One of the most inspiring stories from the USGA Golf Museum doesn’t come from a professional golfer or a golf tournament, but rather a Nazi prisoner-of-war camp in early-1940s Germany.
American and British soldiers endured very difficult conditions while imprisoned at Stalag Luft III, just outside of Berlin. They turned to golf as a way to preserve their humanity during World War II. German guards allowed them to construct primitive golf holes within the walls of the camp and the American Red Cross supplied them with golf clubs. Due to a wartime ration on rubber, however, they had no access to golf balls.
To create their own balls, the soldiers cut up the leather from their boots to form the outer shell. Then, they shaved thin pieces of their rubber soles and stuffed those inside the shell, which they stitched together with string, like a baseball.
The result was a rudimentary golf ball that showed the imprisoned soldiers’ remarkable ingenuity and allowed them a brief escape in the face of untold hardship. Two of these original POW golf balls from Stalag Luft III are on display in the USGA Golf Museum.
Mike Trostel is the senior content producer for the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.