Instant Golf Swing

An Instant Golf® Special Report


Golf Ball Dimples and Optimal Flight


by Robert Cotter (About the Author)
Professional Golf Ball Engineer
Director of Golf Swing Instruction, Instant Golf®

It's the final round of The Barclays tournament in NJ and familiar names are at the top of the leaderboard. 6 time winner Matt Kuchar and Gary Woodland, hot of his win at the Reno-Tahoe Open, share the lead heading into the final round.

Whether Matt or Gary take the title, or another golfer surges to victory, it's interesting to see different brands of golf balls cutting into Titleist's dominance on Tour. Sure, the Pro V1/V1x is easily the number #1 ball series on Tour but the other manufacturers continue to grab a bigger piece of the golf ball pie.

Hence, Gary plays the new Callaway HEX Chrome+ (hexagonal shaped dimples) and Matt plays the Bridgestone Tour B330-S.

Phil Mickelson and Tiger are Callaway and Nike players respectively, and Justin Rose won the 2013 US Open with the new TaylorMade "Lethal" 5 piece Tour ball.

These balls all behave differently off the club faces of each player. It can take a while for pros (and recreational golfers) to adjust to the nuances of new ball models. Golf ball trajectory (due to spin changes) and descent angle in particular can give golfers fits as they get to know the specific behavior of new design balls.

In the end, The Barclays tournament trophy (plus a likely lead in the FedEx Cup standings) will go to the golfer who controls the spin of his chosen ball on Sunday. And the dimples on the winner's Tour ball will have worked to his great advantage as reflected in a final round score in the 60's.

As a Golf Ball Engineer, I field scores of questions from golfers all over the world. I get a lot of inquires about dimples (in fact another this week).

I believe that since dimples are the only functional ball component that is visible to a golfer, they cause the most curiosity. If golf balls were clear, the questions would probably shift more to the interior components!

So what’s the story with the dimples on a golf ball?

Are all those funky dimple patterns about function, or is it all “just about marketing”? Let’s take a look:

Ever since 150 years ago when golfers found that the then modern gutta percha balls flew longer and straighter when their smooth surfaces were roughened up and nicked, the fascination with dimples began.

Today, we know that dimples serve to reduce the aerodynamic drag acting on the surface of the golf ball, ultimately resulting in longer distance. Combined with the backspin imparted by the golf club, today’s ball flight characteristics are nothing short of spectacular!

Over the years, the patterns have changed and evolved into some very dynamic looking designs; multi sized dimples on the same ball, dimples in dimples, hex shaped dimples, and deep and shallow dimples to name a few.

These changes have been aided by all the improvements in the ball flight/trajectory and distance measuring technology.

One of the biggest advances was multi sized dimples on the same ball. Hence, smaller dimples could be “crammed in” between the larger dimples.

Maximum dimple coverage is desired on golf balls because it increases flight stability and gives the engineers a greater ability to refine finished ball flight characteristics.

But there is a trade off with maximum coverage as the “Fret” area, the ball surface between the dimples, becomes very thin. If it is too thin, the frets will shear at impact and the ball will scuff. Take a look at the Fret area below:

When you bounce a ball of a cart path and the ball incurs damage, this fret area is the area that gets sheared.

This used to be a big problem with some off the softer "balata" covered golf balls which were phased out about 15 years ago. One good bounce off a cart path and a balata ball could be permanently out of commission!

Fortunately, fantastic cover material technology of the modern balls has reduced this type of damage.

So why all the different dimple patterns and is it just marketing?

Sure, there’s marketing, but the marketing comes after the performance.

In many respects, dimple technology mirrors the design and selection of the tires for a race car.

Race car designers build the chassis and suspension, add a custom engine, and top it off with an aerodynamic body.

Then they select the appropriate tires that will grab the road and maximize the performance of the all the other high tech parts of the car. Different tire designs will produce different results:

With a golf ball, the core is the engine. The mantle layers (if present) add performance. Together with the cover, you have a golf ball “without the tires” until you add the dimples.

With dimples, golf ball designers can tweak the final performance of the golf ball. They will find the right dimple pattern that results in the optimal trajectory and distance, for a specific ball construction.

For instance, let's say a new ball design is almost finished and the product has great initial velocity, nice spin characteristics, and a soft cover for great touch around the greens.

However, the ball "attacks" the ground too steeply at the end of a driver flight, so there is little roll and shorter overall distance.

No problem, the aerodynamics engineer can refine the pattern, depth, and/or sizes of the dimples to flatten out that ground angle of attack so that golf ball can bound down the fairway a bit more for optimal driver distance.

In the end, you have that high performance golf ball sitting on the tee just waiting for the green flag to start the race.

And just like in a race car, the driver gets things going!

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As you will by my e.mail address above I purchased your Key system and I am amazed by its immediate change it has had to my swing and went from 107 for an average round to 90. Brilliant, stunning, unbelievable is all I can say.

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Author's Note: (this gentleman is 72 years young)


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