Golf Balls… Revisited?
Getting ready to hit the ball

Golf Balls… Revisited?


Amateur golfers in England, who could, once upon a time, purchase in every pro-shop what has been called the small British ball, enjoyed the game more than their American counterparts, and played faster, too.

In 1920, the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews approved this 1.62 inch in diameter golf ball for play, even in the British Open; a ball the great Jack Nicklaus was quoted as saying, during his Memorial Tournament, was hit 50 yards farther than the larger 1.68 inches in diameter American ball, approved for play in America, by the United States Golf Association in 1932, but who banned the small ball from both pro and amateur championships, such as the U.S. Open or U.S. Amateur.  

The small ball has historical significance, as evidenced by Arnold Palmer playing this golf ball in route to winning the 1931 British Open at Royal Birkdale, fighting winds as high as 50 miles per hour.

Peter Thomson, the great Australian golfer won six British Open championships playing the small ball.

Ben Hogan won the 1953 British Open at Carnoustie, playing the small ball.  

In 1974, the British ball was banned from play in The Open Championship (British Open), and banned from all competitive tournament and major championship play in 1990.

Having lived in England for five years, from 1977 until November of 1982, when moving back to New York to take on the position of instruction editor of GOLF Magazine, I was very familiar with the small ball.

During my time in England, I played to a three-handicap at Home Park Golf Club, and used the small ball, as did my fellow golfers, and always on windy days, since it bored through the strongest of winds, and, for me, landed thirty-five yards longer than an American ball hit with the same swing. After all, it was legal for me and my fellow members to play this golf ball during weekend friendly play.

Even though, during my time in England, the small ball had been banned from British Open play, golfers like me could still buy the small ball and play it on weekends at public and private courses unless one was playing in a formal completion, like the British Amateur.

I have heard you can still buy small golf balls in England, that used to be manufactured by Penfold and Dunlop, although Arnold Palmer used a small ball by Wilson Staff, in route to winning the 1931 British Open.  

Whether this is true or not, with Post-Millennials claiming the sport is too hard, and with the courses still much too long, and taking too much time out of their day to play eighteen holes, I say bring back the small ball, that flies farther and gives them a chance against long holes and allows them to play golf faster and make American golf great fun again.

I’m sure President Donald Trump, for one, at his age, would welcome the extra distance and support a movement that even allows golfers to choose what ball to play in a club tournament.

After all, golf is supposed to be fun. The fact that 25 million amateur golfers far outnumber the few scratch and low-handicap amateur golfers who are talented enough to play in a major amateur championship is reason enough for allowing recreational amateur golfer to play with the small ball.  

What’s more, since PGA, LPGA, and Champions’ Tour has never called for a uniform ball for all to play, as is the case with the balls for baseball, tennis, basketball, and football, what would be so wrong to allow the small ball to be allowed to also be played in pro tournaments. After all, it is just another different type ball to add to those played by pros today, that claim to fly farther down the fairway, spin more once hitting the green, are more durable, better balanced…

Enjoy Golf
John Andrisani

John Andrisani

Former senior instruction editor at GOLF Magazine, writer of around one-hundred articles on putting in publications worldwide, and author of 40 how-to golf books, including  The Short Game Magic of Tiger Woods and Hogan on the Green.

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