Have you ever wondered why golf balls have dimples
instead of a smooth surface? We don’t blame you—even experienced golfers
question this after years of overlooking it.
Dimples are to golf balls what aglets are to shoelaces. You don’t give them much
thought until someone points them out, and then you can’t rest until you know
Here, we cover why golf balls have dimples and how to choose the best design for your playing style.
Why do golf balls have dimples?
Golf balls may appear deceptively simple, but their
exterior is carefully designed for a reason beyond aesthetics.
The dimples on golf balls are the unsung heroes of
the sport, playing a pivotal role in shaping the trajectory, distance, and
accuracy of each shot. Here’s why they’re essential to your game:
- increased lift—as air flows over the dimpled surface, it clings to the ball longer, which generates lift and helps the ball stay in the air longer, resulting in a higher trajectory and increased distance
- reduced drag—dimples create a turbulent boundary layer of air around the ball as it flies, which delays the separation of air and allows the ball to slice through the air with less resistance
- improved stability—dimples contribute to the ball’s stability during flight by preventing it from wobbling or veering off course, making it more accurate and predictable in the trajectory
- spin control—dimples influence the amount of backspin or topspin a golfer can impart on the ball, which is crucial for shaping shots, and different dimple patterns can lead to varying levels of spin
As you can see, the dimples on a golf ball transform
it from a smooth sphere into a carefully engineered aerodynamic tool.
They help golfers achieve greater distance,
accuracy, and control by manipulating the forces acting on the ball as it
travels through the air.
So, next time you tee up, remember that those dimples are the secret sauce behind every impressive drive and precise approach shot.
How were the dimples on golf balls created?
Golf balls didn’t always have dimples. Their
invention was down to sheer coincidence during the mid-1800s.
Robert Adams Paterson invented the gutta-percha ball in 1848, which was crafted
using dried Malaysian sapodilla tree sap with a rubber feel.
The balls had a smooth surface, but once golfers had
damaged them, they discovered they performed more consistently.
This prompted inventors to begin making indentations
in new balls, which led to them having a much more powerful and reliable ball
flight, and the design has been adapted and mastered throughout modern history.
Advanced technology is now used to thoroughly design and test dimple patterns to optimise them for many purposes. We talk more about finding the ideal golf ball dimple pattern below.
How many dimples should a golf ball have?
Currently, the ideal range for the number of dimples
on a golf ball is between 300-500. Anything outside this range isn’t considered
optimal for performance, which is why most popular manufacturers adhere to
Two of the most popular golf balls, Srixon AD333 and
Titleist Pro V1, have less than 400 dimples—the former has 338, while the
latter has 388. Both have tetrahedral dimples.
It’s difficult to state a clear difference between
the two, as each ball has a different outcome depending on the golfer, their
technique, and other elements of its design, but many say the Pro V1 gives
slightly more distance.
Many factors, such as the depth
of the dimples and the inner mantle design of the ball, contribute to its
overall performance, and only manufacturers with specialist knowledge and
testing equipment can properly track the effects of slight changes in design.
The Titleist Pro V1’s tetrahedral dimple design had over 60 different versions
tested before the manufacturer landed on a final model—that’s how much thought
goes into the design process.
Choosing a ball with a similar number of dimples to
the ones the professionals use is always good practice, alongside checking out
reviews for which is best for your swing.
You can also get fitted for golf balls as you would your clubs, which could help you get the most out of your equipment.
How do I know which golf ball dimple pattern is
Dimple patterns are specific to each golf ball’s
design but usually feature a mixture of shallow and deeper dents for optimal
performance. They are usually round and have tetrahedral-shaped indents.
Some popular designs still differ, however—Callaway Solaire balls are
a hit with golfers and feature hexagonal dimples rather than rounded ones. They
supposedly provide better low-speed lift, increased stability, and reduced
Typically, the deeper the dimples are, the lower the ball flight, and the shallower they are, the higher it is—having a mixture of the two creates a well-balanced and consistent trajectory and distance.
Without specialist equipment and knowledge, it can be difficult to choose a golf ball dimple pattern for your game.
So, ou might find it useful to leave this to the manufacturers and instead look at the golf balls’ characteristics to know whether they suit your playing style.
For example, one ball may provide a huge amount of
spin while another could be designed to reduce it.
Dimple patterns certainly affect these things, but
the science involved in explaining how they affect each aspect is complicated.
But if you want to learn more about the technical aspects, check out this video.
As with the number of dimples on a golf ball, it’s best to stick to those with proven performance, whether they’re a market favourite or used by the pros.
Has learning about golf ball dimples prompted you to
try out some different patterns and designs?
You might want to consider protecting yourself and
your equipment with specialist golf insurance before you get out and practice.
With Golf Care, policies include Equipment Cover up to £7,500 and Public
Liability up to £10m, so you can work on your ball flight with peace of mind.
Learn more about how we can help here, or click the banner below to get an online quote in minutes.