An improved synthetic method has been designed and demonstrated to reproducibly generate hollow gold nanospheres (HGNs) with strong surface plasmon resonance (SPR) absorption in the near infrared (NIR). The HGNs have been synthesized via galvanic replacement of cobalt with gold while utilizing different amounts of poly(vinylpyrrolidone) (PVP) as a template stabilizing agent. Ninety percent of syntheses performed by this modified method resulted in HGNs with an SPR near 800 nm, which is highly desirable for biomedical applications such as photothermal ablation (PTA) therapy, while other polymers (PAA and PEG) did not. Based on absorption and TEM measurements, PVP stabilizes the cobalt template particles via carbonyl-induced stabilization that slows nucleation and growth of the gold shell allowing for the generation of a reproducibly thin shell, thereby inducing a significant red shift of the SPR to 800 nm. The results are significant to various potential applications of HGNs, e.g. cancer therapy and sensing.