Penfold Golf: History’s Great “What If?” | MyGolfSpy


Likelihood is “Penfold Golf” doesn’t imply a lot to you. There’s, nonetheless, compelling proof to recommend it may be golf historical past’s nice “what if?”. Right now, Penfold is a fledgling way of life model utilizing nostalgia as its hook. However there was a time when Penfold was poised to be a golf ball powerhouse on either side of the Atlantic.

Primarily based on what we’ve realized by means of some analysis, there’s a better-than-even likelihood Penfold may have turn into what Titleist is as we speak. That’s to say, the No. 1 ball in golf.

A provocative assertion? Actually. Loopy conjecture? Maybe. But it surely’s a narrative price telling and, we hope, price studying.

Penfold Golf: A Little Background

We’ve given you the Cliff Notes model of the Penfold Golf story however right here’s the complete monty.

Albert Ernest Penfold was born in 1884. A pure scientist, Penfold was a rubber savant chargeable for a number of the largest improvements in golf. His first breakthrough got here whereas working for the India Rubber, Gutta Percha and Telegraph Works Firm, generally often called the Silvertown Firm. The gutta-percha was the ball of selection again then and the widespread “gutty” was a boring grey and exhausting to search out, even on the green. Penfold developed a strategy to make a pure-white gutta-percha ball. It was a smash hit, and Penfold was named director of golf ball improvement for Silvertown in 1911. He began piling up patents for Silvertown nearly instantly, retaining the rights to at least one, for a lattice-type dimple marking. That patent would finally play an enormous position for Penfold.

By 1919 Penfold had taken his abilities and patents to the Dunlop Firm. Inside three years, he developed the very first golf ball to hold the title Maxfli. Two years later, Penfold developed and patented a tennis ball manufacturing technique to maintain balls from going flat. By 1927, Penfold struck out on his personal and began Golf Ball Developments Inc. and Penfold Golf Ltd. He arrange a manufacturing unit on Bromford Lane in Birmingham, England.

It’s right here the place the story will get extra attention-grabbing.

Roll Again the Ball!

What would you name a ball that conforms to all of the Guidelines of Golf however blows away the sector in distance? In 2000, that may have been the NIKE Tour Accuracy Tiger used to smoke the U.S. Open subject by 15 strokes (how Titleist nonetheless beat NIKE to the punch with the Professional V1 is one other of golf’s nice what-ifs).

Within the early Thirties, the R&A was on a campaign to curb distance. Apparently, these professionals with their newfangled metal shafts had been socking the ball too bloody far and making basic programs out of date. The R&A devised a specification that may limit ball flight and gave it to all of the ball producers within the UK so they might develop prototypes. Penfold quietly advised his friends he may make a ball to these very specs that may nonetheless outdrive some other ball.

And that’s precisely what occurred.

“The primary check of the Penfold manufacturing was held on a Sunday previous to the British Open Championship on a course close to St Andrews. When the chosen driver hit the primary Penfold-designed ball, it carried far past the furthermost markers. Different Penfold balls gave an identical outcomes. Examination adopted the demonstration and the Penfold check ball was discovered to adapt to the letter of the proscribing specification.” – Golfdom Journal

The Penfold Benefit

Penfold’s secret was twofold. First, he developed a proprietary method for winding rubber thread across the cores of his golf balls in addition to the equipment with which to do it. His technique maximized the strain of the rubber thread and prevented too many loops of that thread from crossing on the identical level. One of the best golf balls of the day had roughly 2,000 kilos of inside stress. Penfold balls exceeded that.

Penfold’s different space of experience was with dimples. He experimented with a wide range of shapes, depths and patterns, selecting making balls with dimples and different balls with a lattice-type marking, which he had patented. Penfold discovered the lattice balls fared higher within the UK with its damper local weather and softer fairways as a result of they carried significantly farther.

And for those who suppose golf ball lawsuits began with Titleist, Callaway and Bridgestone suing one another within the 2000s, suppose once more. Penfold wound up getting sued over the lattice ball by his previous employer, Dunlop. However holding on to the lattice patent proved prescient, as a British court docket dominated in Penfold’s favor in 1931.

Dimpled balls had a decrease, flatter carry and extra roll in comparison with the lattice ball. That made it good for the manicured fairways of America. So, in 1932, armed with an arsenal of dimpled balls, Penfold got here to the U.S. Regardless of the Nice Melancholy, Penfold opened a gross sales headquarters in Midtown Manhattan at 67 W. 44th Road (which later moved to 11 Park Place) and employed gross sales reps to cowl the States, Canada and the Caribbean.

Penfold Golf and The Roaring ‘30s

Albert Penfold spent the Thirties commuting between New York and the UK., constructing his companies in each nations. A June 1934 function in Golf Illustrated titled “A Golf Ball Scientist” described Penfold as an engineer “devoted to the perfection of the trendy golf ball” and a “hearty, tweedy Britisher with an outside complexion and a cheery method.”

“Penfold is aware of precisely to the final exact element the explanations for any ball’s motion in flight and often has figured it out scientifically with pencil and paper earlier than the molds are made.”  – Golf Illustrated, 1934

Penfold’s premium LL and LT balls had been the Professional V1 of their day. They had been a buck apiece in 1934 which might be over $19 a ball as we speak. And, yeah, it’s advertising and marketing however Penfold’s advertisements on the time urged golfers to “see why this ball is all over the place conceded to be the world’s longest.”

By 1936, Penfold was able to take it up a notch. A blurb within the Brooklyn Each day Eagle stated, “Penfold, the golf ball producer of Birmingham, England, is opening an American manufacturing unit in Bush Terminal. A properly—Penfold insists upon artesian properly water—has already been sunk.” With that, Penfold grew to become one of many first, if not the first, golf ball producers with factories in each Europe and the U.S.

It was additionally about this time that Penfold was planting the seeds of what would finally turn into the European Tour. In 1938, he put up $5,000 in prize cash for the Penfold Skilled Golf League, a 12-player round-robin match. Percy Alliss (father of Peter Alliss) received the primary occasion and Sir Henry Cotton received a yr later.

The ’30s had been superb for Penfold. Every thing was in place for the corporate to be a significant participant on either side of the Atlantic.

After which battle broke out.

The Siamese Prince and U-69

On the evening of Feb. 17, 1941, the British service provider ship Siamese Prince was steaming by means of tough seas north of Eire in direction of Liverpool. It left New York a couple of days earlier with the captain, 56 crew members, two gunners and 9 passengers on board.

At simply after 9 p.m., the Siamese Prince was rocked by a torpedo from the German U-Boat U-69. Twenty minutes later, it was hit by a second torpedo. A 3rd hit the Siamese Prince half an hour later, sending her to the underside. All 68 aboard perished, together with Albert Ernest Penfold.

Like most British producers, Penfold had spent the earlier yr serving to the British battle effort. Within the months following his dying, each the UK and the U.S. restricted manufacturing of any non-essential rubber merchandise. The Brooklyn manufacturing unit shut down. The Birmingham facility was hit throughout a bombing raid, destroying a lot of the equipment.

After the battle, each factories had been nonetheless closed. Penfold’s son, Dick, who took over the enterprise at age 30 when his father was killed, had a choice to make. With no materials accessible to construct new golf ball manufacturing equipment within the UK and with no rubber accessible within the U.S. to renew making golf balls, the youthful Penfold selected to shut the Brooklyn manufacturing unit and ship all of the equipment again to Birmingham.

Penfold would nonetheless be bought by means of professional retailers within the U.S. for a number of a long time. Actually, the model maintained a wholesome presence. Newspaper advertisements within the U.S. and Canada provided a free sleeve to anybody scoring a hole-in-one with a Penfold. The corporate even arrange golf ball merchandising machines, like gumball machines, in professional retailers.

Penfold Golf

Maintaining the British Finish Up

The ‘50s by means of the ‘70s was Penfold’s Golden Period. Dick Penfold proved to be each bit the inventor his father was. In his lab behind the professional store at Ladbrook Park, Penfold developed balls such because the Penfold Ace and he invented one of many very first robots to check golf balls. (It’s nonetheless there at Ladbrook, adjoining to the primary tee). Penfold additionally developed a robot-on-a-trailer, the Penfold “Robotic-Driver” Cellular Golf Ball Flight Demonstration Machine.

Penfold Golf

Within the ‘50s, Penfold began utilizing taking part in card fits (hearts, diamonds, spades, golf equipment) on its golf balls as an alternative of numbers, which might turn into the corporate’s signature. By the early ‘60s, Penfold, from its manufacturing unit on Bromford Lane, grew to become the primary producer to supply a couple of million golf balls in a calendar yr.

And everyone knows James Bond used a Penfold Hearts and the previous switcharoo to beat Auric Goldfinger within the huge match in 1964’s Goldfinger. The little piece of product placement despatched Penfold’s gross sales by means of the roof.

Dick Penfold additionally continued his father’s dedication to the skilled recreation for each women and men. In 1951, he sponsored Shirley Spork, one of many 13 founding members of the LPGA, to present clinics within the UK. And it was by means of his affect that Spork grew to become the primary lady ever admitted to the Royal and Historical clubhouse in St Andrews after taking part in an exhibition. From 1946 to 1974, Penfold sponsored the Penfold Event on the British PGA circuit.

However by the tip of 1974, every thing modified once more.

The Colgate-Palmolive Years

In 1974, Dick Penfold retired and bought his father’s firm to Colgate-Palmolive. Which will sound like an odd marriage however, on the time, Colgate-Palmolive was investing closely in sports activities and would additionally buy Ram Golf that yr. Collectively, the group sponsored the Penfold PGA Championship and put up sufficient prize cash to entice American professionals to come back over. The primary Penfold PGA, in 1975, was received by Arnold Palmer at Royal St. George’s.

Colgate-Palmolive additionally began spending huge on Tour professionals. Gary Participant already was on employees with a ball and glove deal. Quickly, younger stars akin to Seve Ballesteros and Nick Faldo would be a part of. Seve, in reality, received the 1979 Open Championship with a Penfold Custom ball, whereas Faldo received his very first match, the 1978 British PGA at Royal Birkdale, with a Penfold GX100.

“I’ve nonetheless received the ball and to be trustworthy, it wasn’t an awesome ball,” Faldo tells MyGolfSpy. “I went to the Penfold manufacturing unit and advised them to get me any dozen. They pulled a field off the shelf and so they wouldn’t undergo my ring gauge. It was like 10 out of a dozen that wouldn’t undergo.”

“That was form of customary on the time, although,” Faldo provides. “That’s why Titleist prided themselves on making essentially the most constant ball. However I believe each different model didn’t have that degree of high quality management.”

Whether or not these high quality points had at all times existed or had developed since Dick Penfold’s retirement is misplaced to historical past. However the late ’70s proved to be Penfold’s swan track. Colgate-Palmolive pulled the plug on the Penfold-Ram experiment in 1980, promoting Ram again to the Hansberger household and promoting off Penfold to Faulkner Sports activities. Faulkner owned the model for 3 years earlier than promoting it to a gaggle of Penfold manufacturing unit managers.

Penfold Golf: What Would possibly Have Been

The Bromford Lane manufacturing unit stayed lively into the ’90s. By then, actuality sunk in. The ability that had been making balls since 1927 was shuttered and manufacturing was outsourced to Korea.

In the event you evaluate the Penfold story with Acushnet, you’ll discover loads of variations together with some eerie similarities. Acushnet was established in 1910 by Phillip Younger and primarily centered on rubber merchandise. Like Albert Pendfol, Younger was an engineer with a knack for rubber. The  MIT graduate was additionally an avid golfer when he realized one thing wasn’t proper with the balls he was utilizing. He took X-rays and located the facilities had been usually misaligned.

By 1932, Acushnet began making golf balls with a machine Younger developed that might spin rubber thread round a core and nonetheless preserve the core completely centered.

Does any of this sound acquainted?

Penfold Golf

“Right here’s the factor,” says Gavin Perrett, co-owner of the Penfold model. “Acushnet’s proprietor didn’t get killed on the Atlantic. Acushnet’s manufacturing unit didn’t get bombed and Acushnet didn’t get bought to a toothpaste firm.”

Like Penfold, Acushnet did get bought within the ‘70s however it was to a holding firm wanting so as to add a worthwhile enterprise. Fortune Manufacturers handled Acushnet because it did its different entities: Be worthwhile and we’ll depart you alone. Which it did till 2010 when it bought the model to FILA Korea Ltd. Colgate-Palmolive, then again, used Penfold, Ram and Craigton Golf as a way to an finish: sports activities advertising and marketing to promote extra toothpaste. Predictably, it didn’t finish properly. The corporate spent six years and a boatload of money on gamers and occasions however by no means noticed the return. In 1980, it pulled the plug on all its sports activities ventures and determined to stay to oral hygiene and dishwashing liquid.

What If?

Not a lot stays of the unique Penfold. The Bromford Lane facility is now flats. The Brooklyn manufacturing unit, at 33 35th Road, is now an vintage furnishings outlet referred to as cityFoundry. You’ll be able to nonetheless purchase Penfold golf balls on-line, although. The Penfold Hearts is a decent-enough three-piece ionomer ball made by Nassau in Korea.

However what if the Second World Struggle by no means occurred? What if Albert Penfold lived a full life, the Brooklyn manufacturing unit thrived and Penfold’s fortunes continued? Each Penfolds had been clearly high-level innovators, so is it unreasonable to presume the corporate’s post-war UK recognition would have been replicated within the U.S.?

Would Penfold, in reality, be the No. 1 ball in golf as we speak as an alternative of Titleist?

It’s unimaginable to know however it’s enjoyable to conjecture. Parrett and Paul Silk, his associate within the UK, are attempting to make a go of the brand new Penfold as a lifestyle-nostalgia model. They promote distinctive Penfold-branded gear starting from throwback Sunday baggage to ‘70s-style cabretta gloves, playing-card ball markers and even a leather-bound golf journal. Balls are a nod to the corporate’s previous.

“All of us like retro stuff. We love our previous manufacturers,” says Faldo, who has no involvement with the present Penfold. “You’ll be able to’t struggle the large boys, however you’ll find a pleasant area of interest below that. It has , historic story to it.”

“Individuals don’t know this story and in the event that they don’t know, they don’t care,” says Parrett. “I’m not attempting to promote it however it’s all very fascinating. It’s a giant a part of the historical past of the game all of us love.”

Historical past doesn’t allow you to get the ball within the gap any higher. However relying on why you’re keen on golf, historical past could make the journey just a little extra enjoyable.

In the event you’re a scholar of historical past, what’s your take?


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