People are only just realising why golf balls have dimples as the Open starts

Dimples aren't just those things that make your cheeks look adorable, they're also highly-effective pieces of sporting ingenuity.

Have you ever wondered why golf balls have dozens and dozens of little bumps on them? It isn't just so people don't accidentally mistake them for ping-pong balls and starting chucking them at cups of beer, it's actually because they help the flight of the ball, gangbusters.

For centuries, golf balls were smooth, as it was presumed that having as spherical-a-shape as possible would ensure the ball bounced and rolled properly, thus protecting the integrity of the game. But as it turned out, they had it all wrong!

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In the early 1900s, English engineer William Taylor started noticing that golfers tended to hit further using beat-up scraggly balls, as opposed to brand new ones.

He soon realised that the nicks and bumps in these old balls must have been the difference-maker, and set about designing a modern ball with fixed, regular dimples all over it – and pretty soon every golfer in the world was lining up to buy them.

The way it works is the dimples create a kind of aerodynamic turbulence around the ball which reduces drag – thus making the ball travel further.

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Different dimple designs were used once Taylor's discovery became common knowledge, including a number of asymmetrical patterns which helped the ball behave in unorthodox ways. But once players starting taking advantage of this – by selecting the ball with a design most suited to the shot they were about to play – asymmetricity was outlawed.

These days, most modern golf balls have around 300 – 500 dimples, and some have even had as many as 1000, with the record holder being a ball with 1,070 dimples.


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