View Cart
Powered by Spearhead Software Labs Joomla Facebook Like Button

J. Gourlay Feather Ball

A near mint feather ball circa 1840 marked "J. Gourlay" and inscribed with its size/weight "28." The Gourlay family of Musselborough, Scotland were multi-generational feather ball makers. Along with balls made by the Robertsons of St. Andrews, Gourlay feather balls commanded the highest prices. This example clearly typifies the deckle-like edges of the seams which was a unique feature of Gourlay balls.

In making a feathery, three pieces of bull's hide were cut in the shape of two discs for the ends and a rectangular strip for the middle. The leather pieces were soaked in an alum and water solution to make them soft and pliable. Then they were stitched together with waxed linen thread. Next, the pouch was turned inside out through a tiny gap that had been left un-sewn. Thus, the stitching on the seams became invisible. A top hat full of goose feathers was forced through the gap until the pouch was filled to its capacity and then the gap was sewn shut with a final single stitch. As the ball dried, the leather shrank and the feathers expanded. The end result was a sphere that was described as being "as hard as whalebone." After a few coats of paint for waterproofing, the ball was ready for play. The flight of a feather ball was truly majestic. A feather ball maker was a true professional who acquired his skill after three to five years as an apprentice. He could make no more than four featheries a day which he could sell for two to five shillings each (that's the equivalent of six to thirty dollars per ball in today's money) depending on the quality of the ball. Clearly, golf was a rich man's game during the first half of the 19th century. Furthermore, a typical feather ball might last one round on a clear day. The feather ball ruled the golf world for nearly 400 years until it was eclipsed in 1850 by the cheaper and more durable gutta percha ball. It is thought that fewer than 300 featheries survive today.

Item: M1036


In Stock