Hitting out

Updated: Dec 5 2004, 05:30am hrs
The golf ball, which originated as the humble gutta percha or gutty that was struck around the Scottish Links has gone on to become one of the most important aspects of the game. Sure, your driver is the most important club in the bag when hit perfectly it leaves you dreaming of 300-yard drives, as is the set of gleaming metal irons that are the secret behind the low scores on the golf course each weekend.

However, the golf ball is also an important yet often overlooked part of the game while each club is used only a few times during 18 holes, the ball is teed up on each tee, from where it begins its journey towards its ultimate destination, where it disappears towards the bottom of the hole before it is quickly retrieved and placed on the next tee.

The gleaming white ball has about 300 to 400 tiny dimples which were introduced in 1908 encased in the cover as the number varies according to manufacturers. While there are thousands of these around the world, Titliest, Callaway, Nike, Precept and Wilson are amongst the most popular golf balls as they also cater to player of all calibers.

There are two piece and three-piece golf balls two piece is a solid centered ball with a cover while the latter has a soft liquid core which is wound tightly with a rubber string and further encased in the final covering, which now also come in many different materials like suryln, balata, uthrene or titanium. As a child who spent winter holidays on the golf course, one pastime included looking for balata balls with a cut on them. The cover was then removed to unveil the rubber layer and yards of string later a tiny crazy ball emerged a prized possession.

The Balata ball, which was designed for a softer feel to give professionals and low handicap golfers more control has now given way to more specialised golf balls in terms of spin, control and varying trajectories. A player can now choose a ball depending on the type of ball flight a low ball flight can often be fixed by opting for a ball which can make it easier to gain higher ball trajectory or depending upon the spin-rate, one can also choose a ball which can help to increase or decrease the spin-rate at impact.

Distance is always a major requirement, whether one is a professional or a beginner everyone wants to hit it longer. This demand drove the industry and the golf ball has been revolutionised during the last few years. The first to launch a ball that flew longer was Titliest, when they made the Pro-V1, which helped players with swings speeds of over 110 miles an hour (pros and low handicappers) gain over twenty yards on their drives.

In a highly competitive market, Callaway and Nike produced golf balls that matched the characteristics of the Pro-V1 - the Callaway Blue and the Nike TA2-lng. However, Tiger Woods had his own ball, the Nike TW as did David Duval, who used the Nike DD.

The popularity of golf balls soared and soon everyone was talking about the latest ball to play. The most widely played ball, the Titliest Pro-V1 was upgraded to the Pro V1x, which is played by world number one Vijay Singh, while Callaway and Nike followed suit. Callaways latest product is the HX Tour with new HEX aerodynamics, which makes the ball fly better and is also available in HX Blue or HX Red.

World number one, LPGA Tour player Annika Sorestam plays the HX Tour while Nike recently unveiled the performance enhancing, ONE BLACK and ONE GOLD - the ball that Tiger Woods is now playing.

So whatever your preference whether you want to hit it longer, higher or straighter, make sure the ball you play also suits your style.