If you’ve ever played golf, you may have wondered how many dimples a golf ball has, as well as why it has them in the first place. The answer, as it turns out, isn’t that straightforward. Read on to find out more.
The varying number of dimples
Golf balls come with varying amounts of dimples, and that’s because there are different manufacturers that make golf balls. The number of dimples also varies with the model of the golf ball. Usually, dimple counts range from about 300 to 500, but there are exceptions to this range depending on the manufacturer.
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Why does a golf ball even have dimples?
The dimples of a golf ball are there for a scientific reason. A golf ball without dimples would move through the air erratically due to the way air would flow over it. This would make the game of golf incredibly unpredictable because players would struggle to control a smooth golf ball. Even a golf ball with dimples can be inconsistent if it has too few of them.
The dimples solve this problem by producing a small layer of air that covers the golf ball and reduces its drag. Air flows over a much larger area of a dimpled golf ball than it would with one without dimples, resulting in the ball flying more smoothly.
Also, golf balls have dimples for the lift they provide. Much of the lift that a golf ball has results from its backwards spinning motion. The dimples aid this motion. After the ball leaves the clubhead, the force of gravity makes the air pressure underneath the ball higher than the air pressure above it, causing it to rise. The air moves faster over the top of the ball and this faster movement makes the pressure lower. This is what generates the lift force that makes golf balls rise so high.
The size of the dimples
Golf ball dimples need to be symmetrically arranged and their measurements must remain within a specific range.
The size of the dimples on a golf ball can be measured by their depth and circumference. The average depth of a golf ball dimple is about 0.0254 centimetres, and just like the number of dimples, the circumference differs depending on the type of model.
Dimples most commonly take on a spherical shape, but there are other shapes too, like hexagons.
When did golf balls get dimples?
The idea of golf balls having dimples came accidentally in the mid-1800s. Then, most golfers used golf balls called gutties.
After golfers damaged these balls during play, they discovered that the damaged balls flew more consistently through the air when compared to the undamaged ones.
Following this, makers of golf balls started to etch raised protrusions into balls, and decades later in the early 1900s, another inventor discovered that indentations in golf balls were superior to these raised protrusions. These discoveries meant that soon enough, all golf balls would have dimples.
Now after over a century, dimple patterns are systematically tested using high-tech equipment that optimises the designs for both distance and control.