Date: December 04, 2015
Author: The Australian Golf Heritage Society

Q and A Golf History DZ Ed. #89/#90

Answers to Previous History Quiz from Drop Zone #89:

Question #1: 

Kel Nagle famously won the 1960 Centenary Open at St Andrews, with Arnold Palmer as the runner-up. In 1964 he won another tournament that the media at the time were touting as the fifth major. What was that tournament and who was the runner-up to Kel?


In 1964 Kel won the Canadian Open, a very old tournament dating back to 1904. At the time some parts of the media tried to promote the Canadian Open as golf’s fifth major. The runner-up to Kel in 1964 was, once again, Arnold Palmer.

Question #2: 

About 1850 a revolution in golf technology occurred. Many golf historians consider it to be the biggest technological revolution in golf. What exactly was that revolution?


The guttie ball was invented and began to be used at this time.

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The guttie was a ball made from gutta percha, which is a resin from the rubber (sapotaceae) tree.

The guttie’s biggest advantage was that it was very much cheaper to make and more robust than the previous ball of choice, the very expensive and not-so-robust featherie.

When gutta percha is warmed it becomes soft. It can then be moulded into a one-piece golf ball. When it cools down the ball is hard and has compression and elastic properties similar to a modern golf ball.

Early gutties had a smooth surface. They had a disappointing carry until, after some use, the surface got roughened up and, surprisingly, they carried further. Soon moulds were made to produce balls with various patterns on the surface to take away the smoothness.

Modern balls have dimples to take away the smoothness. The image shows the elaborate surface pattern on a late 19th century guttie.

To understand why a smooth surfaced ball is inferior to a dimpled ball, you need an understanding of aerodynamics, boundary layers and air drag. Another great advantage of the guttie was that, if it got knocked out of shape, it could be warmed up and put back in the mould.

Why do golf historians consider the guttie ball to be such a great revolution in golf?

From 1850 on you didn’t need to be one of the rich and privileged to play with a decent golf ball. It was the beginning of golf for the masses.


Questions for the Next Issue: 

Note: Answers and fresh questions will appear in the February 2016 issue. 

  1. What is the name of the golfer who won the Australian Open the most times as an amateur?

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  2. Croquet style putting was popular in the 1950s and into the 1960s. In1968 the R&A and USPGA banned the style. What two things were banned in the Rules of 1968 that effectively made croquet style putting illegal?

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