The history of the rubber-core type of ball is very interesting. In 1898 Mr. Coburn Haskell, of Cleveland, Ohio, conceived the idea of winding a thin rubber thread, under tension, on a small centre of gutta - percha, encasing it in a thin shell, or cover, of gutta - percha. The result was a ball which easily outdistanced the "guttie," then in universal use. But it had the great disadvantage that its flight was not only erratic, but it "dooked" badly. On this account it did not at once jump into popular favor. Indeed, it was only the result of an accident that led to its general adoption. In the summer of 1901 a Haskell was turned in with a lot of old gutties to be remoulded by James Foulis, then professional at the Chicago Golf Club. It escaped notice during the process of remaking, but it instantly attracted attention by its remarkably superior driving qualities. It was cut open, and, lo! it was a Haskell.
Feather Ball Balls
Its different behavior to the ordinary Haskell was at once attributed to the "Agrippa" or bramble marking. No one at that time appeared to recognize that it was simply due to the depth of the marking, not the style. The original Haskell was practically a smooth ball. It was made in the "Silvertown" pattern, and the original grooves were so shallow that they virtually disappeared after painting. It was simply a case of history repeating itself, as when the guttie ball was first introduced half a century previously - a perfectly smooth ball. It ducked badly, of course. The reason the old feather ball did not duck to such a great extent was on account of the seams in the leather cover. That it did duck, however, in some degree, history amply attests. After the guttie was played with for some time and had received a number of tops and resultant gashes, it was found to fly much better, which led to the practice of 'hand-hammering" - i. e., nicking the smooth surface into a series of small indentations, a process which later was abandoned in favor of moulding from dies, as at present obtains.
It took some little time to discover that the depth of the marking on a ball exercised a very potent influence on its flight. The Haskell people reasoned that if the vagaries of the original ball were due to shallow marking, all trouble would disappear if the markings were made deeper. And Haskell No. 2, as here illustrated, was the antithesis of No. I. So deep, in fact, were the indentations as to materially impair the flight of the ball, owing to increased atmospheric resistance. It was not a success, and only served to strengthen the delusion that the "bramble" was the only proper moulding.
Old Gutta-Percha Ball
Hand-Hammered Ball Balls
Haskell No. 2
So the next year out came another Haskell, this time in the regular bramble mould, but a size larger than the ordinary ball. It lasted only a season, the majority of players not liking the additional weight. It was, however, in my opinion, the best Haskell ever made.
Digressing for a moment, I am firmly convinced that if the present balls were made a size larger they would be better in every respect.
There should be no loss of distance by reason of the extra size and weight, such being practically counterbalanced by the additional resiliency supplied by the extra rubber. And how much better they would be for the short game!
In this country there are only three or four ball manufacturers. In Great Britain there are scores, since the validity of the Haskell patent was upset a couple of years ago.
All, however, are practically made on the same principle. Some have no centres - that is to say, the rubber is wound upon itself; others have centres of various sizes and of various materials, such as steel balls, hard rubber, gutta, wood, pieces of rubber rolled together, compressed hair, rubber bags filled with water or gelatine, etc. Around these centres are wound, under tension, rubber tape or rubber thread of various degrees of width and thickness. Occasionally the winding is continuous, but the best results seem to be obtained by alternating layers of tape and thread combined. The core is then enclosed in a thin shell of gutta under compression.
It is rather interesting to note that practically all of the present-day balls are made in the bramble mould - largely due, doubtless, to the remade Haskell, to which reference has already been made, having been turned out with this particular type of marking, thus supporting the axiom that men - even ball-makers - are like sheep: slaves to custom and conventionality.
It is a scientific fact that a perfectly smooth ball will bounce higher than one with a pebbled surface. The former, however, is not practical, as it has a pronounced tendency to duck, as has been abundantly exemplified in the case of the first guttie, and, later, of the original Haskell, as we have already seen. It is clear, therefore, that for sustained and uniform flight, some kind of marking is essential, whether the form of marking be protuberant, as in the pebble or bramble, or recessed, as in the old Silvertown guttie. That the recessed pattern is better I am fully persuaded, and one has only to look at the success of the only type of the latter on the market - the antithesis of the pimple - to see this fully borne out. This ball has a flat surface with slight circular depressions. There is ho doubt it goes farther than others of the bramble pattern. Theoretically it should, and theory here squares with practice. It is simply an embodiment of the principle that a virtually smooth or flat-surfaced ball comes into more extensive contact with the club-head, and consequently receives a greater measure of propulsion. The use of certain depressions in the form of dimples . . . recessed lines would answer as well ... is simply to offset the ducking, which would otherwise be attendant upon the use of a ball with a perfectly smooth or flat surface. Up to the present time nearly all makers have occupied themselves with experimentations on balls of the bramble type, the form or pattern only varying. There would appear to be a fertile field for some enterprising maker to experiment along the lines indicated. Are so many depressions, or recessions, necessary as are at present employed? It seems to me that the first requisite in any investigation is a smooth ball; second, the scientific determination whether circular depressions or recessed lines yield the best results; and, finally, the minimum of such depression necessary to insure true flight. If too deep, a retarding influence is exerted on the flight, at the expense of distance; if too shallow, ducking will result. Moreover, it must be kept in view that while shallower markings may, and doubtless will, give the best results, a certain depth is necessary to prolong the life of the ball, otherwise comparatively little play will so flatten the surface as to cause it to duck.