One of the most interesting things about sports is how they evolve over time, from primitive origins to their modern high-tech equivalents. One sport that has seen some pretty serious technological advances is golf, where ball and club makers constantly innovate to create tools that let you loft the ball higher, straighter and farther. One of the most visible ways to observe that is the development of the golf ball, which debuted in the 14th century as a hand-carved wooden sphere. What sets golf balls apart from other sports is the pattern of dimples on their surface, but have you ever wondered what the deal is there?
Balls developed over the centuries, from a leather version stuffed with bird feathers to balls cast from sap from a certain kind of Malysian tree. They were cast perfectly smooth, but duffers noticed that the longer they played with them, the more nicked and pitted they got. Counter-intuitively, those dimples made the ball fly straigher.
The aerodynamics behind this effect are complex, but in short: dimples are key. The duffers at Titleist UK decided to do a little experiment where they wanted to see exactly how much they contributed, so they made some perfectly smooth golf balls, and the difference was seriously noticeable.
When pro golfers are struggling to make a ball go 150 yards, you know that there’s real science involved. Pretty cool stuff.
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