The “Featherie” ball was a handcrafted ball made of goose feathers packed into a cowhide sphere. The feathers and leather were fashioned into the ball while wet. As it dried the leather shrank and the feathers expanded to create a hardened ball. The ball was painted and finished off by punching it with the ball-maker’s mark. The handcrafted nature of the balls often made them even more expensive than a club. Noted early ball-makers were Andrew Dickson and Leith and Henry Mills of St Andrews.
The Robertson family started making featherie balls in the early 18th century and produced the most famous ballmaker of them all, Allan Robertson (1815-1859), a dominant figure amongst the artisans of the game and a champion golfer of his age.
Robertson was so well known and respected that he marked his golf balls with his first name, “Allan.” He manufactured featherie balls with his apprentice, Tom Morris, Sr., in a shop overlooking the 18th green at St Andrews until he caught Morris using one of the new “gutta percha” balls and fired him. When his featherie business collapsed around 1850, Robertson ended up making (and playing with) the new rubber “guttie” balls himself.