The Rise of Golf c1895- 1950
Social changes of the late-Victorian era caused many more working men and women to enjoy more free-time and more wealth.
In Great Britain the number of golf clubs mushroomed from 34 in 1870 to 400 in 1890. By 1910 there were over 2300 clubs, and over 4000 by 1910.
Similarly, the golf craze exploded in the United States. The first club had only been established in 1888 in New York, yet by 1900 there were over 750 clubs. By 1920 the number had doubled again to nearly 1500 clubs.
The operations of golf equipment makers rapidly expanded to meet the growing numbers of golfers and they saw the advantage of protecting their designs.
Patent GB17554 by C. Haskell in 1899
Rubber Wound Core Golf Ball
Undoubtedly a novel step in golf ball design contributed greatly to the growth of game. An American engineer called Coburn Haskell designed a golf ball with a core of elastic bands covered with a thin outer shell of gutta-percha. Nearly everyone found that they could hit these balls at least 25% farther, and within only five years this style of “rubber wound core” ball had totally replaced the “solid guttys”.
The use of wound balls endured for nearly all of the 20th century and it has only been in relatively recent years that ball manufacturers have moved away from the wound concept. Haskell Rubber Core Ball 1899
Patent 18668/1905 by W.Taylor in 1905
DIMPL pattern golf balls
Another leap forward came when William Taylor designed a ball with “over 300 shallow isolated circular cavities” or “DIMPL’s” rather than the normal raised pips as shown on the Haskell ball above. Spalding bought the rights in 1909 and made a series of models. Other manufactured copied the design in parts and termed their balls as “recessed”, “depressed” or “indented”. By 1915 the Taylor patent had expired and the term “dimple” became universal.
The Square Dimple or Mesh was the dominant pattern of the 1910’s and 1920’s. However, the round dimple design eventually prevailed as it was easier to manufacture and didn’t clog with dirt as easy.
Dunlop Gooblin Square
Mesh Ball C.1920
A 1935 round Dimple Ball.
Pat. US976,267 by A.Knight in 1910
Metal Golf Club Shafts
A major design evolution in golf equipment design came with the change from wood to metal shafts. Although some British patents had been filed for metal shafts as early as 1892 (No.17929 to George Grant) and 1894 (No.8603 to Thomas Horsburgh), it was Arthur F.Knights American patent of 1910 covering a hollow steel construction which prevailed. In 1914 the governing bodies of golf conpsired to make the use of metal shafts illegal for competitions. This did not stop club makers, particularly in America, making, developing and selling steel shafted clubs for recreational use. Things came to a head in 1925 when the USGA bowed to pressure to legalise them, with the R&A following suit in 1929. Many top players continued to use hickory shafted clubs, including Bobby Jones who won the grand slam of the world’s top four tournaments with them in 1930.
Pat. US1516786 by Irving Prentis in 1924
Swing Weighting Formula
The precision required to make reliable and robust steel shafts was instrumental in the development of a mathematical formula for designing a golf club based on it’s length, weight and centre of gravity. An American engineer, Irving Prentis, received a patent for his “swing-weight” calculation and manufacturers quickly adopted it for making “matched sets”. The formula still holds true today.
Pat. US1695598 by E.K.MacClain in 1928
A Texas golf enthusiast called Edwin Kerr MacClain was the first to design a club with a “extended bottom wing” specifically for playing out of sand. The design rights to manufacture the club were quickly secured by the LA Young Company, and amongst the early users of the club was Bobby Jones who used it to win the 1930 British Open at Hoylake. Unfortunately, as the club also had a concave dished face, which meant the ball could inadvertently be hit twice with one stoke, the club was quickly made illegal in the same year for competitive use. To the relief of millions of golfers thereafter a straight faced version was soon on the market!
An early Concave Face Sand Wedge with Sole Wing
Tee Peg by W.Lowell in 1922
From the earliest days golfers had traditionally teed their ball up on small mounds of sand. In 1889 William Bloxsom and Arthur Douglas were granted a patent (GB12941) for the first teeing device consisting of a small rubber plate with three prongs upon which the ball was balanced. Various other ingenius devices were tried over the next three decades, but it wasn’t until William Lowell launched his “Reddy Tee” in 1922 that the form of the tee-peg became virtually universal. Although not strictly patented he did register the name with the US Patent Office.
A “Reddy Tee” 1922
Click to Continue the Story of Golf Development : The Scientific Era 1950 - Present Day