Knowing Your Golf Balls – The Dimples Count!

by Nathalie Fiset

Although they may appear like ordinary game equipment, golf balls are actually the products of physics and years of golfing tradition.

According to the standard international rules of golf, a single golf ball should not weigh over 45.93 grams, or close to two ounces. Its diameter should always exceed 1.68 inches, or 42.67 mm. A golf ball, moreover, should be in the shape of a symmetrical sphere. Golf balls, moreover, are scrutinized by two main accrediting bodies: the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews and the United States Golf Association. If golf balls do not pass the tests and standards set by these two associations, these balls cannot be used in a golfing competition.

Such is the strictness associated with golf, but despite its seemingly misplaced austerity, the rules are not without their merits. Golf, after all, has been around for centuries, and the game as we know it today can be traced back to the Scots. Golf balls, moreover, can spell the success of a game: hit it right and swing it in the right direction, and you can land a hole in one. That, of course, discounts the effect of the wind, the sun in your eyes, the humidity in the air, and the overall setup of the golf course, but the importance of golf balls and their design can still not be discounted.

To understand how golf balls move and impact a game, it is important to look at how basic physics can affect the game of golf. The impact between the edge of a golf club and the golf ball lasts no more than a millisecond, but it is this impact that can ultimately judge how fast the ball can travel, at what angle it is launched, and the rate at which it spins – all of which will determine its final location. There are two main aerodynamic forces that act on the ball: lift, which buoys it through its trajectory; and drag, which forces it back and keeps it from moving.

In any sport, decreasing the drag on equipment will ultimately increase one’s control over the equipment itself. The same is true in golf: if the overall drag on the golf ball is released, it can fly faster and follow one’s intended direction better. This is why golf balls have dimples. These dimples can decrease drag by reducing the wake turbulence caused by the ball traveling through the air. Wake turbulence can be especially high in non-dimpled balls.

Dimples, moreover, can increase the backspin on a ball. In general, a backspin can increase a ball’s lift by altering the shape of the air as it flows and forms around the ball. With more back spinning, a ball can fly much higher, and even longer in the air. However, dimples can also accumulate dust and grime, so golfers need to wash their equipment frequently, balls included. A clean golf ball translates into a balanced ball, cleared out dimples, and a game where the golfer is in better, greater control.

A golf ball will have, on average, anywhere from three hundred to nearly five hundred dimples. All balls have an even number of dimples, although there is only one kind of ball with odd numbers available on the market. This 333-dimpled ball is acceptable in golf games. A golf ball, moreover, has to be symmetrical, since a non-symmetrical golf ball can sometimes adjust its axis during mid-flight, and can wobble, causing direction changes that may or may not favor a golfer.

Aside from the position of the club, a golf ball can determine the merit of a shot. It may be surprising to outsiders, but a golfer can usually make more bad than good shots. This is because there are many possible factors that can allow the game to go wrong, such as sudden changes in wind speed and direction, differences in humidity at varying elevations of the golf course, and even the slightest noise from the crowd or the golfer’s companions just before the golfer makes his swing. Such golfing mistakes can be described by a variety of terms, such as a slice, where the ball curves sharply in the direction of the player’s playing hand; or a worm burner, where the ball bounces vigorously on the ground.

If you are interested in purchasing golf balls, then inquire at your local golf equipment store. Because there are many different brands available on the market, you will need to consult with an expert on what brands of balls are best for your game, and which are approved by international golfing committees. Before you tee off, clean your balls and make sure that they are free of dust and grime. With clean equipment and good working knowledge of golf, you can play a fulfilling and more enjoyable game.

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