Why Do Golf Balls Have Dimples- The Science Explained

Even if you are not a golf player, the chances are that you might have seen and held a golf ball at one time or the other. Maybe just like many other people, the first question you asked was, why do golf balls have dimples? Are they there to make the ball look more beautiful or unique? Is there any science behind the dimples?

Why Do Golf Balls Have Dimples?

Golf would not be what it is without golf balls. You cannot use any other ball to achieve the same distance you would with a golf ball designed explicitly for the game. Dimples are some of the most recognizable features of a golf ball that make it stand out. However, the dimples are there to serve a purpose and not for beauty.

The reason for the dimples on the surface of the golf ball is aerodynamics, which is essential in golf. Aerodynamics provides the golf ball with a controllable and smooth flight through the air by altering its lift and drag.  Small pockets of turbulence appear around the golf ball, creating a small layer of air close to the ball surface once air hits the dimples.

Air flowing above and around the golf ball sticks much closer to the surface, enabling the ball to flow off further back to create less drag and allow for smoother and further ball flight. Golf ball lift, which results from pressure below the ball pushing the ball upwards, is also due to dimples on the ball surface.

When a golf ball spins, it makes a lift caused by pressure below the ball being more significant than the pressure above. The dimples cut down drag to optimize the spin effect and increase the lift.

Read next: How To Compress The Golf Ball

The History of Golf Ball Dimples


One of the most surprising things that most people without much knowledge about the history of golf and its equipment learn is that golf balls did not always have dimples. When golf first entered the market, players used balls made out of leather with goose feather stuffing. So back in the day, the name for the golf balls was not even "golf balls" but "featheries."

From featheries, the next phase of the golf balls saw the introduction of "gutta perchas" made with the sapodilla tree gum. The process of making the gutta perchas involved heating the gum to turn it into a spherical shape.

The gutta perchas was smooth, and both manufacturers and players believed that the smoothness created less wind resistance allowing the golf balls to cover more distance through the air. However, they soon discovered that the featheries, which had a rougher surface than the gutta perchas, actually soared through the air better, covering a longer distance than their smoother counterparts did.

The first modern golf ball was the rubber wound ball, which led to today's dimpled golf ball evolution. The ball, made from solid rubber, wound around the core and covered by gutta-percha, performed better than the last two inventions. The current dimple pattern that features a surface with depressions and indentations first hit the market in the 1930s and has since become the standard in every golfing game.

Read next: How To Stop Slicing The Golf Ball 

Are Golf Ball Dimples Standard?

Another frequently asked question about dimples is whether they come in one standard shape. The answer is no. golf ball dimples come in different forms, varying amounts, and various depths. Most of the dimples are circular, but you can also get hexagonal-shaped dimples. The number of dimples ranges from 300 to 500, while their depths are 0.010 inches or slightly higher or lower.

Wrapping it up

Why Do Golf Balls Have Dimples? Without the dimples, golf balls would not cover as much distance as they do today. In addition, dimples reduce drag to provide the balls with a better lift, allowing them to soar higher and further. Dimples also allow for better control of the ball and overall game improvement.

5 ratings