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Golf Ball Dimples

The Answers to All of Your Golf Ball Dimples Questions: Discover how golf ball dimples makes your ball fly farther.

    Golf ball dimples are probably the most distinguishing and possibly intriguing feature of a golf ball. Regardless of a golf ball's color, those little round depressions give it away. While everyone knows that golf balls have dimples, few know why golf ball dimples are so important.

Why Does a Golf Ball Have Dimples?

    While it may seem unbelievable, those little depressions found on golf balls actually make the golf ball travel farther. In fact, according to Joe Edelman and David Samson, "Dimpled golf balls travel up to four times farther than smooth-surfaced golf balls (95)."
    With that kind of result, no wonder all golf balls have dimples. The physics behind those results comes down to the way air travels around a golf ball. When a smooth golf ball travels through the air it creates an empty pocket behind it, known as a vacuum (Holtzapple 381). Because it is hard for air to fill that pocket, the force exerted on the golf ball shrinks, which causes the golf ball to slow down (Holtzapple 381). Golf ball dimples decrease the size of the vacuum behind the golf ball (Holtzapple 381). As a result, the golf ball is forced to travel farther than it would if it didn't have any dimples.

How Many Dimples Are on a Golf Ball?

    There is no set number of dimples on a golf ball. Every company that makes golf balls has a different number of dimples and a different dimple pattern on its golf balls. That's because each golf ball brand varies its golf ball dimples in an attempt to make its golf balls travel faster and further than other golf balls. Bust despite the differences among golf balls, the number of golf ball dimples do not vary drastically from brand to brand. The average golf ball has roughly 80% of its surface covered with about 384 dimples, which are 5 to 6 different sizes (Hung 6).
    The number of dimples on golf balls has not always been in the upper 300s. Throughout history golf balls have been made with as little as 252 dimples to as many as 812 dimples (Hung 6).

History of Golf Ball Dimples

    The magic of golf ball dimples was discovered by accident. In the late 1800s, players started to notice that their balls traveled straighter after being all nicked and scratched than they did when they were brand new (McGovern 148). As soon as ball makers caught on, they started hammering dents into the golf balls known as score marks (McGovern 148, Hung 6). By the early 1900s, ball makers had become more sophisticated and they started to mold marking onto the golf balls (Dear 268). One of the most popular golf ball designs back then was the Bramble ball (Dear 268). The bramble ball had numerous bumps that covered its surface, making it resemble a raspberry (dear 268).
    In 1908, William Taylor patented the first golf ball dimples (Dear 268). His dimples were in the shape of a circle and were evenly spaced apart (Dear 268). The circular golf ball dimples caught on, and by the 1930s most golf balls had adopted that style (Hung 6).


Dear, Tony. Every Golf Question You Ever Wanted Answered. New York: Sterling Publishing Company, Inc., 2002.

Edelman, Joe, and Samson, David. Useless Knowledge. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2002.

Hung, George K., and Pallis, Jani Macari. Biomedical Engineering Principles in Sports. New York: Springer, 2004.

Holtzapple, Mark Thomas, and Reece, W. Dan. Foundations of Engineering. New York: McGraw-Hill Professional, 2002.

Krause, Peter. Play-By-Play Golf. Minneapolis: First Avenue Editions, 2002.

McGovern, Michael, and Schweizer, Bill. The Complete Idiot's Guide to Sports History & Trivia. Indianapolis: Alpha Books, 2001.