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The physics of golf balls


    The inventors of golf and golf balls aren't as current as one would think. Although it is not fully known who or where golf was invented, it is largely agreed that golf has been around for hundreds of years. The dimples on the golf balls that we all know today came around in 1905 when an engineer named William Taylor placed a patent of the first dimple design for golf balls(5). Since then nearly everyone has used golf balls with dimples in them and for a good reason too!

Dimples vs No Dimples

Dimples vs no dimples(6)

    People made the switch from smoother balls to ones with dimples in 1905 because the dimples improved their game so much. The reason for this is pretty cool actually, the dimples reduce drag while also giving the ball a magnus lifting force(which supports the ball during the initial part of the trajectory. The trajectory can even curve upwards at first, depending on conditions)(7).

Dimple chart(8)

    Adding dimples to the ball also helps golfers know where there ball is going to land more consistently. This is mainly because that when dimples are added the ball tends to drop straight down once it starts losing horizontal velocity. This helps golfers because the ball hits the ground closer to where it's going to stop. Yes, one could get more distance having the ball bounce and roll but there would be a large possibility of the ball getting thrown out of its trajectory and ending up in an undesirable lie. How the ball sort of 'drops' during flight is shown below:

                                   *    *       
                              *             *
(golfer)                *                    *
                  *                          * <-- trajectory
 \O/        *                                *
  |   *                                      *
-/ \-T---------------------------------------------------------------ground(7)

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