A “banana ball” in golf is a ball that is sliced into a curved path (like the shape of a banana). “Banana ball” has been cited in print since at least 1947.
“Banana balls”—meaning “crazy”—is not a golf-related term.
What Is a Banana Ball?
by M.L. Rose, Demand Media
A banana ball is not a soft, yellow golf ball. Rather, it’s a sliced shot that follows a curving path, similar to a banana’s shape, and flies far to the right (for a right-handed golfer). A banana ball is the result of side spin imparted at impact, due to a misaligned club face or an outside-in swing path—or both.
14 September 1947, Daily Boston Globe (Boston, MA), “Riegel Whips Dawson 2 and 1, Wins National Amateur Title: Superior Patting Conquers 44-Year-Old Veteran as New Champion Takes 25th, 26th, 27th Holes” by Tom Fitzgerald, pg. C33:
He ‘was hitting a fade which he referred to as a “banana ball.”
9 May 1950, Lubbock (TX) Morning Avalanche, “Sports Slants” by Choc Hutcheson, sec. 1, pg. 9, col. 3:
Perhaps I should put the befreckled Texan to the supreme test by challenging him to cure the “Hutcheson banana ball.” If Nelson can cure my slice, then it’s high time he gave up golf and became a magician.
5 May 1957, San Diego (CA) Union, “Par a-Graphs” by Howard Hagen, pg. B-4, col. 1:
It was a bit of a slice—called a banana ball by Rear Adm. C. C. Hartman, 11th Naval District commandant—when the first official foursome teed off Friday noon.
19 March 1958, Las Vegas (NM) Daily Optic, “Sports Parade” by Oscar Fraley (United Press Sports Writer), pg. 3, col. 1:
But oh those banana balls off the tee!
January 23, 1961
Bing And The Crosby
In 23 years the National Pro-Am has become one of the country’s distinguished golfing events. For its 24th the Crosby’s creator looks over this color album of his tournament and reminisces fondly about its past
“A few years ago,” as Crosby tells it, “Harris was playing with Doug Ford, and it was one of those real windy days. Harris had been all over the course with that big banana ball slice of his.”
Google News Archive
15 March 1983, Pittsburgh (PA) Post-Gazette, “Sports Briefing,” pg. 27, col. 1:
Jacobs, the man they call “Docotr Golf” in the British Isles, offers this explanation of his cure for the “banana ball” that afflicts millions of golfers: ‘the vast majority of golfers hit with an out-to-in swing which opens the clubface at impact,” he says.
The Historical Dictionary of Golfing Terms:
From 1500 to the Present
By Peter Davies
Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press
banana ball. Slang. An extreme slice.
1962 Sam Snead The Education of a Golfer 7: So he had this banana-ball slice that sometimes sailed over two fairways.
The Telegraph (Nashua, NH)
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
From Albatross to Zinger: A golf glossary
By CAMERON KITTLE
Banana ball: A remarkably bad shot that curves violently to the right in the shape of a banana.