Golf balls have dimples because they create turbulence, which reduces drag and allows the ball to travel further. Skilled golfers noticed that used, nicked balls performed better than new ones, leading to the development of dimpled balls. Today, most golf balls have 300-400 dimples and are sealed with a laminate for maximum performance.
Many people are surprised to learn that the reason golf balls have dimples isn’t just because of looks. While the golf ball was originally a perfectly smooth object, a series of circumstances and observations led to the creation of a new type of golf ball. Here’s the inside scoop on why nearly all golf balls have dimples today.
The story of why golf balls have dimples begins in the early 20th century. As golf became more popular, skilled golfers played with smooth golf balls. Over time, these smooth balls wear out from repeated use. The smooth surface would be replaced by an irregular texture characterized by a series of bumps, cuts and nicks. Rather than discard these used devices, avid golfers began to notice that these older balls performed better than newer balls that hadn’t yet been seasoned with use.
When experts began looking into this phenomenon with nicked golf balls, it was determined that all of those nicks and cuts in the surface functioned as turbulators. Essentially, a turbulator is a factor that increases the rate of turbulence involved with an object. In the case of the golf ball, this meant that the uneven surface introduced turbulence into the layer of air around the ball as it sailed towards a target. The presence of turbulence reduces the drag on the ball, which allows it to travel a greater distance.
Sporting goods manufacturers quickly learned that dimpled golf balls would sell very well. By the mid-20th century, very few companies were still producing smooth golf balls. Dimpled golf balls have remained the golf ball of choice for many professional and amateur golfers.
Typical golf balls have dimples ranging from three hundred to four hundred dimples per ball. Based on the expected average distance of golf balls projected today, dimpled golf balls are capable of traveling up to four times the distance that is achieved with smooth golf balls. Part of the higher performance rate is that in addition to golf balls having dimples today, they are also sealed with a laminate. The combination helps create the maximum amount of drag-reducing qualities, making it easier to control both distance and direction of the ball.