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Golf Ball Dimples

The Simple Science Behind Dimples on a Golf Ball

If you’re like a lot of golfers I’m sure you’ve asked, “Why are dimples on a golf ball?” Would a smooth golf ball make the game harder or easier?

While it’s not the most popular topic in the sport, playing the right golf balls is one of the most important decisions you can make with equipment. Playing the right driver, irons, and other golf clubs is key, so is the golf ball itself.

A golf ball’s performance characteristics impact how far you bomb it off the tee, how much spin you get with irons, and the ball’s surface impacts the launch too. Needless to say, it’s a big decision and today we’ll outline more about dimple patterns in golf history.

Golf Ball Dimples

Golf balls and golf equipment have made massive strides in the last century.

While the history of golf is fun to learn about, I definitely don’t want to play such a hard game with feather stuffed balls and wooden clubs. Heck, even with the best equipment golf is still arguably the hardest sport out there.

Luckily, in the mid 1800s a dimpled golf ball was created.

In 1848 Dr. Robert Adams Patterson invented the gutta percha ball (known as the gutty or guttie). This ball was made from molded tree sap and much cheaper to produce and easy to “reform” if they got damaged. But accidentally many golfers noticed these marks were more consistent than a perfectly smooth golf ball.

What is the History of Golf

At this time golf ball manufacturers decided to intentionally add indents using a knife or hammer for a textured surface. David Stanley Froy played in the Open Championship in 1900 (at the Old Course) with the first prototype.

In the early 1900s dimpling became the norm and several patents were filed. William Taylor was among them in 1905 after testing other patterns such as mesh and bramble.

Key Takeaways

  • Dimples help with overall distance, better aerodynamic drag, and better performance.
  • Golf balls have evolved significantly over time to make them longer, straighter, and more durable. One of the reasons is the addition of golf ball dimples – dimple counts range from 300 to 500 per ball.
  • Dimple science is complex but it’s much higher performing than a completely smooth golf ball. A ball’s dimple pattern and number of dimples depends on the golf ball makers.
  • Most dimples are spherical (including the most popular golf balls) but some golf manufacturers have tested out other shapes too.

Keep reading to learn more about the design of golf balls and how they can impact your performance on the golf course. 

Golf Ball Dimple Design

So, why are dimples so important to golf? A lot of reasons… dimples create better launch, distance, and spin.

Golf ball dimples aren’t designed to look good but serve a vital purpose – they’re more aerodynamic. According to Golf.com“When dimples are added to a golf ball, it creates a tiny layer of air around the golf ball that significantly cuts down drag. This forces the air to flow over a larger portion of the ball, which results in a much smoother ball flight.”

Flat objects don’t move through the air consistently, which would make golf even more difficult. This is one of the main reasons dimples are added to every golf ball that is made. 

Dimples have a big impact on distance too which every golfer needs. As a Scientific American article said, ”A smooth golf ball hit by a professional golfer would travel only about half as far as a golf ball with dimples does. Most golf balls have between 300 and 500 dimples, which have an average depth of about 0.010 inch.” 

Imagine only hitting a golf ball half as far as you do now! 

Spin Rate of Golf Ball

Dimples also help with lift which creates backspin which is needed for a consistent ball flight. As the same Scientific American article pointed out, “A smooth ball with backspin creates lift by warping the airflow such that the ball acts like an airplane’s wing. The spinning action makes the air pressure on the bottom of the ball higher than the air pressure on the top; this imbalance creates an upward force on the ball.” 

It’s been reported that dimples provide as much as 50% of the total lift factor! Without dimples, you’d hit a ton of low flying, inconsistent knuckle balls. 

Needless to say, dimples play a big role in getting the most out of your golf game. If you don’t believe us, find a worn down range ball and try to play with it on the course. You’ll see how much a smoother surface negatively affects performance after a few swings.  Make sure to read our article on how long a golf ball lasts.

How Many Dimples are on a Golf Ball? 

If you’re like a lot of golfers I’m sure you’ve asked yourself, “How many dimples are on a golf ball?” It’s a good question but there isn’t a single answer as it depends on the golf ball itself. 

For example, most Titleist and Callaway golf balls have between 328 – 376 dimples. Mizuno might have more (one model has over 500 dimples). If you want to learn specifics about your favorite golf balls, check out the details on the manufacturer’s website.

Best Golf Balls for the Money

More dimples don’t necessarily mean better performance though. One study found that a company had 1700 dimples on a golf ball but it’s now a discontinued model. 

Plus, there are different designs of dimples too. While most are circular, there have been some outlines including the Callaway HX golf ball. They used hexagon dimples to alter the performance.

But these balls have been discontinued and only available in HX practice balls. 

USGA Limits

While there is no limit on total dimples, there is strict testing and approval from the USGA and R&A. Since golf balls affect so much, the wrong ball can make a golf course obsolete.

You might wonder, what are golf ball weights? According to the rules of golf a ball can’t have a mass more than 1.620 ounces. The diameter can’t be less than 1.680 inches and has to perform within specific distance, symmetry, and velocity limits.

FAQs About Golf Balls

Do you have more questions about dimples affecting a golf ball’s characteristics? If so, keep reading through our frequently asked questions and answers now. 

How many dimples can a golf ball have?

While there are a lot of rules in golf, they actually don’t have a limit to the number of dimples a ball can have. Which is surprising because they have limits on driver length (46 inches), driver head size (460cc), number of clubs in your bag (14), and a huge handbook of on course rules too. But you’re safe with any amount of dimples on your golf ball. 

Why are there dimples on a golf ball? Why do golf balls have dimples?

Dimples on a golf ball provide tons of benefits including distance, launch, and spin. 

What is the depth of dimples on a golf ball?

The average dimple depth is about .010 inches. A change of even .0001 could have a huge change to distance and trajectory.  

What are the dents on a golf ball called?

These are called dimples (not dents) and play a huge role in golf ball performance. 

How many dimples does a Pro V1 have?

The Titleist Pro V1 and Pro V1X are two of the most popular balls in golf. But they have different characteristics for distance, ball flight, and spin… one reason is the dimple change.

Titleist ProV1 Review

The Pro V1X has fewer dimples – 388. While the Pro V1 has 388 in a tetrahedral dimple design. If you want a higher ball flight, opt for the Pro V1X and for a more penetrating flight opt for the original design.

What would happen if golf balls didn’t have dimples?

According to the same Golf.com article mentioned above the ball wouldn’t have lift. “Once the ball leaves the clubhead, the only thing acting on the golf ball are aerodynamic forces of gravity.
It’s the fact that the air is moving faster over the top, and as a result of moving faster, the pressure is lower. That’s what creates the lift force that’s acting in that upward direction.”

My Experience

While I’ve never consciously thought about golf ball dimples, I do know that finding the right golf ball for your swing is key to success. If you’re playing a ball that is too firm or too soft, it’s only making the game harder. 

It’s important to test out different golf balls and see what works best for your unique swing. Don’t just play a ball because your favorite PGA Tour pro does or all the people in your regular foursome. 

Instead, use an online golf ball fitting tool or when doing a custom fitting, inquire about testing out balls as well. This will make a big difference in your ball flight, distance, and accuracy. Not to mention you might save some money too if you’ve been playing an expensive ball but don’t need to. 

When hitting golf balls at the driving range, make sure to save the best balls (with more intact dimples) for your driver and longer clubs. Use the more worn down balls to 

Final Thoughts on How Golf Ball Dimples Work

As you can tell, golf ball manufacturers make dimpled golf balls for a ton of reasons. The dimple patterns on balls improve aerodynamic performance, improve golf ball’s lift, and help with more spin.

Without a branded golf ball of dimples, performance would suffer drastically. Make sure to use the right golf ball for your game to play your best. For more on the history of golf balls, check out our article on what golf balls are made of.

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