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Why Do Golf Balls Have Dimples?

By now, chances are you have at least once in your life had the opportunity to see a golf ball. No matter if you are a passionate golfer or simply a curious person by nature, you may also have wondered why golf balls have dimples. If not, chances are you will start wondering now that it has been brought to your attention. Hence, it’s the right time to invite your friends and become a member of an indoor golf club, just to feed that curiosity.

But don’t worry – we won’t pose a question and simply leave you hanging. Instead, we are here to try and explain in great detail why golf balls have dimples, what is their purpose and do they affect the game in any way. So, get you reading glasses on and get cozy.

The early days

The first fun fact we need to mention is that there are golf balls on the Moon. However, thats not a topic we talk about here. So, I wanted to mention the first ever golf ball didn’t actually have dimples. Instead, it was entirely smooth, made of leather and stuffed with wet goose feathers. However, over time, golfers noticed that the more use a golf ball would get, the better it would perform. All the nicks, slices and bumps a golf ball would inevitably get actually made it fly much farther. What this meant was that, naturally, golfers started gravitating more towards the old and beat-up golf balls, as they certainly performed way better.

Troubleshooting

After the leather-and-feather golf balls, manufacturers started making golf balls out of the gum of the sapodilla tree. The process was simple – the gum was heated up to the point where it became malleable and then it would be shaped into a perfect sphere. This type of ball was called gutta-perchas. Now, the idea behind this was that a golf ball with a perfectly smooth surface would perform better because it would create less resistance. However, upon further investigation, it was discovered that all of the imperfections were actually acting as turbulators, so to speak.

Science stepping in

Once this discovery was made, it was time to try and understand why this is happening. Upon further examination, it was discovered that every time a ball would be sent off flying through the air, it would basically create a layer of air around it. This layer of air is also known as the boundary layer. So, what this turbulent boundary layer did was reduce drag, which made the golf ball travel farther through the air. Almost twice as far to be exact! 

Naturally, since by the 1930, the old and beat-up golf balls became a norm, it was time to make it official. That’s how the dimpled golf ball as we know it today came to be. It was also discovered that golf ball dimples help force the airflow downwards. What this does is basically push the ball upwards, which naturally prologues its travelling time through the air.

The new industry standard

Golf Balls

Nowadays, every single golf ball has dimples. What’s more, there are no strict rules when it comes to the number of dimples a golf ball will have. Usually, this number is anywhere between 300 and 500, with 392 being being the most common variant. Even though it was also believed that the greater the number of dimples on a ball, it will improve its performance even further, this was very quickly debunked. But that certainly didn’t stop the manufacturers to create golf balls with varying numbers of dimples. On the similar lines, it also didn’t stop golfers from finding their preferred variants of dimples.

All golf balls are beautiful

With the latest technologies we now have at our disposal, it is really not surprising that golf ball dimples nowadays can come in various shapes and sizes. Deep, shallow, large or small – any one of these can be easily found on modern-day golf balls. Additionally, it is not that uncommon for modern golf balls to have dimples of varying sizes and depths. Circles, ovals and teardrops are some of the most common shapes, with even some golf balls containing hexagon shapes as well.

More fun facts

You might also be interested in this fun fact – there are actually dimpled golf balls that perform so well, some organizations actually chose to ban them! Yes, you’ve red that right. For instance, the Polara golf balls are so effective when it comes to correcting hooks that the USGA banned their use entirely.

And there you have it – the reason golf balls come with dimples is to improve their performance. Even though this discovery was nothing more than a happy accident, it is still the one that revolutionized golf as a whole. 

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