Reflections Upon An Eclipse Golf Ball Ad From 1889

Eclipse Golf Ball Ad - 1889
Eclipse Golf Ball Ad – 1889

A golf ball ad from 1889. I found a lot to reflect upon here. It shows in one respect how little has changed, while warning us of changes yet to come.

The ad reads:

The Eclipse Golf Ball

(Currie’s Patent)

Beware of Imitations. — The “Eclipse” has been greatly improved this season, but as a number of inferior Balls have been got up to imitate its outward appearance, we are now making all our Balls embossed on each side, thus ensuring that our clients will thereby get the real “Eclipse” ball and prevent fraudulent imitations being offered to them as our genuine Ball.

Extract from “The Field,” July 23, 1881. — We have thoroughly tested the specimens sent and were agreeably surprised to find how near they came to the high estimate put upon them by the Patentee. Most assuredly they do not get hacked; not only did we play for four hours with the one ball, but for nearly two minutes afterwards we hammered away at it with our niblick, and no trace of hacking could be found.”

“The ‘Eclipse’ Golf Ball” — The ‘Eclipse continues to grow in favour with golfers, as the unsolicited testimony of experts abundantly testifies. At the commencement of last season it for a time lost its good name; complaints as to chipping, splitting and durability — or rather, non-durability — were frequent, and as the Patentee speedily discovered, not without cause. The increased demand for the Ball had necessitated the construction of new machinery, and in the augmented plant was found a flaw which accounted for the short-coming. This, however, has since been remedied. A correspondent writes that he as played every alternate day with a couple of these Balls selected at random and never drove any that gave such entire satisfaction.” — Field, April 2, 1887.

To be had from all Indiarubber Depots and Golf Club Makers

Patentees And Sole Makes:
William Currie & Co.,

Caledonia Rubber Works, Dalry Road, Edinburgh

A couple of things about this ad made me think.

The first is that golf equipment counterfeiting was apparently an issue in 1889. The knockoffs must have been vexing indeed for them to take out an ad advertising their embossing program. William Currie & Co understood that counterfeits devalued their product.

Modern golf manufacturers are faced with similar issues. One study I noticed said that as much as 24% of all clubs sold on Ebay are knockoffs. By some accounts, counterfeiting golf clubs is a billion dollar industry. Like William Currie & Co, major manufacturers know that knockoffs not only cost them sales, but also devalue their reputation. A poorly performing counterfeit Taylormade Driver reflects badly on real Taylormade Drivers.

The second thing I noticed is that the review of the Eclipse ball in The Field reads a lot like a modern day blog review. There are a couple of anecdotes, a bit of company information and an overall impression. I like to construct my blog reviews in that fashion.

Finally, there are the instructions that the Eclipse golf ball can be had from all “Indiarubber Depots and Golf Club Makers.” Apparently, the mass production of golf balls was far ahead of mass production of clubs. There are enough mass produced balls that cheap knockoffs are possible. Meanwhile, these mass produced balls are being sold in the cottage-industry shops of the club builders. At one point, golf club makers also hand-made balls. Did it occur to the clubmakers that in the not terribly distant future, clubs also would become a mass produced commodity?

There’s a lesson in that and it makes me wonder what parts of the golf industry will be supplanted in the (near) future. I can imagine an environment where a student steps into a booth and hits a few balls while being recorded by dozens of high speed cameras, radar and lasers. A computer then analyzes the collected data, compares the swing to a series of exemplars and shows the student a correction on on the screen. A few more balls are hit. Corrections are made. Balls are hit.

No instructor is needed here … just a “tech” making minimum wage to set up the machine.

(For what it’s worth, I think something similar to this is the fate of my own profession as a school teacher).

Or how about a transition from green grass courses to simulators? Put on a pair of 3D glasses and it’s just like being outdoors, without the heat, bugs or walking.

I see a lot of our “modern” world in this 128 year old ad. And some cautions.

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