The Scientific Era 1950 - Present
In the latter half of the 20th century designers and engineers utilised advances in material science and computer technology to greatly improve golf equipment. The following represent some of the most significant design steps.
US3042405 by Karsten Solheim in 1959
Heel and Toe Balanced Golf Putter
Karsten Solheim worked as an engineer for a large industrial corporation during the day, but turned to designing and making experimental golf clubs during his spare time. In 1959 he reasoned that a putter with weighting at the toe and heel would be less likely to twist due to inertial properties, and hence would putt straighter. The resultant PING 1A putter quickly became sought after by many top players, and its basic design concepts have since been used in millions of putters.
US3655188 by Karsten Solheim in 1969
Investment Cast Cavity Back Golf Irons
Solheim also used his engineering knowledge to develop what were at the time radical designs for golf iron heads. The blades of PING Karsten 1 irons were produced using the latest metal casting techniques rather than forged. This meant that hollow features could be incorporated into the back of the heads giving much larger sweet spots, resulting in clubs that were much more forgiving to off-centre hits. Today, virtually all golf irons use these principles.
Graphite Shafts for Golf Clubs by Frank Thomas in 1968
Thomas worked as a product designer for the Shakespeare Sporting Goods Company. He tried making shafts out of fibre-glass but then began experimenting with graphite-fibre composite material developed largely thanks to the emerging space industry. The first prototype was made and succesfully tested in 1968. In 1970 the company rushed to display its new wonder product at the USPGA trade show. Unfortunately, correct legal procedures to protect their invention had not been followed and this meant that a patent could not be granted. It did, however, take nearly 20 more years before graphite shafts could be produced cost effectively.
Golf Ball with Durable Cover by Ram Corporation
In the 1960’s many leaps forward were taken in developing durable plastics for all manner of uses. Although resin materials had been used for golf ball covers for over forty years, the Ram Corporation was the first to utilise a new polymer known by the trade name of SURLYN. It’s 1968 Golden Ram model ball was quickly promoted as cut-proof and golfers flocked to use it.
Two-piece ball by Paul Moliter
Moliter worked as a product specialist for Spalding and develped a two-piece ball with a urethane cover called the “Executive” in the 1960’s. He then developed a ball using a SURLYN cover and called it the “TOP-FLITE” and the most popular golf ball ever made was born.
US5042806 “Metal Wood” with neckless head by Helmstetter in 1989
Richard Helmstetter worked for Callaway Golf and his design for an oversized golf driver head of 190cc would become known as the Big Bertha. The model was launched on the market in 1991 and lead the way in golf driver design for many years thereafter.
US5038984 Golf Bag Strap by Theodore-James Izzo in 1990
Izzo’s dual golf bag strap was an ingenius idea which spread the load more evenly across a golfer’s back. It quickly grew in popularity with golfers and nearly every carry-bag now made has dual straps.
US5259129 Plastic Golf Cleat by McMullin and Deacon in 1992
An inventive step away from the traditional metal spike lead to Faris McMullin and Ernie Deacon patenting their new plastic golf cleat which was kinder to the fine grass on putting greens. In 2001 their company, Softspikes, filed a design patent ( USD449921 ) for an improved shape which would become known as the “Black Widow”. An inspection of new golf shoes will reveal its remarkable success.
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