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A research chemist worked seriously to manufacture a golf ball that won't smile


Even if a player swings with the power of a Jack Nicklaus he cannot put a cut or smile in my golf ball." So says Harry Lander, the man who has devised a coreless synthetic golf ball that no hacker can hack. To demonstrate its resistance to cuts, Lander will place the ball in a metal cup and pound it with a sharp-pronged hammer. Nothing happens. No cuts, no smiles.

Lander, a research chemist, doesn't play golf, and the ball is a byproduct of an experiment he was conducting with synthetic rubbers in an effort to produce a tough, resilient membrane for use in a saline-water-conversion unit. To test the membrane's resiliency he had the material—a synthetic elastomer made by the Phillips Petroleum Company—shaped into a ball approximately the same size as a golf ball. Why not, suggested an associate, make it a golf ball?

Lander agreed. After further experimentation in their Trenton, N.J. laboratory, Lander Products developed the Long Play golf ball, one made entirely of synthetic rubber. "For duffers," Lander says, "resistance to cut and tear is an important quality, and that is what the Long Play offers."

The normal golf ball is made by winding natural rubber around a core and then encasing the ball in a hard, vulcanized-rubber shell. Lander's ball is coreless and coverless, being molded homogeneously of synthetic rubber. Lander contends that the fact his ball has no core also makes it perfectly balanced. "It has the precision of a cue ball," says Lander, who is an occasional billiards player.

After he developed the prototype LPs, he gave some to golfers for a field test. Some found there was a slight loss of distance, which would not be important to the high-handicap player, and also complained that the ball did not have that certain "click" so dear to the ears of golfers. So Lander went back to the lab and tested the clicks of the major brands of balls on the market. He then built in a click in much the same way an auto manufacturer builds in the reassuring slam of a car door. Though his click is not exactly right, it isn't bad.

"It was," Lander says, "the hardest task of the entire project."

Lander Products makes only one model, its Long Play. "Why make different balls when one is satisfactory?" asks Lander. With his golf balls on sale in pro shops and department stores for about $12 per dozen (the ball is USGA-approved as to weight, size and initial velocity), Lander is returning to his original project—the development of a saline-water converter. "With the drought the way it is we need the converters to water the greens," says Lander, a practical man.