There are all kinds of balls used in sports with different sizes, shapes and designs, depending on the sport’s needs and history. However, there is something especially strange about golf balls: their dimples. The little indent marks on a golf ball, also known as ‘dimples’ are what give a golf ball its character.
Have you ever looked at a golf ball and wondered why they even have these little dimples? Well these dimples actually have a lot do do with how the golf ball functions, and if you didn’t know this was the case, we are here to better inform you!
In this article, we will look at the topic of golf ball dimples and how they affect the functionality of the ball’s flight.
Why are there dimples on a golf ball?
What makes a golf ball so unique is not just the size and shape of it, but the many impressions which are designed on the outer surface of the ball. There are more than 300 dimples on a standard golf ball, and they are on there for more than just aesthetics. It is known that dimpled golf balls can fly almost twice as far as they would if they were smooth.
In the mid 19th century, players noticed that old-scratched up golf balls flew a lot farther than new polished spheres. Therefore, this is when they realized they had to start carving little grooves into their golf balls, in order to make them fly better and farther.
By 1930, after many years of testing, the golf ball evolved into the familiar dimpled shape that we know today. It seems odd that a rough surface would make golf balls fly better, and at the time they didn’t fully know why it worked. They just knew that it did.
Dimples – How They Affect Aerodynamics
Nowadays, we know that dimples work because a trade-off that increases one type of air-resistance which leads to a huge 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. Therefore, giving a golf ball a rough surface does increase surface friction. However, it also affects the second kind of air-resistance: pressure drag.
As the ball flies, it pushes air out of the way, creating a wake – a cone shaped pocket of low pressure behind the ball, which sucks it backward and slows in down. Dimples reduce the size of the wake by creating a layer of what’s called turbulent flow. The uneven surface messes up the smooth path of air surrounding the ball, and makes it 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.
Technically speaking, it can be said that golf balls have dimples in order to mix up the air around the ball causing the wake to collapse more quickly, which allows the ball to fly faster for longer. This means the wind resistance is reduced and the flight of the ball is not interrupted.
Of course, culture is a big part of the equation too. Tennis balls get this effect by being fuzzy, and rugby footballs would do better with dimples, but they have a set of laces instead.
Do all Balls have the Same Sized Dimples?
Being one of the most recognized designs in sports, after seeing a standard golf ball, you would probably think that every single golf ball design has the exact same amount of dimples in it. However, many golf ball manufacturers are known to experiment on the individual sizes of dimples, in order to try and get the best flight possible. This is because there are so many different brands on the market, and competition is strong to be the best provider of golf balls.
If you want to hit further, and play a better game, then you will need to use golf balls that have dimples. Golf balls are designed with these dimples in order to fly better through the air, and therefore give a much better result than a simple, smoother ball would do.
If you want to increase your golfing, then it’s probably best to stick to classic dimpled golf balls than trying or experimenting with anything else.
We hope this article on golf ball dimples has been informative for you, and hope that it has taught you something new! At least next time you can have an explanation if someone ever asks why golf balls have these small dimples!