First time hearing about Cayman golf balls? This article covers the history of the Cayman golf ball and just about any question you might have about these unique balls.
A Brief History of the Cayman Ball
Everyone loves history, right?
Back in the 1930s, a golf course architect by the name of William Diddel began exploring the possibility of a golf-like game that didn’t require so much space. A regular golf ball requires significant space to accommodate drives, par 5s, etc.
In theory, an alternative to the conventional golf ball could allow for shorter courses and the same playing experience. Diddel was never able to create an effective shorter distance golf ball, but he deserves some credit for the idea.
Fast forward to the 1980s. At this time, Jack Nicklaus’ design company was building a course on Grand Cayman in the British West Indies. Land here costs a premium, so Nicklaus had the MacGregor Golf Company develop a special golf ball that would allow for an 18 hole course experience in less space.
As a result, $100,000 was invested into research (this was back in the early 80s) and MacGregor’s director of manufacturing (Troy Puckett) brought the the Cayman Ball to life.
What are Cayman Golf Balls Made Of?
Real golf balls have anywhere from 2-5 layers that are designed to maximize energy transfer and produce (or reduce) a certain type of spin. A golfer often picks their golf ball to maximize distance off the tee.
Since Nicklaus was working with limited space, he needed a ball that would have a flight path and lift similar to that of a real golf ball, but that would only travel half the distance.
A cayman ball is the exact same size as a regulation ball, but it has raised bumps on its surface (instead of dimples). The first Cayman ball consisted of a plastic called Surlyn. The ball floated on water and traveled about 1/2 the distance of a conventional ball.
Why Would Someone Chose to Open a Cayman Golf Club?
Though the concept of a Cayman course had some appeal, it never really took hold on a larger scale. Several courses were opened in the US, England and Japan where space was limited.
It is true that these specially designed short courses required less upkeep, less water, less land and less resources to construct and maintain.
However, the same was true for smaller courses like an executive course or a par 3. Most golfers want the chance to feel a normal ball as it hits their golf club. As a result, shorter venues that allow for practice with a real ball have continued to be the mainstream option.
Can You Still Buy Cayman Golf Balls?
The original Jack Nicklaus Golden Bear Cayman Signature Golf Ball is a collector’s item, so if you can find one of those, you’re sitting pretty.
Every once in a while you can find some generic Cayman balls on eBay or a forum.
These balls are great for practice and golfers who are looking to improve their skill level.
The modern equivalent to a Cayman ball would be one of the offerings from Almost Golf. These balls can help your prepare for your future PGA Tour career, as they offer the flight and feedback or a normal golf ball, but they only travel 1/3 of the distance. They feel like a hard foam ball.
When I ran a par 3 course, I know of a few golfers who played a Cayman style ball instead of a regular ball. This allowed them to practice their golf swing with a driver or a 3 wood, even with the shorter distance of the par 3.
These golf balls, and their modern alternatives, are great for practice or teaching a young person the game.