What Is the Importance of Dimples on a Golf Ball?

By Kim Kleinle

The dimple pattern on a golf ball has become an iconic symbol of the game, but the purpose of those dimples is more than cosmetic. Without dimples, a golf ball won't fly very far--a fact that golfers and golf ball makers discovered by trial and error.

History

Early golf balls, dating to the 16th century, had smooth surfaces. When the rubberlike gutta-percha ball replaced the feather ball in the 1840s, golfers noticed that the balls flew better after the smooth surface had been nicked from use.

First Dimples

Patterned golf ball molds replaced smooth molds in the 1870s. The molds included a gridlike mesh, a spider web design and a bramble pattern. In 1905, Englishman William Taylor patented the dimple method of golf ball marking. By 1930, the dimple pattern was the industry standard.

Function

Dimples improve the flight of a golf ball: They reduce the drag caused by friction in the air and help the ball fly farther. Dimpled golf balls experience about half the drag of those with no dimples.

How Dimples Work

Just like an airplane, a golf ball in flight is affected by both air flow and gravity. Gravity pulls the ball toward the ground, while the aerodynamic force in the direction of motion, known as drag force, dictates the distance it travels.

Dimple Design

The United States Golf Association regulates the design of golf balls, setting standards for size and weight, but does not regulate the dimple pattern. Although round dimples are the standard, golf ball manufacturers have used a variety of other shapes, including squares, rectangles and hexagons.

About The Author

Kim Kleinle is a PGA/LPGA professional and a member of a select group certified in instruction by the Professional Golfers' Association. She began writing in 1980 after earning her degree. Her work has appeared online, in "Northeast Golfer" and in newspapers, including the "Scranton Times." Kleinle holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Point Park University, Pittsburgh.

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