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“Golf… is the infallible test. The man who can go into a patch of rough alone, with the knowledge that only God is watching him, and play his ball where it lies, is the man who will serve you faithfully and well.” – P.G. Wodehouse










For a brief moment in time (about 450 microseconds and 0.5-0.75 inches) the clubhead is connected to the ball. The ball squishes against the clubface before separating.




During that time, and that time only, the ball receives all the information it needs to determine where it is going to fly and on what trajectory (not accounting for wind).











How do Golf ball dimples affect the flight of the ball?





Do you ever think about the dimple and how important they are for golfers? Why are dimples necessary on a ball? How important is it to keep your ball new and fairly clean? What happens if your ball only has 300 dimples on it and what happens with 500?  This page will answer a few of your questions.


We'll take the first look at how a ball flies with the dimples lined up only on the left hand side of the ball. These tests are performed by the following machine, Iron Byron aptly named after the late great Byron Nelson who in one season on the PGA Tour won 18 times in one season, 11 Tournaments in a row, and had the swing machine below named after him based on his swing and its accuracy.








Firstly, take a look at these ball flight characteristics with dimples on different sides of the ball.


First up, is the ball with dimples placed on the left hand side of the ball, the other side is smooth!


Dimples set up on the left equator of the ball.






Dimples on the right hand equator of the ball, the left side is smooth.







A ball with no Dimples at all.





The ball flies fairly straight and it is on the fairway but it is horrendously short in distance. About 140 yards with a full on drive. A normal good drive made by a very good player is around 300 yards.


This brings us back to the time of the box wood and featheries (the first golf balls). They were also smooth to start with but with a few indentations they flew a little better except when they became wet or split, then they were more like sponges and subsequently flew really short distances. It is commonly believed that hard wooden, round balls were the first balls used for golf between the 14th through the 17th centuries. Then came the featheries or feathery.



Feathery Balls cmga



There were a few drawbacks to the featherie. First, it was hard to make a perfectly round, spherical ball, and because of this, the featherie often flew irregularly. Also, when the featherie became too wet, its distance would be reduced as well as the possibility of splitting open upon impact when hit or hitting the ground or other hard surface. Despite these, the featherie was still a dramatic improvement over the wooden ball, and remained the standard golf ball well into the 19th century.



It was the Gutta Percha ball that was golfs biggest breakthrough. The hardened sap off the Malaysian sapodilla tree or Gutta Percha tree. The sap had a rubber-like feel and could be made round by heating and shaping it in a round mold. Gutties they could be reformed if they became out-of-round or damaged, and their improved aerodynamic qualities, due to the beatings of the hammer in the re-shaping process they soon became the preferred ball for use.They were also cheap to produce, so they became popular very quickly.



The first dimples are discovered by accident or better said miss-hit!



Accidentally, it was discovered that nicks in the guttie from normal use actually provided a ball with a more consistent ball flight than a guttie with a perfectly smooth surface. Thus, ball makers began intentionally making indentations into the surface of new balls using either a knife or hammer and chisel, giving the guttie a textured surface. Many patterns were tried and used. These new gutties, with protruding nubs left by carving patterned paths across the ball's surface, became known as "brambles" due to their resemblance to bramble or blackberry fruit. But it was these indentations in the balls surface that gave it height and more distance. Our dimple designed balls of today can be attributed to these early miss-hits.


So, what purpose do our dimples play or are they mostly decoration? The point is that a perfectly smooth golf ball with no dimples would travel about 140 yards when hit with a driver by a good player or Iron Byron in this case. Conversely, a ball with lots of carefully designed dimples, when hit with the same force, will travel about 300 yards. The answer to why that happens is what we call Aerodynamics.


A smooth ball flies similar to a bullet but a ball with dimples soars into the sky with increased distance.



300 0r 500 Dimples?



Is there a difference between 300 and 500 dimples on the surface of the ball?  Are there good and not so good dimples? The answer to that is a resounding 'Yes'.


Depth, distribution, size, circumferance of the dimple, pattern size, shape, and the number of dimples does play a roll and overall surface coverage of the dimples all influence the ball’s lift, drag and flight properties.Through various experiments throughout the decades, just about every dimple design has been tried and tested and the number of dimples on a ball as well. The market in this regard is pretty dead, hence the change to the inner core values of a ball.


The manufacturers did have a ball on the market with an amazing 812 dimples, which did not set new records of inhuman distance, infact it did not really fly much better than a ball with only 300 dimples, so the ball manufacturers found a happy medium of around 400 to 500, a number which delivers height and distance. The ball producers found that the more dimples a ball had, the smaller the dimples had to be to fit on the ball, and that pretty much made the ball smooth which did not react as well to the lift and drag properties of balls with fewer dimples, the conclusion being that we were on the way back to the feathery balls of old. The ball flight characteristics and performance were much worse with mega amounts of dimples, hence the step back in dimple numbers to around 450.




Today, the most common dimple patterns are the icosahedral, the dodecahedral, and the octahedral. The icosahedral pattern is based on a polyhedral with 20 identical triangular faces, much like a 20-sided die. Similarly, a dodecahedral is based on a polyhedral with 12 identical faces in the shape of pentagons. The octahedral is based on an eight-sided polyhedral with triangular faces. Some balls are based on the icosahedral with 500 dimples.


The size and depth of the dimples also affect performance. Shallow dimples generate more spin on a golf ball than deep dimples, which increases lift and causes the ball to rise and stay in the air longer and roll less. Deep dimples generate less spin on a golf ball than shallow dimples, which decrease lift and causes the ball to stay on a low trajectory, with less air time and greater roll. Small dimples generally give the ball a lower trajectory and good control in the wind, where as large dimples give the ball a higher trajectory and longer flight time.


Today, the golf ball market is worth around $550 million in annual sales, with over 850 million golf balls being manufactured and shipped every year.


A typical two-piece ball is made of rubber and plastic, and is mostly used by the casual golfer. These balls last a lot longer than the three-piece balls the pros use and hence make up 70% of all golf ball production. A three-piece ball consists of a plastic cover, windings of rubber thread, and a core that contains a gel or liquid (sugar and water) or is solid.


In concluding it is plain for you readers to appreciate that the dimples do make a big difference and also the core structure of the ball, be it elastic or wound. Ball manufacturers continue to try to find the best core that delivers that little bit more than the competitors.


Consider this: If baseballs had the same inside composition as golf balls, home runs would fly 600 feet instead of 400, turning the game into more of a launching pad for long hitters, a problem golf has already witnessed and that problem is for our ruling bodies to control before our courses become too easy for the long hitters.


Below; Iron Byron. (Byron Nelson)



After seeing the video's above of the ball being hit in one direction or another because of lack of dimples on one side consider for a moment what would happen if there was dirt on one side of your ball. Yes, the ball would tend to be unbalanced during its flight and it would vear to the left or the right depending on which side the ball was dirtiest. I hope you enjoyed reading this article.





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