April - 2010

Darn. I'm getting older. And quickly it seems...

I have a collection of golf balls from years past, and oddly, each one has a history that sparks a memory. But one in particular is unique - (that's the old part, how could it be my possession for thirty years!)

The reason this single ball is different is because it's a "British Open ball" or also called a "small ball". This ball was noticeably different than the balls used today.

The British ball weighed the same as the ball we all use now but differed in it's size. The British ball had a diameter of 1.62 inches, compared to the USGA minimum of 1.68 inches.

This ball was called a British ball because American golfers and fans typically encountered the ball during the British Open Championship, which was played under the rules for the Royal and Ancient, or the R&A.

The R&A approved the "small ball" when it first appeared, but in the early 1930's the United States Golf Association ruled against using this ball for competition under it's auspices.

When American golfers played overseas, they almost all switched and used this ball because of it's ability to be more workable in the wind and also because the British balls smaller size made it much longer than the American version.

Because of a desire to standardize the Rules of Golf, in 1974 the R&A decided to outlaw the playing of this ball in the British Open. But, it wasn't until 1990 that the R&A adopted the 1.68 minimum diameter rule for all it's competitions. Today this size is the standard around the world. The USGA has outlined under the Appendix section of its Rule Book, the requirements for a ball to be considered legal for play during competition.

APPENDIX III - THE BALL

1. General.
The ball must not be substantially different from the traditional and customary form and make. The material and construction of the ball must not be contrary to the purpose and intent of the Rules.

2. Weight
The weight of the ball must not be greater than 1.620 ounces avoirdupois (45.93 gm).

3. Size
The diameter of the ball must not be less than 1.680 inches (42.67 mm). This specification will be satisfied if, under its own weight, a ball falls through a 1.680 inches diameter ring gauge in fewer than 25 out of 100 randomly selected positions, the test being carried out at a temperature of 23 1C.

4. Spherical Symmetry
The ball must not be designed, manufactured or intentionally modified to have properties, which differ from those of a spherically symmetrical ball.

5. Initial Velocity
The initial velocity of the ball must not exceed the limit specified (test on file) when measured on apparatus approved by the USGA.

6. Overall Distance Standard
The combined carry and roll of the ball, when tested on apparatus approved by the United States Golf Association, must not exceed the distance specified under the conditions set forth in the Overall Distance Standard for golf balls on file with the USGA.