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Golf Physics

Physics plays a large part in many aspects of the game of golf.

Golf Ball

At first golf balls were smooth, but it did not take players long to realize that older scuffed up balls traveled further, and they began roughing up the surface of new balls to get the same effect. Initially many different surface patterns were experimented with until they came upon the standard dimple pattern that we see today. The dimples on a golf ball hold little pockets of air, and serve to reduce the drag as the ball flies through the air.


The head of a golf club accelerates about 100 times faster than a very fast sports car. In about one fifth of a second the club goes from zero velocity at the back of the swing to 100 mph at impact with the ball.

The impulse (Force x change in Time) of the impact with he ball propels the ball away from the head of the club at 135 mph. The club is in contact with the ball only about half a millisecond (0.0005 s).

golf ball impact golf ball impact

Any imperfections in a swing can have a big affect on the way the ball travels in the air. Just a one-degree angled tilt away from a front-on collision will cause an error of 24 feet off to the side. In simple terms, if at impact the club head points to the left of the ball's correct path then the ball will hook; if pointed to the right the ball will slice.

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