Why Are There Dimples On Golf Balls?

By Peter C

Golf balls are synonymous with “dimples,” those small indentations on the ball’s surface. Natural selection and aerodynamic principles explain why these dimples exist. Golf balls were originally smooth, but golfers discovered that older, damaged balls with nicks, bumps, and slices flew farther.

This observation resulted in the gradual evolution of dimpled golf balls.

Source: @robert2301/Unsplash

Aerodynamicists later discovered that the nicks and cuts were causing turbulence in the air near the ball’s boundary layer. Turbulent flow improves adhesion and reduces the likelihood of separation, resulting in less drag. While the laminar flow has less drag at first, it is more susceptible to separation, which causes eddies to form and a dramatic increase in drag.

Dimples on golf balls are thus a formal, symmetrical way of producing the same turbulence as nicks and cuts. The greater the number of dimples on a ball, the more turbulent the flow of air around it becomes, resulting in even less drag and a more extended flight.

In summary, golf balls have dimples due to natural selection over time. Golfers discovered that older, damaged balls could fly further, leading to the development of dimpled balls. Dimples create turbulence in the air surrounding the ball, which lets the ball move greater distances.

Source: @leigh-patrick-14477/Pexels

Understanding aerodynamic principles and the benefits of turbulent flow has resulted in the development of modern golf balls with increasingly sophisticated dimple patterns. So, the next time you hit a golf ball, remember that the tiny dimples on its surface help it fly farther!