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Why Do Golf Balls Have Dimples?

Why Do Golf Balls Have Dimples?

If you’ve ever seen a modern golf ball, the forest thing you notice is the tiny dimples stamped all around the ball. Have you ever wanted to know why golf balls have dimples?

Golf balls have dimples because the dimples allow airflow around the ball to be tighter, which causes a reduction in the low-pressure zone behind the ball in flight. This low-pressure zone reduction decreases drag and wind resistance, resulting in golf balls that fly higher and further than smooth ones.

The First Golf Balls Were Smooth

Interestingly, for the first 400 years or so of golf, golf balls were smooth. Golf balls went through many iterations until the modern-day golf ball set the standard. The game went from using feather-stuffed leather to gutta-percha gum before settling on rubber cores in the 1900s.

The history of the golf ball is fascinating, and it just so happened that luck played into the introduction of dimples to the golf ball.

During the 1800s, when golfers were using the gutta-percha ball to play golf, they notices something peculiar about their ball. The more scratches, scuffs, and marks it had on it, the further and more consistently it would fly.,

This simple observation began the firestorm that would be a massive leap in technology for golf balls. After trying various shapes and styles of patterning on golf balls, the industry landed on dimples being the most effective at extending distance and maintaining control with every shot.

Why do Golf Balls Have Dimples?

So, why do golf balls have dimples? Well, the answer is science–specifically physics. However, it is easy to understand. 

The first question you need to answer is what determines how far an object will go other than the initial force to hit it. While in the air, both wind resistance and drag will be trying to slow the ball down in the air. 

Dimples are how we make sure that wind resistance is decreased during flight so that the golf ball can fly further. But why do they actually work?

When a smooth ball with no dimples is flying through the air, airflow flows around it and when it does, a low-pressure zone is created behind the ball. This low-pressure zone puts a ton of drag on the ball, which effectively slows it down and reduces ball flight.

When a ball with dimples is in the air, the dimples are allowing airflow to flow closer to the ball, thus creating a smaller low-pressure zone behind the ball than a smooth ball. This smaller low-pressure zone decreases the amount of drag on the ball, allowing it to fly further.

The benefit of dimples on a golf ball doesn’t stop at allowing golf balls to fly farther, they also cause the ball to generate more lift. Because the dimples are lowering the pressure on the ball, the golf ball is also allowed to increase lift due to the Magnus Effect.

So, with dimples, you end up having a golf ball that can double the distance of a golf ball that is smooth.

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