wooden ball in 1550.

In 1618, the Featherie, or feather golf ball was introduced and around 1880, Guttie balls were being produced. In the early 1890s, many of the rubber companies including Dunlop began mass-production of golf balls, which killed off the handcrafted ball business.

In 1898, Coburn Haskell introduced the one-piece rubber cored ball, which proved so effective in the British and US Opens that they were subsequently adopted universally by 1901. These balls looked just like Gutties but gave the average golfer an extra 20 yards from the tee. Around the same time, W Millison developed a thread winding machine and Haskell balls were mass produced, making them more affordable. In 1905, William Taylor first applied the dimple pattern to a Haskell ball and this was when the golf ball took on its modern form.

Manufacturers continued to experiment with their design, including Goodrich who introduced the pneumatic ball in 1906. However being prone to expansion, this one soon died away.

In 1921, the R&A (Scotland) and USGA (USA) had standardised the size and weight tolerances of the ball. Between 1931 and 1990, both these organisations differed on the dimensions of the golf ball, which meant that the game played on either side of the Atlantic was similar but different. Since then further constraints have been proposed which are detailed in the Rules of Golf. Nowadays, balls with the same specifications are played around the world.

It was only in 1972 when Spalding introduced the first two-piece ball, the Executive, that the basic Haskell design was substantially improved upon. Antique golf balls of the last century are avidly collected and are becoming increasingly valuable. A dimple patterned Guttie in good condition is worth about $500.

When I first started playing golf in 1981, I remember that the Spalding Company had produced their Topflite balls and those were my favourites until the early 90s. Over the years, I have had different preferences of golf balls at different times. Certainly a golf ball that you like and which gives you a good feel will also help you perform better. Today, I play the Titliest Pro V1x for its great feel, durability, distance and spin.

With such a rich variety of balls to suit the individual and circumstances, a golfer has to evaluate their game, check out areas of weaknesses and strengths and get expert advice from a golf professional to choose the type of ball that will compliment their game the best.

On another note, most golfers in the know would have signed up for the Gokarna Open 2005 and would be checking their tee times for Saturday morning. When the Star Cruise Holiday winner of the competition is announced, remind me to tell you what ball the champ used.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)