Why Do Golf Balls Have Dimples?
If you have ever played golf and looked at golf ball, you may have wondered, why do Golf Balls have dimples?
There are all kinds of balls used in sports with different sizes, shapes and designs depending on the sports needs. There is something especially weird about golf balls, though, and that is because they have dimples.
There are more than 300 dimples on a standard golf ball, and they’re there for more than just aesthetics.
Fact – Dimpled golf balls can fly almost twice as far as they would if they were smooth.
Golfers way back in the mid 19th century noticed that old scratched up golf balls flew further than new polished balls, so they started carving grooves into their golf balls to make them fly better. By 1930 after years of trial and error testing, the golf ball had evolved into the familiar dimpled shape we know today.
It seems strange that a rough surface would make golf balls fly better, and at the time, they didn’t know why it worked. They just knew that it did.
Why do Golf Balls with Dimples Fly Further?
These days we know that dimples work because of a trade-off increasing one type of air resistance leads to a considerable decrease in another.
There are two main kinds of air resistance, surface friction and pressure drag. Surface friction works a lot like friction between solid objects.
Air rubs against the sides of an object, slowing it down. Generally, the more surface area something has, the more surface friction it creates. So giving a golf ball a rough surface does increase surface friction, but it also affects the second kind of air resistance, pressure, which is drag.
As the golf ball flies, it pushes air out of the way, creating a cone-shaped pocket of low pressure behind the ball, which sucks it backwards and slows it down.
Golf ball dimples reduce the size of the wake by creating a layer of what’s called turbulent flow. In addition, the uneven surface messes up the smooth path of air around the ball, making it much harder for the wake to form into a clean cone.
With its smaller wake, a dimpled golf ball doesn’t get sucked backward as much, so it flies farther.
So golf balls have dimples to mix up the air around the ball, causing the wake to collapse more quickly, which allows the ball to fly faster for longer.
There are many different branded golf balls, and most are designed for golfers of varying ability levels.
Some golf balls are designed to spin. Some are a bit harder and designed to spin less. Some golf balls are designed for distance, and some are designed for feel around the greens.
Golf balls basically have dimples, so they fly better, fly further, and hold their line more efficiently in the air.
If you want to learn more about golf balls, check out our post on How to Choose Golf Balls.