What Is the Importance of Dimples on a Golf Ball?

By William McCoy
Without dimples, a golf ball would not travel nearly as far.
Without dimples, a golf ball would not travel nearly as far.

Although they might seem minor in importance, the dimples on the surface of a golf ball are integral to its flight. Throughout golf's history, golf balls have evolved considerably because of the understanding of how they fly. The game's early, dimple-free balls could not reasonably travel as far as modern-day balls because of the advent and incorporation of dimples.

Dimple Facts

On average, golf balls contain between 300 and 500 dimples across their surface. The number of dimples is dependent on the construction and specific purpose of the ball. The average depth of each dimple is 0.01 of an inch. Most golf balls contain circular dimples, although some manufacturers produce balls with hexagonal dimples.

Importance

The dimples on a golf ball play a pivotal role in the ball's lift and drag, which are integral to its flight. As the air passes over the ball in flight, the dimples change the air enough to cause it to cling to the surface of the ball. On a smooth ball, by way of contrast, the air would not cling in the same way. The air clings to the ball on the front side during flight and passes behind the ball, increasing the lift and reducing the drag. According to "Scientific American," balls with dimples have half the drag of smooth balls.

Lift

The more lift your golf ball achieves, the higher and farther it will travel after impact. The dimples provide half of the ball's lift; the other half is the result of the backspin on the ball. As the ball spins, the air pressure beneath it becomes higher than the air pressure above it, driving it upward.

Comparison

Despite their seemingly insignificant size, the dimples on a golf ball are as responsible for the flight of the ball as the impact itself. Although the impact is brief, it sets the tone for the ball’s flight. However, it’s the dimples that allow the ball to continue traveling through the air. “Scientific American” says that a ball without dimples would only be able to travel half as far as a ball with dimples.

About the Author

Toronto-based journalist William McCoy has been writing since 1997, specializing in topics such as sports, nutrition and health. He serves as the Studio's sports and recreation section expert. McCoy is a journalism graduate of Ryerson University.

Photo Credits

  • Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images
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