Irradiated Golf Balls

Yep, a mutant golf ball deformed by the ravages of radiation. To be honest,  I don't know why its shape is so distorted, but it might have been due to the long term effects of the gamma rays. 

It was produced in the 1960s by Oak Ridge Atom Industries, Inc., of Oak Ridge Tennessee.  The bottom of the box notes that the company "owns and operates its own source of radioactive Cobalt-60 under AEC Byproduct License No. 41-2540-1."

The manufacturer claimed that the treatment with Co-60 gamma rays resulted in "longer drives . . . . longer lives."  Presumably the longer life of the golf ball was due to the theory that the radiation increased the toughness of the ball's cover.

They also boasted that this was "the best (and most expensive) golf ball made in the USA today."

It is possible that the irradiation changed the tension of the winding (assuming the ball had a winding rather than solid core), and if the irradiation was not uniform, a distorted shape might result. Just speculating.


The ball to the right was produced by Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL) in the mid 1990s. It was irradiated by an electron beam, probably the IMPELA Electron Beam Processor.

Quoting one description "The process - originally developed by AECL Research Scientists -  crosslinks the atoms in the golf ball's rubber core, creating longer molecular chains.  Experiments show that the Atomic Golf Ball travels up to 10 % further on drives."

Apparently these balls were handed out as souvenirs to participants at the 1995 G-7 Summit Meeting in Halifax.


The box to the right, empty unfortunately, held three golf balls irradiated in an electron beam by Acsion Industries in Pinawa Canada. 


Some additional  information can be found in a US Patent application (0020025862) assigned to Spalding Sports:  "The golf balls of the present invention preferably are crosslinked by irradiation, and more preferably by light rays such as gamma rays or UV radiation. Furthermore, other forms of particle irradiation, including electron beam also can be used. Gamma radiation is preferred as golf balls or game balls can be irradiated in bulk. Gamma penetrates very deep but also increases crosslinking of the inner core, and the compression of the core has to be adjusted to allow for the increase in hardness. Electron beam techniques are faster but cannot be used for treating in bulk as the electron beam does not penetrate very deep.  The type of irradiation to be used will depend in part upon the underlying layers. For example, certain types of irradiation may degrade windings in a wound golf ball. On the other hand, balls with a solid core would not be subject to the same concerns." " "Generally a wide range of dosage levels may be used. For example, total dosages of up to about 12.5, or even 15 Mrads may be employed.  Preferably, radiation delivery levels are controlled so that the game ball is not heated above about 80 degree C (176 degree F) while being crosslinked."

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Last updated: 05/10/11
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