I saw you on The Golf Channel last night, talking about golf balls. I was wondering what you would consider to be the one, most significant innovation in golf ball design over the years?
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This is not an easy question, simply because there have been a continuum of innovations in the last nearly 600 years the game has been played.
The ball has changed from a solid Wooden ball in 1450’s , to the Featherie in 1500– which lasted nearly 400 years — then the Gutty in 1845, followed by the Haskell (wound ball) in 1890. The wound ball lasted – with various changes to covers and inner cores etc. – for about 110 years, even though the solid plastic ball had been introduced in 1959 and became acceptable in the late 1960’s.
The TopFlite – a solid core ball with a hard durable cover made by Spalding – was very popular because it gave the recreational golfer more distance but was not acceptable to the elite golfer who needed control on approach shots, to and around the green so they stayed with the rubber thread wound ball and soft cover.
In a sweeping equipment change on the PGA Tour – over a time period of approximately three to four weeks — we saw the adoption of the solid core multilayered ball with a soft thin cover from the wound soft covered ball. In about a month nearly 40% of the tour players changed to the newly introduced ProV1 produced by Titleist.
This construction of a solid multilayered core and soft cover gave the elite golfer the ability to spin the ball on approach shots while minimizing spin off the long irons and driver. The low spin off the driver gave the tour player at least five additional yards and in conjunction with the Titanium driver with a spring-like-effect added a total distance of about 28 yards to the tour players drives since 1995.
Pete, as you can see there have been significant and discrete innovations in golf ball construction over the years all of which have improved the performance, quality and/or cost but the one major innovation, which is still evolving, is the dimple. The dimple — size, shape, and number – dictate how far and the manner in which the ball flies given certain launch conditions. Yes, the construction is important but the aerodynamics are just as important.
Hope this helps