Why Do Golf Balls Have Dimples?
Why Are There Dimples on Golf Balls?
Have you ever wondered why golf balls have all those little bumps (more commonly referred to as “dimples”) all over them? Well, today’s post takes a look at why and how these “dimples”
came to be. There is a lot of cool history and tech behind the little dimples on golf balls.
Brief History of Golf Balls Having Dimples
Originally, golf balls were smooth all around without any forms of bumps or “dimples”. Since most balls were smooth no one thought to keep the balls textured or added any texture everyone was making a smooth wood, leather or rubber ball.
Later on, more and more golfers came to realize that, by using an older and more “beat-up” golf ball that had battle scars, they gained an extra advantage as these golf balls with texture seemed to travel further compared to brand-new, shiny and smooth golf balls.
Once using these older and bumpier golf balls became mainstream and popular amongst golfers, golf ball manufacturers had to adopt the new trend and had craftsmen hand-make every dimple! The results were crude but proved to be the right move.
Golf ball companies worldwide began producing every golf ball with dimples on them. Eventually, a golf ball with an entirely smooth exterior became a relic of the past while golf balls with dimples became the new norm.
How Are The Dimples On A Golf Ball Made?
The development of dimples started with people hand carving them before the introduction of the golf ball mould. This removed the extra step of adding dimples and the next leap in dimple tech adds this step back in with the addition of laser etching. For aesthetic purposes, many companies also adopted printing on the dimpled balls, which also helped golfers determine which ball belonged to them.
Hand-Carved Early Dimples:
The first dimples were hand-carved into the balls. Basic and tried to mimic the regular wear and tear of a smooth golf ball.
They lacked any real consistency or testing. By engaging in a lot of competitive games players started to notice which patterns were better and pushed the evolution of dimple design. This method was tedious, expensive and time-consuming but it made enough of a difference that it kept on.
Moulds For Modern Dimple Formation:
Most balls in the last hundred years were made in moulds. Moulds removed the need to manually add dimples after the ball is made. It also means the pattern will be the same every time that a particular mould is used. The use of moulds to make balls with dimples persists today. The dimple pattern is part of the mold is easily adjusted which allows different patterns to be tested. The modern plastics that golf balls are made from are the perfect match for modern plastic moulding. This process has been refined over the years to bring a performance-dimpled ball to the masses.
Laser Precision Brings Us Back:
Laser technology has recently been integrated into golf ball manufacturing, offering precise control over dimple patterns and allowing tailored designs. This innovation optimizes aerodynamics and customizes performance for various playing conditions and preferences. Lasers are used to cut precise dimples that moulds cannot. We went back to adding the dimples to the balls with modern tech.
The Science Behind Having Dimples on Golf Balls
That’s how we get perfect dimples onto every ball and now we can dive into the why. Let’s unravel the mystery of the performance-changing characteristics of the dimple.
Dimples on a golf ball reduce the drag. Drag is a performance killer you want to remove it from the equation as much as possible. With every drop in drag a ball can travel much further than compared. Golf science experts have calculated that, on average, a simple dimpled golf ball has half the drag of a smooth golf ball. As the dimpling becomes more sophisticated it is possible to incrementally increase the performance of the ball.
For a more in-depth explanation, the dimples on the golf ball create a thin and tiny layer of turbulence on its exterior (as a golf ball averagely has 500 dimples, picture 500 little turbulences on the surface of a golf ball every time it is struck). These turbulences created by the dimples will then, allow the golf ball to travel further as smoother-flowing air can remain at the back of the ball.
In comparison, a golf ball with a smooth exterior would not generate any turbulences when struck. Thus, with no turbulences, the airflow at the back of the ball would be much more unstable and prone to fluctuation. Steve Quintavalla was on NBC News Learn breaking it down in the following video:
The Advancement of Dimple Science and Development
The field of dimple science became a thing in the 1950s as golf ball dimple design underwent significant developments that changed the game. The big sports equipment names you know today (Titleist, Spalding, Wilson, Dunlop, & Hogan) were actively engaged in research and development to enhance golf ball dimple design. They all fought each other to be crowned king of the ball and advanced dimple designs to aerodynamics and ball performance. Analog testing method breakthroughs like the wind tunnel allowed them to fine-tune the design.
Modern advances in testing the dimple pattern evolved alongside the materials used to make a golf ball and include digital testing, precise measurements, computer design and controlled robotic trials. This evolution in dimple design reflects how the golf industry has constantly strived to improve the performance of golf balls, making the game more enjoyable and accessible for players of all skill levels.
- Dimples on golf balls came about as they travelled faster and further than a golf ball with a smooth exterior
- Golfers gradually started to realize this and opted to use older golf balls that had bumps all over them.
- Golf ball manufacturers followed the trend and began producing and selling dimpled golf balls.
- Dimpled golf balls became the new norm, rendering golf balls with smooth exteriors to be discontinued.
- Dimpled golf balls travel faster than smooth golf ball as it creates turbulences that allows for more stable flowing air on the back of the ball.
- With more stable air on the back of a golf ball, the drag force on the motion of the golf ball is reduced, hence, allowing it to fly further and faster.
- A dimpled golf ball has half the drag of a golf ball with a smooth exterior.
Categorised in: Interesting Golf Facts
This post was written by Mitchell Schols