Introduction: Customized Golf Ball Display

About: Senior Engineer at Autodesk, making stuff before it was cool

Like many avid golfers I have been collecting logo golf balls from all of the courses that I have played. A "logo" ball is just a regular ball that has been imprinted with the logo of the course. Corporations that run company tournaments will sometimes provide golf balls with their company logo imprinted as a souvenir. 
I had one of those off-the-shelf display racks but after several years of visiting different courses I ran out of room. Rather than purchase another rack I decided that creating my own would make a good project, and I could design it to be extendible.

The technique I used is pretty simple. Anyone acquainted with the most basic tools should be able to handle it. It works with any design that has a solid backing. The world traveler might get ambitious and use it on a wall-sized world map (using raised 1/4" plywood for the continents). You could even apply the technique to a plaqued photo of you beside that hole-in-one flag!

Sadly neither of those apply to me so I opted to mount the balls on the side of a bookshelf that lives in my office. The shelf is rather tall and the space beside it is unoccupied so by mounting the balls on the side I didn't waste any space and I had a lot of room for expansion. The photo shows the final result.

Step 1: Tools and Materials

As you can see the tools and materials required are fairly simple. I used a table-mounted power miter saw to fashion my jig but the handheld one would have worked as well. As I was going to be working on a verticle surface I made a more complicated jig than I might have otherwise made.

The tees will form the pegs that hold the balls in place. Try to avoid the very narrow tees made of hardwood as I found them to be brittle. Most of them broke when being tapped into place so I switched to a softer kind. The ones I chose were 2 3/4" Step Tees. The shape provided the perfect resting place for a ball, and the softness of the eco-friendly material made it very easy to put them into place.

An optional material is a board to which the tees are to be mounted. At least 1/2" thickness is required and 3/4" is probably a good idea if you can get it. Remember tees come in insanely long sizes these days so you'll never have to worry about them being too short. My bookshelf was 3/4" wood so the measurements are based on that.

Step 2: Test Your Materials

I was going to be doing a lot of drilling and hammering in an exposed area so I wanted to be sure this plan was going to work out before I started on the actual bookshelf. I'm a programmer by profession where it's often easier to do something roughly and then fix it after so I really have to watch my habits.

The wood in the bookshelf was fairly hard so I used a piece of scrap hardwood for my test. In order to find the rough layout of the holes I placed five golf balls in the pattern I wanted on top of the wood. Fortunately they are dimpled and stay relatively steady. I used an alternating row pattern to pack the balls in more tightly, where the centre of each ball aligned with the tee holding the balls above it.

Then I carefully put tees into a position where they would hold the golf balls up if vertical. With the tees in position I marked where they were so that I could measure. You can be fancy and dip the ends of the tees in ink or chalk first to get a more accurate location if you wish. For me an approximation was good enough since the spacing didn't have to be really precise.

Next I corrected for my own errors by measuring the vertical and horizontal distances, applied a bit of trigonometry, and came up with an average of the distances between tees in a row. That value,  1 3/4", was what I would use for all of my layout distances for consistency.

Not all tees have the same size shaft so it's a good idea to drill a test hole in your sample piece of wood.  In my case I was working with a fairly hard wood and a tee shaft diameter of 3/16" and ended up using a drill bit size of 5/32". It was small enough that the tee had to be hammered into place but not so small that the tee was over-stressed and broke.

Using hard tees make this tolerance even tighter. Since I was using a hand-held drill my holes weren't going to be that accurate which was even more reason to use the softer tees.

Step 3: Fashioning the Jig

The first thing to make is the jig. The function of the jig is to give you a template for placing your holes so that they are evenly spaced and provide a guide for your drill. It's a good idea to use a hardwood so that your holes won't expand too much from repeated drilling.

Again in my case working on a vertical surface my jig had the added constraint of aligning the drill bit to be horizontal since I could not use a drill press on the bookshelves. I suppose I could have tipped the whole thing on its side and worked that way but it was big, heavy, and fastened to an identical shelf by piano hinge so this was much less work in the long run.

Next is to lay out the spacing of the holes on your jig. I opted for two rows of holes so that I could get accurate vertical spacing. To do this I used a combination square to draw the first row location then measured 1 3/4" down from it to draw the second row.

I did it this way to conserve space but you can lay the holes out in any pattern you wish so long as the two tees on which a ball will rest are 1 3/4" apart and no tees are closer than that together where a ball will be going. (My first idea was to ring the ceiling moulding with a single row of balls in a sinusoidal pattern. It would have been visually interesting, a bear to lay out, and the pattern would be much less amenable to a variable number of balls in it.)

Next since I wanted the jig to make correct layout as easy as possible I added another piece of wood underneath of exactly the right depth so that when the drill bit went as far as possible through the jig it would be at the right depth in the shelf to provide anchoring but not drill all the way through.

And finally in order to make sure subsequent rows all lined up with each other I attached a small end piece to sit flush with the front of the bookshelf so that my holes were always the same distance from the front.

Step 4: Drilling the Holes

I was using narrow scrap for this as it was the only hardwood on hand but if I had a wider piece I would have aligned the holes so that the bottom of the jig and the top row of holes were equidistant from the bottom row of holes so that I could use the jig itself to space out multiple rows. Since I didn't I had to draw guidelines on my surface for jig positioning, which really wasn't that difficult using a tape measure and a combination square.

Since I was using the upper part of the shelf the bottom of the jig was easier to see so I aligned it with the lines I drew and started from the bottom, moving up. (In retrospect starting from the top and moving down would have been less fatiguing but it was a small project.)

It was a simple matter of "align the jig, hold it down, drill, drill, drill..." for each pair of rows. I had 11 pairs of rows and it took me roughly 5 minutes to do all of them since all of the guesswork had been taken out.

Step 5: Mounting the Tees

Now that the holes were in place the last thing to do was to mount the tees in them.

A standard size tee has quite a long shaft, even the shortest ones, so you will probably want to cut them down a bit. It's aesthetically more pleasing to have the balls fit tightly to the surface on which they are mounted. In my case even moreso since the shape of the tees exaggerated the starting point of the actual tee shaft. If any were left exposed it would give a less clean looking appearance.

Fortunately since tees are small and only made of wood a simple pair of side-cutters was sufficient to trim the ends off. I measured the tee depth required and trimmed all of the tee shafts to fit snugly into the holes I had drilled with none of the shaft exposed.

For the longer or more traditionally shaped tees you might want to fashion a small jig to help you get an even length here. It can be as simple as a hole drilled through a piece of wood, potentially with a bit of countersink to it, so that the correct amount to be trimmed sticks out the other side.

Being a fan of testing first I trimmed two rows worth of tees then inserted them into place. Once I confirmed that everything worked exactly as I had planned I hammered in the remainder of the tees.

I used the rubber end of a mallet to avoid damaging the tees. Even using a plastic end proved to be too stressful, shattering a few tees that I hit one too many times. Being soft wood and such a snug fight I had to drill out the broken tee so best to avoid that possibility if you can.

Step 6: Putting Up the Golf Balls!

Everything is in place now, all that remains is to mount your golf balls. I put mine up alphabetically by course name so that I could both find ones I was missing and quickly check to see if one I was visiting was already up there.

Of course that means shifting the balls whenever I get a new one; c'est la vie.

Interesting fact I noticed while putting up the balls - the letter "C" had far more courses than any other letter. I had to wonder if it was me, or just a coincidence?

I hope you find this, my first Instructable, useful.