Old Golf Inventions

Pat. US1695598 by E.K.MacClain in 1928
Sand Wedge
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

Rare golf ball and

Rare 19th century golf ball ‘shows how gadgets were used in sport’

A 19th century golf ball attached to a small parachute has shown that participants of the sport have always used gadgets to improve their game.

The device called “A.J.B. Halley’s Captive Golf Ball” dates from the 1890s and has turned up for sale at auction.

These items are incredibly rare because usually they broke and were thrown out, but this little-used example is complete with parachute and box.

The object was to drive the ball and allow the red parachute to slow it down then help it descend closer to the golfer.

The person hitting the ball would then not have to walk far to retrieve it.

It was not particularly successful and the creation of driving ranges meant it was never likely to catch on.

The device includes a golf ball made from gutta-percha, which is a type of India rubber, which has a cord through it.

The cord is about ten inches long and attached at the other end to a red canvass parachute just a few inches across.

The golf gadget industry today is worth billions of pounds a year and this example shows that the industry is well over 100 years old.

It is expected to fetch up to 150 pounds when it goes under the hammer at Bonhams in Chester on February 24.

“These are rare items because usually they would be broken,” said Caroline Morrell, golf administrator at Bonhams.

“They were not held with great value or regard so it is unusual for one top have survives intact complete with its box.

“This one has not been used much and probably dates from the 1890s.”

She added: “I think in the end golfers came to the conclusion that it was too difficult to hit a ball which had a cord attached to it.

“And it was probably difficult to use if there was a strong wind blowing. The advent of driving ranges made things like this unnecessary.

“It does show, however, how golfers have always used devices like this to try and improve their game. There will be many collectors who would love to own this piece of golfing history.”


From the 15th to the mid-19th century golf equipment remained relatively unchanged. The clubs had long wooden heads and wooden shafts. The balls were made from leather stitched together and stuffed with goose feathers. These “feathery” balls cost a modern equivalent of £50 each, so playing the game was expensive. A Featherie Ball and Driver c1850

In 1848, a Reverend Paterson of St.Andrews experimented with balls made from a hardened rubber called gutta-percha. These could be made easily and cheaply, and within a decade they had replaced the traditional “feathery” ball.

Line-Cut Gutta Percha Ball c.1880

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.

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