Why Do Golf Balls Have Dimples?



The simple answer is that dimpled balls fly farther.

More than a century ago, golfers were well aware that scuffed, dented, scratched, or pockmarked balls performed far better than perfectly smooth balls.

A golf ball is typically whacked off the tee in less than a millisecond.  After that, a whole lot happens aerodynamically.

The golfer’s swing and point of impact affects the ball’s velocity, launch angle, and rate of spin.  The surrounding air immediately gives the ball lift, while gravity pulls the ball toward the ground.

The magic of dimples – or any kind of imperfections, for that matter – is that they help reduce the air’s drag.

Dimples have been shown to reduce drag by up to 50%.  The lessened resistance yields greater distance.

So how many dimples are on the average golf ball?

Interestingly, there’s no simple answer to that one.

The first patent for dimpled or “mini-cratered” balls appeared in 1905.  Since then, manufacturers and individual golfers have been trying to figure out the most effective ways to reduce drag (while keeping balls flying straight).

The United States Golf Association (USGA) regulates almost everything about golf balls – including their size, weight, and component parts – but not the number or pattern of dimples.

Most balls have somewhere between 250 and 450 dimples, although at least one brand has featured more than 1,000.  Experiments continue.

Thus, well into the 21st century, the surface of a golf ball remains an interesting balance of art and science.

Real life and golf balls have something important in common:  imperfections often turn out to be gifts in disguise.

Just as scars take golf balls greater distances, emotional and spiritual scars may take us to places we would never, in our wildest dreams, ever choose to go.

But those often turn out to be the very places where we experience the depths of God’s grace.

The apostle Paul talks about receiving “the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations… At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it… Then he told me, ‘My grace is enough; it’s all you need.  My strength comes into its own in your weakness.’” (2 Corinthians 12: 7-9, The Message)

Not one of us will make it through life unscarred.

But that’s no reason for despair.

Even our imperfections are part of God’s plan to take us farther than we ever dreamed.

— Authored by Glenn McDonald


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