This post was most recently updated on January 20th, 2022
The dimples on a golf ball have a considerable effect on its flight. They are an aerodynamic feature that allows the ball to fly more predictably.
Without dimples, your shots may look something like a knuckleball and would not fly nearly as far. In this article, we will detail the effects of dimples on a golf ball.
Brief History On Golf Ball Design
Golf balls didn’t always have dimples. Modern golf balls are nothing like ones that were used in the mid-1800s. During this time, golf balls were made of molded tree sap and were referred to as “gutties.”
Previous to the mid-1800s, balls were made of leather, were stuffed with a gentleman’s hat worth of goose feathers, and were slow and expensive to manufacture.
They were smooth balls that would inevitably experience dings and imperfections.
What golfers slowly learned was that the blemishes and dents on the golf balls somehow created more predictable flight patterns.
For a few decades, golf ball manufacturers started to place protrusions on the ball. They would have been like little bumps on the surface. However, in the early 1900s, manufacturers began creating indentations on the balls and found them to be much more aerodynamically effective than protrusions.
In 1905, a patent was filed by inventor William Taylor for the first golf ball dimple design. After this new type of design was found to be far superior to its predecessors, the look and performance of golf balls worldwide changed forever.
What Are Dimples On A Golf Ball Called?
In most cases, golf ball dimples are simply referred to as dimples. However, there are some instances when they will be called indentations or more thoroughly referred to as the golf ball dimples pattern.
Golf Ball Aerodynamics
The science behind golf ball aerodynamics is fascinating and crucial to understanding why and how dimples affect a golf ball’s flight.
The golf ball’s surface interacts with the air it is flying through. A smooth ball creates a lot of drag because the air flowing around it is displaced and separated.
As the air moves around the ball and is pushed apart, it creates a sizeable low-pressure zone behind it, which essentially works like a vacuum, pulling the ball backward.
The dimples on a ball create microturbulence. This turbulence allows the air flowing around the ball to stay closer to the ball’s surface. Then, when the wind comes back together around the golf ball’s backside, it is closer together, which shrinks the low-pressure zone.
The smaller low-pressure zone cuts down on the amount of drag present and allows it to fly much further. A smooth golf ball would likely only go about half as far as a dimpled ball.
These aerodynamic properties also create lift on a golf ball. As “Bernoulli’s Principle” states, as the ball’s airspeed is increased, the air pressure around the ball is decreased. This helps create lift, allowing the ball to fly higher and longer with more spin.
How Many Dimples On A Golf Ball?
There is no one answer to determine how many dimples are on a golf ball. The general number of dimples on a golf ball sits between 300 and 500. However, it varies significantly between all manufacturers and models.
As a reference point, the Titleist Pro-V 1 from 2017/2018 feature 352 dimples on the surface. The record number of dimples on a golf ball exceeded 1000.
There are no rules or regulations placed on the number of dimples allowed on a golf ball, but extensive testing by the biggest brands in the game have shown that the optimal number sits between 300 and 500.
How Much Do Dimples Help Golf Balls
Dimples help golf balls immensely. Without dimples, a golf ball would fly in a very unpredictable fashion and would not go nearly as far as you want it to.
The dimples create less drag and allow the ball to work in collaboration with the air around it. It also affects the spin of the ball, causing it to experience backspin and lift as it soars through the air.
The smallest change in the depth of a dimple could have drastic effects on the trajectory and spin.
Why Do Golf Balls Have Different Sized Dimples?
The size, depth, and the number of dimples effect aerodynamics in a massive way. The more dimples on a ball, the lower the trajectory, and the less control a manufacturer has on the golf ball’s eventual flight.
The size of dimples on a golf ball is generally about 7/1000th of an inch deep. Changing the depth by even 1/1000th of an inch can dramatically affect the shot.
With fewer dimples, there is more potential control over the effect that aerodynamic drag has on the ball. Creating a ball with smaller or larger dimples will essentially allow a manufacturer to predict it’s trajectory.
This means for the everyday golfer who benefit from higher trajectory and spin can use a ball with larger dimples in many cases, and those looking for less spin and height can be satisfied with fewer small dimples as well.
The aerodynamic properties of dimples on a golf ball are among the most in-depth and extensive research areas for a golf ball manufacturer. Changing the size and frequency of dimples on a golf ball will affect the flight and spin drastically.
Smooth Golf Ball
As we’ve discussed, smooth golf balls wouldn’t be much use in today’s golf world. Smooth golf balls experience a tremendous amount of drag and very little lift.
Compare a smooth golf ball with dimpled golf balls, and you will generally get half the distance and spin, while also creating a drastically less controlled flight pattern
If you have any questions or insights about dimples on a golf ball, please feel free to leave them in the comments section below.
The Editorial Staff at Golfible is a team of golfing geeks and enthusiasts led by founder Alec Rose. All have the same obsession with golf tech, equipment updates and avoiding rain on the course.