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Tuesday, February 21, 2012


Gutta Percha

A recent article in The Republic about the early days of golf in Arizona mentioned players using gutta percha balls. What is or was gutta percha?




Gutta percha is a sort of natural rubber made from the coagulated sap of a certain trees that grows in Southeast Asia. 
It was introduced to the West in 1843 by a man named William Mongomerie who showed Royal Society of Arts in London how the stuff could be heated and molded.
It was a big hit. Gutta percha was found to be an excellent insulator of electrical wires. The first submarine telegraph cables were wrapped in gutta percha insulation.
It was used in dental work, jewelry making, to form splints, to build furniture and to make pistol grips. Gutta percha canes and walking sticks were very popular in the 19th century.
In 1848 a gentleman with the elegant name of Rev. Dr. Robert Adams Paterson made the first golf balls from some gutta-percha packing material.
Before gutta percha came along golf balls were made by stuffing feathers tightly into a leather wrapping that was stitched closed.
They were called “featheries” and really weren't much good, especially when they got wet.
Various types of gutta percha balls pretty much ruled golf until the late 1898 when the rubber ball was popularized. It was made by wrapping rubber thread around a solid rubber core.
The modern ball came along in 1932 after the U.S. Golf Association standardized the weight and size of golf balls.

 Reach Thompson at  clay.thompson@arizonarepublic.com or 602-444-8612. 

Monday, February 20, 2012 at 04:33 PM 
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