From Core to Cover: How Golf Balls are Made

From Core to Cover: How Golf Balls are Made

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Golf balls today are marvels of engineering, but their journey from simple wooden spheres to high-tech sporting equipment is grounded in a rich history. Little did the early Scots know how their handcrafted golf balls would evolve into the precisely engineered pieces you use today. 

Let’s take a swing at how these small but essential items are crafted.

Major Takeaways

  • Golf balls have progressed from simple to sophisticated multi-layered designs.
  • High-tech materials enhance durability and flight.
  • Production includes complex layering and aerodynamic dimpling.
  • Quality control ensures consistent performance.
  • Core and layers determine ball behavior; dimples reduce drag and increase lift.
  • Advances in technology push performance boundaries.

How Golf Balls are Made?

To understand the complexity of modern golf ball creation, you should appreciate the steps involved in the manufacturing process. It starts with the core, typically made of rubber or a rubber compound, which forms the heart of the golf ball. This core gives the ball its initial energy and feel. 

After the core, layers are added which can alter the performance characteristics, such as spin rate and control. Finally, the cover is molded onto the ball which not only protects the inner layers but also affects the aerodynamics of the ball in flight.

Rubber Core to Finished Product 

Each golf ball begins with the creation of the rubber core, before undergoing several stages to become the finished product you tee up on the course. The core is often enhanced with various materials to adjust its compression, a key factor in determining the “feel” of the ball. 

From there, the additional layers and cover are applied, fused, and perfected through a combination of heat and pressure to form a smooth, uniform exterior

Golf Ball Molding Techniques 

As technology has advanced, so have the methods used to mold golf balls. Manufacturers have shifted from simple compression molding to a variety of techniques designed to produce golf balls with highly predictable and repeatable performance characteristics. 

These include thermoset and thermoplastic processes that ensure the durability and reliability of the golf ball upon impact.

Manufacturing ProcessCore MaterialFinal LayersMolding Technique
Initial FormingRubber or CompoundMultilayer ConstructionCompression Molding
EnhancementsAdditives for CompressionPerformance AdjustingThermoset/Thermoplastic
Finishing TouchCore CompletedDurable CoverHeat and Pressure Application
Golf Ball Molding Techniques 

First Step

The first step on how golf balls are made starts with the production of the core for the golf ball. Using a pressurized mold, they take a rubber mixture and fill it with silica pellets forming the core. This mix is then injected into an extremely hot press which compresses and flattens it causing it to become extremely hard when cooled down. This is then cut and shipped off to different factories. 

Second Step

The mantle for the golf ball is created in the same way as the core. They take a mixture of Surlyn, which is DuPont’s trademark name for ionomer, and heat it.

The heated mixture then goes through a pressurized die which forms it into a sheet about 1/8th of an inch thick. This sheet is then cut to specs for each individual golf ball manufacturer. 

The rubber in this process makes up about 40% of the total weight of the core (which includes cover), so it must be compressed at very high pressure so that they do not spring back to their original shape when released from pressure (also known as reversion).

Third Step

The outer cover is manufactured in a similar manner to the mantle. The outer cover requires quite a bit more pressure to be placed on it in order to achieve its desired shape.

This is due to the fact that the hardness of the material is very close to that of a golf ball’s core, so it must also be forced into its shape by pressure.

There are two manufacturing processes used to create the cover of golf balls: thermoset resin injection molding and thermoplastic injection molding. The process used for golf balls depends on their cover material. There are two types of covers, Surlyn and polyurethane resin.

Thermoset resin injection molding:

In this process, the raw materials (rubber, plastic resin, and plasticizer) are added to a blender. The blender is then used to mix the ingredients thoroughly and evenly.

The blended material is then heated up until it reaches a temperature of between 150 to 170 degrees Celsius. Once it reaches the right temperature, it is injected into an injection molding machine which helps spread out the material, taking its shape as well as molding it into the perfect golf ball.

Thermoplastic injection molding:

In this process of how golf balls are made, a single type of material is added to the molding machine. This material is heated up to about 100 degrees Celsius and then injected into the molding machine. The molding machine then takes the shape of the material and cools it quickly so that it becomes hard.

The finished product is then sent through quality control tests, put in packaging, and shipped off to various locations around the world to be used for play.

Final Step

The last step of how golf balls are made occurs when these three components are blended together. They are then rolled and mixed together until all of the components are evenly spread out and mixed.

They then put them in an oven, which heats them up at high temperatures, causing them to become hot and sticky. They then put them into a mold where they are pressed together and cooled off.

The golf balls come out of the molds at a temperature of around 60 C and are then shipped to manufacturers all around the world. 

The manufacturing process has changed many times since its inception, but the core of making golf balls has remained consistent.

The production of a golf ball is done in two steps: one for rubber and plastic components and the other for polyurethane components. After that, the two parts are assembled in different machines.

Other by-products of golf ball manufacturing are recycled, contributing to a world “green” outlook and zero-landfill achievement.

Around 4 million new golf balls are made each year worldwide, and it has been estimated that around 200 million used ones are discarded annually. Most of these discarded balls end up in landfills, where they take up to 1000 years to degrade.

Source: Medium’s Research on How is a Golf Ball Made

The Anatomy of a Golf Ball 

Peering inside a golf ball reveals the fusion of design and science that creates the foundation for your game. 

Let’s unravel the layers that make up this essential piece of golfing equipment and understand what contributes to its unique performance characteristics.

The basic raw materials used how golf balls are made include:

  • Surlyn 
  • Rubber
  • Plastic
  • Resin
  • Oil
  • Various metals

The Role Of Surlyn 

The Role Of Surlyn

Surlyn is a material used in the manufacture of golf balls that were originally used to provide protection for glass-reinforced plastics.

This plastic was first produced after it was discovered that poly(ethylene terephthalate), which is used in many household products, including cereal boxes, could be modified by adding another type of resin called phenolic resin.

This resulted in the production of ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene, which had many different uses, including thread seals on oil wells and wire coating.

By adding more resins to this plastic, the properties began to change so that it was flexible enough to be used in the process of how golf balls are made. Surlyn was first used in the manufacture of golf balls sometime during the 1960s.

Since this material is much easier to mold than polyurethane resin, more companies began using it as their primary cover material.

Parts Of A Golf Ball

The physical makeup of how golf balls are made is to make them highly durable and capable of traveling over great distances. They have a solid core, mantle, and outer cover, which provides the balls with the specific characteristics that they have today.

Inner Core

The inner core is the softest part of the ball and is made up of a material called Surlyn. It makes up about 40% of the ball. 

Outer Core

The harder outer core makes up about 25% of the total weight and is made out of an ionomer called Surlyn, which is manufactured by DuPont.

The ionomer used in golf balls today has been known to make the golf balls more durable as well as increase their distance off the tee by about 10%. 


The mantle, which makes up about 15% of the total weight, has a hardness that ranges between 55 and 95 on the Shore scale in measure for hardness.

This allows the ball to be hit farther without losing any spin. It is also known as an ionomer. The outer cover, which makes up about 5% of the total weight, allows a better grip on the clubhead. It is made out of polyurethane material.

Materials Used

The sophistication of a golf ball is not just limited to its core. Cover materials greatly contribute to performance, with urethane and Surlyn as leading choices for advanced balls. 

Urethane covers offer superior control and feel, making them a favorite among professional players, while Surlyn covers provide high durability and are excellent for amateur play.

Dimple Pattern 

Have you ever wondered why golf balls have dimples? These small indentations play a pivotal role in aerodynamics, reducing drag and influencing lift. Dimple patterns are meticulously designed, and their depth and shape affect how the ball behaves in flight.

This subtle but significant feature helps you achieve greater distance and accuracy on the course. When you select a golf ball for your next round, you’re choosing a meticulously crafted piece of equipment engineered for performance. 

Whether it’s the springy core, the resilient cover, or the carefully designed dimple pattern, every part of a golf ball has a specific role that aids in sending it further down the fairway.

Science and Technology

As you journey through the realm of golf, you’ll discover the remarkable influence that science and technology have had on the development of the golf ball. The quest for perfection in this sport has led to an era where innovative materials and state-of-the-art design techniques are paramount.

Golf Ball Materials and Resin 

The core of the modern golf ball is a masterpiece of engineering, with materials evolving to provide better energy transfer and durability. Innovations such as the use of urethane and highly resilient rubber compounds have significantly improved ball performance.

These advancements are not just about distance; they also offer enhanced spin control and a softer feel, crucial for precision on the green.

Technology and Golf Ball Design 

With high-tech equipment and computer simulations, designers can now precisely tailor the aerodynamics of golf balls. The dimple pattern on a golf ball, for example, is a critical feature, perfected through fluid dynamic analysis, affecting airflow and stability. 

Manufacturers continually experiment with dimple shapes and patterns to maximize distance and control, catering to the unique swing styles of different golfers.

Material AdvancementsIncreased durability, Consistency in play, Enhanced feelMulti-layer cores, Urethane covers
Simulation and Design SoftwareOptimized dimple patterns, Customization for swing typesAerodynamic efficiency, Personalized performance
Robotic TestingAccurate performance data, Faster R&D cyclesQuality control, Design validation
Technology and Golf Ball Design 

The Role of Production Standards 

As you stand on the green, ready to take your shot, the quality of your golf ball is the last thing you should worry about. That’s where production standards come into play, ensuring that each ball you tee up meets the high expectations for performance and reliability.

Strict measures and systematic checks form the bedrock of these standards, both during and after the manufacturing process.

Quality Control 

Quality control in golf ball manufacturing is no small feat—it’s a comprehensive approach designed to detect and correct any deviations from excellence. Every single golf ball is put through a series of inspections and tests to confirm that it lives up to both the producer’s and the players’ standards.

From the symmetry of the dimples to the integrity of the core, quality control professionals scrutinize various attributes of the golf balls to ensure top-notch performance.

Strict Regulations of the United States Golf Association 

The United States Golf Association (USGA) sets forth a stringent set of regulations that every golf ball must comply with to be eligible for tournament play. Manufacturers align their production standards with these regulations, often adding their own additional criteria to elevate the quality further.

The table below provides insight into how golf ball characteristics are measured against the USGA requirements

CharacteristicUSGA RegulationCommon Manufacturer Standards
WeightNot exceed 1.620 ounces avoirdupoisPrecision weighing to +/- 0.1g
SizeDiameter not less than 1.680 inchesLaser measurement for diameter consistency
SymmetryMust not be designed, manufactured or intentionally modified to have properties differing from a spherically symmetrical ball3D imaging to analyze dimple structure
VelocityInitial velocity must not exceed the limit specified in the Overall Distance Standard for golf ballsHigh-speed camera capture for velocity measurements
Dimple PatternNo specific regulation, but affects aerodynamics which is regulatedWind tunnel testing for optimal aerodynamic performance
Strict Regulations of the United States Golf Association 

Ensuring that each golf ball is made to the highest quality is a meticulous process, but it’s one that brings peace of mind to golfers everywhere. The next time you strike a ball down the fairway, take a moment to appreciate the rigorous standards and controls that contribute to that perfect shot.

Source: Madehow’s Research on Golf Balls

History of Golf Ball Evolution

The journey of the golf ball is a narrative of ingenuity and technology, mirroring the game’s own transformation. Over the centuries, golf balls have undergone a remarkable metamorphosis, morphing from humble beginnings to become the pinnacle of sporting equipment design.

Let’s delve into this intriguing history and explore how each innovation in golf ball development has gone on to redefine the game of golf itself.

Golf Ball Development Over Time

In the beginning, the golf ball was a simple leather pouch filled with feathers. Known as the ‘featherie’, this early version was the standard until the mid-19th century. The advent of the ‘guttie’, a ball made from gutta-percha, revolutionized the game by providing better durability and affordability.

As years passed, rubber cores took center stage with the ‘Haskell ball’, introducing the wound spring core design that elevated the game to new heights. The evolution continued, transforming materials and manufacturing processes until we arrived at the contemporary era of multi-layered balls made from advanced synthetic materials like urethane and Surlyn.

This timeline isn’t just about the balls themselves, but about the game’s relentless pursuit of perfection.

How the Golf Ball Has Transformed the Game

Each leap in golf ball technology has left a significant mark on the game. From driving distances to precision in putting, the modern golfer can experience a level of control and consistency barely imaginable to their featherie-hitting forebearers.

The dimpled design that we now consider quintessential was a discovery that drastically improved aerodynamics, allowing the ball to travel further and more predictably. Today, you’re likely playing with a ball that has been aerodynamically optimized using computational fluid dynamics, a far cry from the hand-crafted golf balls of yesteryear.

This relentless innovation cycle hasn’t just shaped the balls; it’s reshaped strategies, influenced golf course design, and endlessly extended the sport’s horizons.

Different Golf Balls Based on Playing Level

Golf balls are designed to meet the needs of players at different skill levels. From beginners to low handicappers, each type of golf ball offers specific features that can enhance playability and performance.

Here’s a breakdown of golf ball types tailored for various playing levels:

Beginner Golf Balls

  • Two-Piece Golf Balls: These balls are typically designed with a large, solid rubber core and a durable cover. They are engineered to provide maximum distance and durability, which is ideal for beginners who are still mastering their swing and might hit errant shots.
  • Low Compression: Beginner golf balls often have lower compression ratings, making them softer. This allows for better energy transfer on slower swings, helping beginners to achieve more distance.

Intermediate Golf Balls

  • Multi-Layer Construction: As players improve, they might transition to three-piece golf balls. These balls have a core, a mantle layer, and a cover, which offer a good balance between distance and spin control.
  • Medium Compression: Suitable for golfers with moderate swing speeds, these balls provide a good mix of distance and feel. These balls are great for intermediate players.

Advanced Golf Balls

  • High-Performance Multi-Layer: Advanced players often choose four or five-piece golf balls. These designs allow for nuanced performance adjustments, such as increased spin from the tee or better control on the green.
  • Higher Compression: These balls are harder and are best suited for golfers with faster swing speeds. The high compression allows for better energy transfer at high speeds, optimizing distance and control.

Low Handicappers

  • Tour-Level Golf Balls: Designed for low handicappers and professional players, these golf balls usually feature the most advanced technology and materials, such as urethane covers, which offer superior spin control and feel around the greens.
  • Spin Control and Feel: Low handicapper balls are designed to provide exceptional control and feedback, which are crucial for precise shot-making and short game tactics.

Specialty Golf Balls

  • High Visibility Golf Balls: Available in various colors, these balls are easier to spot and are beneficial for all skill levels, especially in low-light conditions or on courses with dense foliage.
  • Low Spin Golf Balls: These are designed to reduce hooks and slices, making them a good choice for players struggling with accuracy.

Choosing the right golf ball based on your playing level can significantly impact your game. Beginners and high handicappers generally benefit from balls that enhance distance and reduce spin, while advanced players might prefer balls that offer greater control and feel.

Always consider your swing speed, typical shot shape, and what aspects of your game need the most improvement when selecting a golf ball.

The Future of Golf Ball Innovation

As we’ve traversed the intricate path from conception to the final product, you’ve witnessed the remarkable journey golf balls have undergone. Delving into every layer has revealed a world where precision engineering meets meticulous design, all aimed at elevating your game.

From the core to the cover, every aspect of a golf ball is crafted with the singular intent of enhancing performance and playability. With the leaps in science and technology, today’s golf balls are at the pinnacle of innovation—offering you an exceptional combination of distance, feel, and control.

Brands like Titleist, Callaway, and Bridgestone continuously push the envelope, utilizing advanced materials and the latest technologies to ensure you’re playing with equipment that reflects excellence. Garnering insights from this behind-the-scenes glimpse of golf ball manufacturing, you’re now equipped with a deeper appreciation for the game’s little wonders.

Next time you step onto the course, remember that every swing benefits from centuries of evolution and the pursuit of perfection—a true testament to the spirit of golf.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q: What is the basic process of making a golf ball?

A: The process of making a golf ball involves several steps. It starts with the inner core, often made from a rubber compound, which is meant to give the ball its resilience. Layers are then added for durability and to control the ball’s flight characteristics. The final step is the application of the dimpled cover, which affects how the ball flies and how it feels when hit by a golf club. Throughout this process, manufacturers aim to produce high-quality golf balls that meet specific shape and size requirements for tour pro performance.

Q: How has the golf ball evolved over time?

A: The golf ball has come a long way from its origins. Early golf balls were made from wood, and later, leather stuffed with feathers. By the late 19th century, the gutta-percha ball became popular, followed by the rubber Haskell golf ball in the early 20th century. Modern technology has vastly improved the design, leading to the multi-layered, high-tech balls used in the PGA tour and by amateur golfers today. This evolution reflects the ongoing quest for a golf ball that can travel farther and with greater accuracy.

Q: How many golf balls are produced annually?

A: It’s estimated that approximately 850 million golf balls are manufactured and shipped worldwide each year. This staggering quantity reflects the immense popularity of golf as a sport and the constant demand for golf balls that meet the performance standards of both amateur and professional players.

Q: What materials are used to make golf balls?

A: Materials used to make golf balls include a variety of synthetic rubbers and plastics for the core, ionomer resins or urethane for the cover, and other compounds that add specific performance characteristics. Manufacturers like Taylormade Golf often experiment with different material compositions to enhance the golf ball’s durability, feel, and flight behavior.

Q: What role does the dimple pattern play in a golf ball’s performance?

A: The dimple pattern on a golf ball plays a crucial role in its aerodynamics, affecting how far and how smoothly the ball travels through the air. Dimples create a thin layer of air that clings to the ball’s surface, reducing drag and helping the ball to fly farther. The specific pattern and size of the dimples are carefully tested to produce the most efficient flight characteristics for the golf balls made.

Q: Can you take a tour of a golf ball manufacturing facility?

A: Yes, some golf ball manufacturers offer tours of their facilities, though availability might vary. These tours provide an intriguing inside look at the entire process of making a golf ball, from the initial design to the final product. Visitors typically need to check with individual companies like Taylormade or others in the golf ball market for tour availability and schedule.

Q: How do professionals on the PGA Tour choose their golf balls?

A: Professionals on the PGA Tour choose their golf balls based on a variety of factors including the ball’s flight characteristics, how it feels off the golf club, its performance in the wind, and how it reacts on the greens. Players often work closely with manufacturers to find the perfect golf ball that suits their game, undergoing rigorous testing and tweaking to ensure the balls are ready for tour-level competition.

Q: What’s the future of golf ball technology?

A: The future of golf ball technology is focused on further innovations in materials and design to enhance performance. Manufacturers are experimenting with new polymers and aerodynamic features to make balls that can travel even farther and with more accuracy. Additionally, there’s ongoing research into environmentally friendly materials and manufacturing processes to reduce the ecological impact of golf ball production.

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