If you’re a golfer, you already know that golf balls must meet certain standards for you to use them in tournaments and even in some standard games.
The weight, the diameter, and many other aspects are regulated by the US Golf Association (USGA), and you can be disqualified from any sort of competition if the ball you’re using doesn’t meet those requirements.
But what about the dimples in a golf ball? Are they regulated in any way? In the meantime, exactly why are golf balls dimpled? Believe it or not, there is a good explanation for these situations.
While the USGA does require that golf balls be dimpled and that those dimples be symmetrical in shape, it does not require a certain number of dimples, although most golf balls have between 300 and 500 dimples.
If you’re curious about why Golf Balls are dimpled, the main reason is this: a dimpled ball gives the golfers an edge and makes it easier to enjoy better scores with each game.
Why Are Golf Balls Dimpled?
At one point, all golf balls were smooth and dimple-free. This is because older golf balls were made out of leather or even tree sap, and therefore each ball was a tiny bit different in shape and design than the next one.
During the mid-1800s golfers started noticing that the balls they used performed much better when they were dented, dinged, and otherwise malformed. Since golfers are not scientists or engineers, they did not know why this happened, but they decided to act on it anyway.
People started experimenting with golf balls that had different types of dimples, and by 1905, the first patent for a dimpled golf ball came on the scene. There is a good reason why dimpled golf balls are still being used today.
In 2014, an experiment was conducted by golf experts who tested the effectiveness of a dimpled golf ball versus one that was smooth.
In every test, the smooth ball only went about half as far as the dimpled ball did. In addition, smooth golf balls did not go nearly as high as the dimpled ones did.
Let’s take a look at the reasons for these dimples in a little more detail.
A More Scientific Explanation
A basic scientific explanation for why golf balls with dimples play much better than balls that are smooth should be discussed here. Golf balls are affected by lift and drag, and dimpled golf balls improve the ball’s performance in both of these areas.
When balls are smooth, turbulence is created behind the ball when air flow occurs over the top of the ball. This turbulence causes a lot of drag on the ball and actually brings it down much sooner.
Dimples, on the other hand, create just the right amount of resistance that leads to less drag and enables the ball to fly higher and farther.
A long time ago, when golfers noticed that nicks and cuts caused the balls to have a much better performance, it eventually led to dimples made on purpose, which are the “nicks and cuts” of today.
Although the decision to put dimples on a golf ball was discovered by accident, there is little doubt that the game of golf would not be nearly as entertaining or powerful if we were still playing with smooth golf balls.
It’s likely that at some point, golf balls were studied by scientists or engineers who provided a more complex explanation for this phenomenon, but suffice to say that the discovery of dimpled golf balls is one of the most significant things to come out of the golf game in the last 200 years.
To make it even better, dimples are symmetrical instead of asymmetrical, and this symmetry is one of the few requirements that the USGA has regarding dimples on a golf ball.
They do not require a certain number of dimples per ball and in fact, the manufacturers of golf balls have a lot of leeway when it comes to the design and even the materials used in making the balls.
They can even come in colors other than white these days! But when it comes to the dimples, they must be symmetrical regardless of how many of them are included on the ball.
Before we go any further, here are a few other things you might want to remember about golf ball dimples and the way the ball performs. First, half of a golf ball’s lift is a direct result of it having dimples – that’s how important these tiny indentures are.
The other half of the lift is caused by the backspin, and when the air flow beneath the ball becomes higher than the air flow above it, the ball is driven upward where it is supposed to be, making for a much better shot overall.
As you can see, these tiny dimples are not just interesting-looking but serve a very important purpose. They are not there to make the ball look better nor were they just haphazardly put there.
Dimples Affect Almost Everything About the Ball’s Performance
Again, dimples affect the ball’s performance and are necessary to hit it farther and higher. Because they work so perfectly, manufacturers do not usually change anything about the dimples on their golf balls.
They may change the materials or even how the inside of the golf ball is made, but they generally leave the dimples alone and keep them just as they are so that players can enjoy the many benefits they offer.
In fact, when it comes to dimples, even their shape doesn’t matter. A company called Callaway once came up with a golf ball that was composed of hexagon-shaped dimples, and it did just as well as those with spherical dimples.
It seems that dimples on a golf ball also tend to follow a certain pattern. Most balls consist of a shallow dimple followed by a deeper one. Once again, this is not a requirement for every single golf ball made.
As long as the dimples are symmetrical, they are considered appropriate for tournament play. In case you’re interested, the average depth of a golf ball’s dimple is 0.010 inch.
Most manufacturers try to keep the design, size, and shape of their golf balls consistent with all of the others, which is why there are now more than 1,000 golf balls that are considered acceptable for tournament play by the USGA.
So far, you have learned a few answers to the question, why are golf balls dimpled, and you’re starting to see why they are so important if you want to experience some control over your golf game.
Because the dimples increase your lift and decrease drag, it is much easier for the ball to fly higher and land a lot closer to the next hole. They cause less frustrations because they provide the player with a lot more control over the game itself, which is more important than anything else when you’re playing golf.
Finally, dimples even affect the impact once the ball hits the club. Even though this hit lasts but a tiny amount of time, the dimples are what allows the ball to continue flying through the air afterward.
If the ball didn’t have dimples, you could still hit the ball, but the ball may just drop a few feet away instead of going farther and longer, which is what you want in the end.
Dimples on a golf ball make them look good, of course, because smooth golf balls would likely be a little boring to look at.
But as you can see, they are there for much more than just aesthetic purposes, especially because they add a little oomph to every game you play.
Although golf balls haven’t always had dimples, we now know that scientifically, they help the balls go farther and higher with every swing, but most of all, they give the player a much better sense of control over the ball so that a better game is played.
Remember that the shape and design of the dimples are not important, even though most dimples are 0.010 inch deep. They can be round or hexagon-shaped, and for the most part, golf balls have between 300 and 500 dimples in all.
While the number of dimples is not specified by the USGA, dimples do have to be symmetrical in design, which is essentially the only requirement that the USGA has put forth for golf balls.
Most people can’t believe that something as simple as changing the design of the golf ball could have such a huge impact on the game itself, but that is certainly what has happened.
Fortunately, with more than 1,000 golf balls being accepted by the USGA as “official” balls appropriate for tournament use, you shouldn’t have any problems finding balls that work right on the golf course.
If you prefer neon or bright colors instead of boring white golf balls, you can get those, too, because this is yet another area that the USGA has not put any restrictions on.