why are golf balls dimpled

Why Are Golf Balls Dimpled: The Science and The History Behind It

Have you ever picked up a golf ball and wondered why golf balls have dimples? If yes, then we have the answers right here.

The simple answer is that the dimples on the golf ball reduce the effects of air drag due to the turbulent airflow around the ball. This unique feature of a golf ball is what allows it to fly farther and faster than other balls used in any other sport.

So, why are golf balls dimpled exactly? Stick around as we break down the science of Aerodynamics and how it affects the distance and speed of your golf ball!

Why Are Golf Balls Dimpled?

Back in the fifteenth century, people were playing what we call golf today. It was banned by King James II because people were more interested in playing rather than practicing their archery skills.

This tidbit of history is relevant because these golf balls they played with had, in fact, smooth surfaces.

Then, golf balls went through what is best described as natural selection. Over time, golfers noticed how the balls would go farther away when they had bumps and nicks on them.

As a result of this observation, they started producing golf balls with dents and dimples on them purposely. However, it wasn’t until many years later that the science behind it was made clear!

For many golfers, the speed of the ball is very important, especially if they’re playing on a windy day. Adding dimples or bumps helped improve the aerodynamics of the golf ball so it flies faster and farther.

The Science Behind Dimpled Golf Balls

There are many forces at work when something is moving through the air. If you hold your arm out through the window of a moving car or when riding on a motorcycle, you’ll get a feel for how these forces play out.

Drag and Lift

Diving deep into aerodynamics, there are two main components to a moving or flying object: drag and lift. Lift moves in a direction perpendicular to the motion, which in the case of a golf ball is upward.

Drag, on the other hand, is the force component parallel to a moving object, which is wind resistance to a golf ball. Drag acts as a resistive force to oppose the motion of the object, resulting in slowing it down.

You can see the effects of drag and lift by throwing a ball yourself on a regular or even a windy day. How fast you throw the ball as well as the direction will illustrate the effects of drag and lift.

The backspin you generate when you throw the ball will give it the required momentum to go farther. On the other hand, how fast you throw the ball will show you the work of drag against it.

The Takeaway

If you want your golf ball to fly higher and travel farther, you’ll want to increase the lift while decreasing drag.

When there’s significant backspin on the ball, a dimpled golf ball achieves more lift.

As the ball flies through the air, the dimples help the ball to spin backward faster, pulling the airflow downwards and pushing the golf ball farther.

This causes the air around the bottom of the ball to push up against it, creating more lift which helps keep the ball airborne for a while longer.

Laminar and Turbulent Flows

In general, a moving object has pressure on its front side. The air flows over its curves from the front and eventually disperses when it reaches the backside.

In addition, the movement of the object leaves behind it a kind of turbulence where the airflow is agitated, resulting in lower pressure. Turbulence and differences in pressure from front to back affect the drag on objects, which determines the object’s speed.

Looking deeper into the type of air flows around flying objects, there are mainly two types: laminar and turbulent flows. Turbulent airflow has more drag at first but it’s less susceptible to a phenomenon known as “separation.”

In this phenomenon, the air layer around an object clings to it as it flies through the wind. As a result, the object is pulled back and its speed is significantly reduced.

On the other hand, laminar airflow has less drag, but it’s significantly prone to separation. This causes air resistance to rise and so affects the speed of the moving object.

The Takeaway

As a result, if the ball shape causes separation, e.g. smooth, increasing adhesion and reducing drag require adding curves to the boundary layer.

Consequently, golf balls were designed with dimples to produce turbulence in the boundary layer, decreasing drag to a great extent. Compared to a smooth golf ball, one with dimples will have almost half the amount of drag.

The Size and Shape of Dimples on a Golf Ball

The depth of the golf ball dimple generally determines its size. On average, the depth of a dimple is around 0.010 inches. This, however, varies from one golf ball to another, as does the shape of these dimples.

Normally, dimples are spherical. However, some brands took a different path and created hexagon-shaped dimples on their golf balls, such as Callaway.

Those hexagon-shaped dimples don’t really affect the ball as long as the dimple patterns are consistent with the overall structure and have symmetrical alignment.

How Many Dimples Are on a Golf Ball?

On average, a golf ball will have about three hundred to five hundred dimples. For example, a Callaway golf ball has about 332 dimples, while a Bridgestone has around 330 dimples.

There isn’t a universal standard that applies to all golf balls, so most golf balls have different numbers of dimples.

To Sum Up

The dimples on a golf ball aren’t there for decorative purposes. The reason why golf balls are dimpled is that the shape greatly affects how far and how fast they travel compared to other balls.

So, we hope the information in this article has answered your question! The next time you’re playing golf, you might want to keep this information in mind. Aesthetics aside, you’ll definitely be able to hit the ball much further if you use a golf ball with dimples.

Scroll to Top