Gutta Percha Golf Balls 1848 to 1898
The expensive price of feathery golf balls in the mid-19th century meant that golfers were on the look out for alternative materials. The story goes that the Rev. Paterson of St.Andrews received a statue from his brother in India in about 1847. Lumps of a natural resinous material had been used as packaging within the box. This material was called gutta percha and was obtained as a sap from a tree in South East Asia. The material was easy to soften and mold when placed in boiling water. The Reverend decided to make some golf balls using the material by rolling the material when soft in his hands. The balls were not a success largely because they were smooth. If you've tried hitting a ping pong ball hard you'll notice that a smooth ball rarely flies straight. Supposedly the balls were given to some caddies to use for putting practice. After a while of being hacked around the balls apparently began to fly straight over long distances. The surface markings they'd picked up were causing the balls to fly straight. It took science until the late 1890s to understand the laws governing aerodynamic flow.
Pictured here is a very rare ball stamped Patersons. Only a handful of these balls still exist and they are very valuable.
Pictured here is an early gutta percha golf ball with hand made markings dating around 1850 to 1855
Pictured here is a gutta percha ball from around 1890. By that time balls were being molded commercially in two piece cast iron molds.