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Golf Equipment

Golf Balls: Everything You Need To Know

6 April 2021

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Ever wondered how you manage to hit the golf ball far? Swing mechanics or the best golf clubs do play a significant role in delivering the golf ball but people tend to overlook the science behind the design of a golf ball. The dimples on a golf balls is a key factor which allows the ball to travel further.

Dimples on Golf Balls

According to Scientific American, when a professional golfer hits a smooth ball, it will travel half as far as a golf ball with dimples. Golfers are able to control and manipulate everything up until the split second impact between the golf club and ball. After that, the ball’s trajectory is controlled by gravity and aerodynamics. The advancement of dimple design is critical in helping golf ball manufacturers optimize aerodynamics.

Post impact ball flight
Post impact of a golf ball

How Many Dimples on a Golf Ball

The idea is that the more dimples on the ball, the higher it will go. However having too many dimples causes the balls to go too high therefore losing distance. Presently, golf ball manufacturers have about 300-500 dimples on their golf balls with an average depth of about 0.010 inch. Dimples on a golf ball is commonly spherical. However in 2002, an article in Newscientist suggests that different shapes such as hexagonal and pentagonal dimples allows the golf ball to travel more aerodynamically. Callaway HX balls used hexagonal dimples.

How Dimples Affect Ball Flight

Let us dive into the nitty gritty explanation of what dimples provide to a golf ball. When an object travels through air, it exerts a force on it. You can experience this feeling when you are riding against the wind like when you stick your head out the sun roof of your car. The aerodynamics of this can be broken down into two factors; lift and drag. Lift is a perpendicular force that lifts the ball into the air whereas drag is the force that opposes motion through the air. In order to have the golf balls travel further, there needs to be an increase in lift and decrease in drag and that is where dimples comes into play.

The dimples allow air to flow tightly around the golf ball as they act as tiny pockets of turbulence. By doing so, it minimizes the low pressure zone and the overall drag. In general, ball spin contributes to half of a golf ball’s lift. The backspin on a golf ball redirects air downwards toward the back of the ball as it moves through it, which produces force upwards. With dimples, lift force is optimized.

Structure of the golf ball

Cover

The cover of a golf ball is typically made from Urethane or a material called Surlyn. This is where the dimples of the golf balls are located at. Surlyn is a durable material and it does not damage easily. It being hard allows it to travel further hence the so-called “distance balls”. However, Surlyn balls does not provide the backspin or feel that low handicap players and professionals demand. On the other hand, Urethane is softer and it delivers higher spin rates which suits players who demand maximum feel and control for a more precise game. Because of the high club head speed generated by better golfers, they only sacrifice little amount of distance compared to Surlyn balls.

In a nutshell, Surlyn balls are slightly more durable, provides a little more distance and are generally cheaper than Urethane balls but do not provide the spin needed to stop quickly on and around the greens. Deciding factors when deciding which ball to buy usually is economical; durability and price.

Layers

Golf ball layers

Golf Ball Layers

There are multiple types of golf balls such as two-piece, three-piece, multi-layer. The least common used as a playing ball is the one-piece ball, they are mostly used on driving ranges. Typically made from Surlyn with dimples embedded on it, it is cheaper and very durable.

The more commonly used ones are the two-piece and three-piece balls. A two-piece ball has a small core and a shell around it. This sturdy golf balls fly straighter with less spin is designed for a higher handicap or beginner golfer looking for distance as opposed to feeling. They are also the cheapest option available. Moreover, looking at the three-piece golf ball, it has an increase in feel and spin compared to the two-piece yet still offer plenty of distance. It is slightly more expensive but the difference in price will be worth it for the performance you get from it.

Lastly, the multi-layer golf balls are the fancy ones with an expensive price tag. If you ever see golfers spending absurd amounts of time looking for their ball, they probably are looking for these. Lose a couple of these on the golf course and it will cost you just as much as your round of golf. These multi-layered golf balls are the newer form of the three-piece golf ball which provides maximum feel and control.

Size & Weight

The standard golf ball size legal in tournament play and sold in golf shops is 1.68 inches in diameter. Prior to 1980, the size used was 1.62 inches. Additionally, the standard weight of a golf ball is 1.620 ounces or 45 grams.

Summary

Everything that happens after impact is controlled by gravity and aerodynamics. Dimples on the golf ball play a significant role in allowing the ball to travel further. In making a decision for a golf ball the factors that you would want to consider is your ability level and the type of ball to optimize your play. Check out our Best Golf Balls of 2021 if you need a guide on which balls to purchase!

On the contrary if you are looking for golf drivers to send the ball even further, do take a look at our article on the Best Golf Drivers of 2021. Have all the best equipment to play the game but no one to share that experience with? Deemples golf app can solve that problem for you in connecting you with other golfers around you! This way, you would never golf alone! All you need to do is download the Deemples golf app and create or join a game. It’s that easy!

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